As you may have noticed, SEO has been going through a lot of changes lately. Google has gotten a lot smarter and a lot better at retrieving information from websites. And as search metrics have greatly improved, the battle for first page is as fierce as ever.
We all want to win. And many of us will go looking through blogs, forums, Youtube, etc. for tips to boost our page results. However, some of these tips — especially from a few years ago, are considered black hat practices and will get you penalized by Google. There’s a chance you could be breaking the rules and not even know it. Here’s what to watch out for.
There was a time when many marketers thought keyword stuffing was the best way to get noticed by Google. Keyword stuffing involves injecting search terms into your content in a way that creates no value to the reader. Not only does this create a bad user experience in terms of readability, but it is now a practice that is penalized by Google.
Google explains keyword stuffing as:
- Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value.
- Blocks of text listing cities and states a web page is trying to rank for.
- Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural.
What’s so sneaky about a redirect? Well if you are sending a user to a different webpage than the one they clicked on… that’s pretty conspicuous, according to Google. This is a practice commonly seen in spam. Similar to cloaking, this might include redirecting a search engine crawler to one page that is rich in content and all other users to another page. You may have seen this when a highly authoritative page, one that ranks well with Google, uses backlinks to another low-scoring page simply to boost search results.
This may be the most obvious cheat for SEO cheats. You may have even considered it before — hiding or placing invisible text in your content to boost keywords and word density on a page. This also can mean that the page will appear in search results for those invisible keywords while there’s no visible content about them on the page. Google has learned to detect where content is placed, whether that’s behind a box or blended with the background colors and penalize websites. Needless to say, there should be no reason to hide content on your website.
Buying and selling is part of business, however, buying and selling links to increase search ranking in SERP is a big no-no. The exchange doesn't always need to be monetary, it could be an exchange for services, or a free product as payment. Another very common, yet shady way of manipulating links is to require a link as part of a service agreement or contract without giving the third-party a choice to agree or not. This is usually done when companies have websites or software custom built, and the firm that built the site, or software "requires" a link to their page as a condition of the service itself.
No one likes to be manipulated, and that is exactly what Doorway Pages do. For instance, if your site sells curling irons, and you are ranking well for curling irons in your specific area, but you want to rank well in other areas. It might look like this:
Curling Irons for Sale
Top Of The Line Curling Irons for Sale in California
The Best Curling Irons for Sale in New Jersey
The main goal is to drive users who search for these terms to your specific page even if the content isn't relevant to what they were searching for. The penalties for this can be very stiff, including being "blacklisted" by Google, which can kill your online presence entirely.
Another example of Doorway Pages:
These examples are not an exhaustive list of all the "blackhat", or negative tactics used to rank higher, but they can help you avoid some of the most common issues in SEO. The best rule of thumb when it comes to SEO is to focus on what is important to the people reading your content. Yes, while there are tips for improving SEO, you should not have to manipulate the system if you are putting out relevant information.