SEO is hard; there’s no doubt about that. Google algorithms change, keyword trends change, and your very audience changes over time. SEO is a long game, too; you absolutely can’t rank overnight, no matter what agencies might promise. On top of it all, it requires constant monitoring, too, so you can apply essential SEO fixes as needed. With all this work, it’s easy to see how one might fall out of the loop and end up relying on ineffective, outdated SEO practices. Google won’t appreciate this, though, so neither will your rankings.
Let us explore some of the most common dethroned practices to help you check if your strategies need an update.
#1 Stuffing keywords
Perhaps the most notable practice of old, and one to steer clear from, is stuffing keywords. You’ve likely seen such articles yourself – repeating keywords over and over, coming across as having been written for search engines. They have been, but there are two distinct problems with this practice. One, search engines know better now, and two, it dissatisfies users.
Both of these are reasons why seasoned marketers steer clear of keyword stuffing. Experts at moversdev.com strongly advise new businesses and marketers not to be tempted by this perceived shortcut. Between Google’s algorithm’s Panda and Hummingbird updates, keyword stuffing hasn’t been a winning strategy for almost a decade.
But even assuming it doesn’t diminish content in the eyes of Google, it does in the eyes of users. This doesn’t just reduce your content’s effectiveness, netting your business fewer leads and sales. It also actively harms your SEO; unhappy readers produce poor engagement signals, such as high bounce rates. Google takes note of that, too.
#2 Cannibalizing keywords
Speaking of keywords, quite a few outdated SEO practices hinge on them. That’s quite logical, as keywords are the bedrock of content – but that’s also why keyword misuse and missteps are dire.
Keyword cannibalization refers to the practice of targeting the exact same keywords through different content. This might seem logical at a glance, as more content should equal better rankings. In practice, however, it pits you against yourself – hence the name “cannibalization.”
There are a few different reasons why this practice is harmful, as Yoast explains:
“If you cannibalize your own keywords, you’re competing with yourself for ranking in Google. Let’s say you have two posts on the exact same topic. In that case, Google can’t distinguish which article should rank highest for a certain query. In addition, important factors like backlinks and CTR get diluted over several posts instead of one. As a result, they’ll all probably both rank lower.”
So, this practice isn’t just fruitless, as it has been for a while. It’s detrimental to your SEO. It’s thus best avoided; build a robust content strategy in line with white hat SEO instead, and ranking will come.
#3 Duplicating content
A different spin on the same tactic is content duplication. Now, this term means a few different things – but they all do more harm than good all the same. All such tactics aren’t just outdated SEO practices but harmful ones.
At a fundamental level, duplicate content is identical content that appears in multiple places online. Duplicate content can take a few different forms, each with its own intent. Examples include:
· Using identical location pages for Google Business Profile (GBP, formerly Google My Business).
· Duplicating product descriptions on eCommerce websites.
· Using the same content across different domains that you own.
· Publishing duplicated content submitted by guest authors.
Of course, each of those has a different solution. You may use a plagiarism checker for duplicated guest content, and for your domains and GBP, you can consciously avoid the practice. Nonetheless, there are ample reasons to avoid duplicate content. Not only does Google frown upon the practice, but users do too. So, much like keyword stuffing, you can end up with ruined SEO and dissatisfied audiences and customers.
#4 Fluffing up your content
Perhaps a similar concept, at least in some cases, took form in content fluffing. You’ve likely seen it before; content that goes on and on, offering nothing but more space for keywords. Such content probably didn’t satisfy you, nor did it please Google.
Still, unlike other outdated SEO practices, this one had a solid enough foundation. Marketers found that longer content tended to rank better on Google, so the assumption was that length equaled rankings. There was a considerable debate on this correlation for years, which Google’s less-than-fully-clear guidelines didn’t help settle. So, what changed?
In brief, correlation does not equal causation. As SEJ research finds, longer content does tend to rank better, but not because of its length. Rather, the length allows for more value. Delivering value to users has always been Google’s explicit goal, and good engagement signals denote value above all else. So, it’s always best to only go for massive pieces of content if you can offer quality throughout.
#5 Prioritizing quantity over quality
Speaking of quality and quantity, this is yet another ill-advised strategy. Namely, pumping out low-quality content on a tight schedule and prioritizing output volume and consistency over quality. It’s hard to tell if this ever worked to qualify as “outdated,” but it certainly doesn’t work now.
The simple reason for this is that quality is king. Bill Gates said so in 1996, and the principle has never been more relevant than it is now. Low-quality content does not engage users; disinterested users don’t please Google, and they certainly don’t generate revenue. This is why such outdated SEO practices don’t deserve your time.
Now, that’s not to say output consistency doesn’t matter at all. For instance, Oberlo cites HubSpot’s blogging statistics to assert the opposite:
“Companies that publish at least 16 blog posts per month receive 3.5 times more traffic than those that publish fewer than four posts.”
Still, just like with content fluffing, quality is the factor that matters most – and the above statistics agree. It’s great to balance the two and regularly pump out quality content. But if you can’t, quantity is not the one to prioritize.
#6 Leaning on high-DA backlinks
This one might seem somewhat controversial, so it likely needs an explanation. Backlinks are the proverbial backbone of SEO – off-page SEO, for sure. DoFollow backlinks enhance your DA, improving your rankings in the process. And even NoFollow backlinks still generate traffic, and thus both engagement signals and revenue. So why are backlinks an issue?
By themselves, they are not. Any SEO strategy should include backlinks, especially ones from authoritative sources. And thankfully, old black hat SEO practices like purchased backlinks have mostly been outdated to oblivion.
However, Google distinguishes between DoFollow and NoFollow backlinks. As such, it may penalize suspicious-looking backlink profiles like ones full of DoFollows but few to no NoFollows. This is the actual issue with this practice, as overreliance on the former can backfire. So, you can instead strive to balance the two; NoFollows also generate traffic, so they’re never useless.
#7 Abusing alt text
Abusing alt text warrants a spot on the list of outdated SEO practices. This practice, seeing marketers stuff alt text full of keywords instead of offering accurate descriptions, somehow remains alive today. Needless to say, it doe not work. In fact, it can even harm your on-page SEO.
Alt texts serve a particular purpose; to make the internet more accessible to those with visual impairments. As the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) gained prominence, marketers and search engines began adhering to the American Disabilities Act (ADA). To do so, they included alt text for images, which would read photos to screen readers and display them if images failed to load.
Of course, as image search gained prominence, alt text became ripe for keyword stuffing. Marketers saw the opportunity and, for a while, saw some gains from abusing it. Now, however, Google knows better – and wants to see alt text serve its intended purpose. It’s great if you can organically fit keywords there, but shady practices will be picked up swiftly.
#8 Monitoring traffic, not user engagement signals
Finally, for the shortest entry on this list, marketers’ monitoring habits may come into focus. Some, especially SEO newcomers, focus on traffic as their KPI of choice and seldom look further. However, as this article has hopefully made abundantly clear, traffic is only one metric. A valuable one, yes, but not one which can denote SEO success or failure alone.
Frankly, such outdated SEO practices have marketers miss the bigger picture. It’s great that an article generated traffic, but did it generate revenue? Did users find it informative and stay, hopefully starting a customer journey, or did they leave immediately? Did they follow your internal links, travel down your sales funnel, and engage with your website?
All of these metrics matter, both to your business and to Google. They can dictate your best course of action, SEO-wise and otherwise, and neglecting them is nothing short of a disservice.
In summary, there are ample outdated SEO practices that still somehow survive. Some don’t work anymore, as Google knows better, and some are actively harmful to boot. Neither type deserves your time nowadays, nor should either be spared your caution. Of course, this article couldn’t possibly cover them all. Still, while brief, hopefully, it helped you identify the eight worst offenders among them. With this knowledge, you may review your strategies and update them, pleasing Google and your audiences.