SEO measures you should steer well clear of!

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July 20, 2017

Author: Sascha Lienesch

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Here on the XOVI Blog and over on our Expert Panel, we’re always talking about what you should be optimizing and what on and off-page options are available. Today however, we’re going to turn it on its head and highlight a number of measures which you should ideally NOT take, since they go against Google’s guidelines. Firstly, we want to make it clear that this doesn’t mean that these methods don’t work – they often do, at least in the short term. But serious webmasters interested in long-term search engine optimization are best advised to steer clear because, sooner or later, Google will notice and it will be too late.

Automatically generated content

In other words, text which is produced by a computer program and not by people. Such texts are composed automatically, contain specific keywords and are sometimes even linked to! But they tend to be extremely low quality. Sometimes, they are produced by translation programs (including Google Translate) without being checked or corrected. Text production via simple copy & paste from other websites also results in poor quality. Never mind being bad for SEO, such texts can also infringe copyright.

Link swapping

Yes, we know. It’s tempting. Website A links to website B and B links back to A. Sometimes it’s a little more complex where A links to C, B to A and C to B, etc, etc – but regardless of how it’s done, Google will figure it out eventually and it wouldn’t be the first link network to go up in flames. Of course, we know that it can work (especially in the short term) but Google is getting better and better at recognizing such link networks. Google rewards natural links placed as genuine recommendations. Of course, such links are harder to get but that’s the point – your content must be good enough! It’s worth it in the long term …

Little or no unique content

Some webmasters try to boost their rankings by using external content (either automatically generated or simply a list of links) on their websites rather than their own content. Here’s the problem: Google does not want its search results page to consist of additional search results pages. In other words, Google doesn’t want websites with hundreds of links to other pages. Since such glossary-style websites can however be useful for websites, make sure they are set to noindex/follow so that they are not added to the index. This will avoid going against Google’s guidelines.

Hidden text / hidden links

This is proper 2005-style SEO! Put simply: if you’re still doing this, then you deserve to be punished! White text on white background with hundreds of hidden keywords and even a few external backlinks. No, no, no. Back in the last decade (yes, decade!), this sort of cheap SEO guaranteed better rankings but in 2017 the only thing that is guaranteed is a Panda punishment. Even worse, should a user ever actually stumble across your hidden text, it’s really embarrassing. So don’t even bother!

Affiliate programs with no unique content on your own page

Google has no problem with affiliate programs in principal. So-called referrer links are backlinks from your page to your affiliate partner page, such as Amazon partner program or an affiliated online shop. The problem for Google comes when the website providing the link doesn’t actually feature any content itself. It’s not enough to simply copy the product description from the product-selling page and reproduce it on your own page where the link is. You need to offer something more – perhaps a product demonstration, test or review. Simply hosting the link with a copied product description offers absolutely zero value for the user. Then earning commission via link clicks as users head to the product page is in clear contravention of Google’s guidelines. Put a bit of effort in, ok?

Unnecessary keywords & keyword stuffing

Don’t overload your website with irrelevant keywords which don’t have anything to do with your actual content. Simply listing a load of keywords at the end of a text (or even engineering a text so that they appear within it) doesn’t offer any value for the user and is therefore not likely to be rewarded by Google. Try to avoid keyword stuffing too – forcing a certain keyword to appear in a text far more often than could ever be natural.

Miss-use of awards

Many webmasters use the schema.org standard to add particular bits of information to their page – a good idea, in principle. But it’s important to do things correctly and not confuse your users.

For example, be careful not to use the rating results for a whole shop on one product page. This could suggest to the user that one particular product has a lot of good ratings when the figure is actually an aggregate rating for all the products offered on a page. Or, perhaps your website has received an award or badge? Of course, this should be displayed using schema.org but make sure it’s on the homepage, not on a single specific product page, which could give the false impression that the product itself has been rewarded. Such distinctions should be displayed – but correctly! You can find a list of all the things that can be integrated into your website on schema.org.

For more information on SEO measures which you should steer well clear of, check out Google’s Guidelines for Webmasters in Google’s own search console.

Author: Sascha Lienesch

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