If you’re reading SEO articles from 2013 and applying them to your content today, you’re doing it wrong. If it gets to 2025 and you’re still reading this article… you’re also doing it wrong!
There are some cornerstone principles in SEO and a lot of good advice from great sources. However, if you’re getting too much of your advice from older sources, you could inadvertently be practicing bad SEO. With this topic in particular, you can’t afford to take too much out-of-date advice.
When Does SEO Go “Out of Date”?
There’s a lot of good stuff that comes in old packages. You can learn some valuable lessons about how SEO works, and how it worked historically, from articles published by authority sites years ago. The catch is that you shouldn’t put tactics or specific strategies into action unless they’re targeted to Google’s latest algorithm updates (other search engines too, but mostly Google).
Search engines regularly update their algorithms in a constant effort to keep providing users with the best results possible. Every time a new, significant update is released, it’s time to re-evaluate your SEO strategy to make sure you’re still doing all the right stuff.
Everything can change in an instant. One minute, it’s all about exact match keywords, and the next day people are talking about LSIs and long-tail keywords to promote their SaaS products.
The point is that SEO is an ever-changing practice. Search engines may know we’re doing it, but whenever we get too good at it, they just change up the rules again. For that reason, there’s no time limit or specific expiration date for good SEO practices. But, with every update, you need to learn what’s in and what’s out so you can use your time and effort wisely.
If you’ve been taking advice from older content, even if it’s from authority sites, or if you haven’t updated your SEO strategy in a while, it’s time for a quick check-up. Make sure you’re not falling into any of these time-wasting SEO traps!
7 Ways to Waste Your Time with SEO
#1 Stuffing Keywords Everywhere
Image source: Freepik.com
We can all agree that keywords and key phrases are important. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they might be your competitors trying to sabotage your efforts. However important keywords are, it’s time to stop pretending they are the end-all-be-all of SEO. Stop throwing awkward keywords all over your content and expecting that to help you rank. Stuffing is just plain bad SEO today.
Hopefully, you’ve heard this advice before. But, considering how easy it is to find content online that’s full to the brim with awkward phrases, out of place keywords, and obvious stuffing, it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge yet. You can still find people pushing the idea that a 1-3% keyword ratio is ideal, using exact match keywords only. This is a great way to get penalized as a spammer!
People hate reading stuffed content, so search engines updated algorithms to detect awkward repetitions and keywords or phrases that are overused or out of place. If your site is overflowing with keywords, you’re unlikely to get the first page or earn a high ranking at all.
What to do instead: Focus on making content that’s valuable and beneficial in some way to your site visitors. Use keywords, but make sure they blend into the content seamlessly, rather than trying to fit awkward exact match phrases into an article. Spend more time perfecting keyword placement rather than keyword ratio.
#2 Having a One-Track Mind
Repetitive keywords and phrases are never a good idea. If you’re putting the same optimized phrases in every SEO title, tag, meta description, alt tag, captions, etc., it’s time to switch it up. Often, when a search engine detects repetition like this, it will consider it spam and won’t count any of these things towards your ranking.
You need to focus on creating unique content that’s relevant to what you’re posting or the pages of your website. No two pages should have the same meta descriptions, titles, or otherwise. Stop cutting and pasting keywords and key phrases to fill in the blanks.
What to do instead: Write unique everything whenever possible. If you have a lot of content, focus on a few keywords, and remote them out into otherwise unique and useful content. For pages that have numerous image alt tags, opt to have a few images with unique alt tags (even if some are blank) rather than all page images having the same alt tags.
One of the ways you can write unique content that caters to the various kinds of your audience is creating user personas. This way you can get really granular with what every kind of user wants and deliver targeted content to them that solves their specific pain points.
#3 Stressing Over Exact Match Domains
Clever things to do back before 2012 or so was to get an extra keyword associated with your business by putting it directly into the domain name itself. Although it sounds logical, it makes somewhere between minuscule to absolutely no difference today. A 2012 Google algorithm update made exact-match keywords in domains far less important and the usefulness compared to the quality of the site overall.
The biggest problems with exact match domains are that they look spammy, they limit your business activities, and there’s no solid data showing they’re worth the sacrifice. It’s not essential to get an exact match domain.
What to do instead: Choose a flexible domain name that can grow with you and that doesn’t make people cringe at the thought of clicking on your links. Example: Acmecameres.com versus Bestpolaroidcameras.net
#4 Focusing on the Wrong Devices
Image source: Freepik.com
As of November 2019, just over 52% of internet users worldwide connected via mobile, compared to a little over 45% on computers. If you narrow it down to Europe alone, that changes to 53% mobile and 43% of computers. Who are you targeting with your SEO?
If you’re building your entire site around desktop view and optimizing everything for computer users, it’s time to update your strategy. User experience is a major ranking factor, meaning your site needs to be attractive and easy to use for all people. Sites that focus exclusively on desktop users are notoriously difficult to navigate on a mobile device or tablet.
What to do instead: Optimise your website for a seamless experience on any size or type of device. You should have a useful mobile site that works on small and large phones as well as tablets of varying sizes. The desktop version should still exist, but you shouldn’t be so invested in making that the best version of your website. There’s a good chance of more than 50% of your site traffic is coming from mobile users.
Also, look into having dynamic content that gives recommendations to users. This can be adjusted to give more mobile-specific or desktop-specific recommendations based on usage. It’s a great strategy to keep people moving around your site.
#5 PBNs and Bad Links
Are people still using PBNs (Private Blog Networks)? This has always been considered a semi-black hat SEO trick, meaning it could get you in big trouble if you were discovered. Some site owners would take the risk because of the fast results. In case you’re considering it for yourself: It’s not a thing anymore.
The cost and time needed to set up an effective PBN today could be better spent doing actual SEO work. To rank for a competitive keyword, you could waste thousands of dollars (not an exaggeration) and tens to hundreds of hours setting up dummy blogs. With that amount of capital and time, do something worthwhile, such as a legit link building strategy.
What to do instead: Launch a guest posting campaign to get your links from legit, existing sources. Guest posts on authority domains can give you the link juice you need without risking a penalization from Google.
#6 Pretending That Voice Search Doesn’t Exist
Image source: Pixabay.com
You can put your head in the sand, but voice search is already here and is only set to increase in use from now onwards. Here are a few interesting snippets about voice search:
- 20% of searches on mobile are done through voice search
- 40% of adults use voice search regularly
- Almost 50% of people use voice search for product research
- From 2008 to 2016, the number of voice searches increased 35x
- 16% of Americans own smart speakers at home
There’s a lot going on with voice search. It may never fully replace text search, but it’s a convenient search method in certain situations. We can expect voice search to keep growing. It’s not just a short-lived trend.
What to do instead: It’s time to accept that voice search is a common thing and begin optimizing content for it. Product-related searches and answers to questions are the perfect place to start. Increase your page load speed, structure your content in a favorable way, optimize for casual/natural speed keywords, and shoot for local SEO.
#7 Writing Super Short Content
You may have read an article or two a few years ago talking about how long-form content is dead. These predictions did not come true. In fact, the opposite has turned out to be the case.
Short-form content is often seen as cheap or unhelpful. Some people may just want a short answer, but a majority of users place higher trust on websites with long-form content. They assign automatic authority to the site. We just don’t see this happening with short-form content.
For reference’s sake, long-form content is anything above 1,200 words, with short-form being anything below that. True long-form content is likely to be 1,500+ words.
The problematic assumption is that no one wants to scroll through such a long piece of content on your site. However, content consumption and customer experience metrics show that’s not true. People do enjoy long-form content, and many people seek it out as opposed to shorter pieces of content on the same subject. A thorough, well-thought-out piece of content that answers every question is better received than a short piece in many industries.
What to do instead: Add long-form content as a regular part of your content marketing strategy. You can gradually begin writing and posting more long-form pieces to build up the attractive links on your site.
A quick disclaimer: Long-form content is only good when you format it properly. No one wants to read a 5,000-word article without paragraph breaks or a 3,000-word blog post that’s not spaced out with subheadings, shortlists, appropriate screenshots, etc.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information out there. With so many sources writing about SEO all the time, there’s also outdated information that’s not relevant today. It’s tricky to wade through the sea of information to find something that’s both useful and still relevant, but it’s worth trying!
If you’re still practicing any of these bad SEO strategies, it’s time to throw out the old and bring in the new to get your site back on track towards page 1.