As someone who’s been optimizing websites for years, I’ve come across several SEO techniques that used to work but are now outdated and should be avoided.
Organic SEO can really increase your website traffic when done correctly. Based on my experience, many people get in trouble with DIY SEO by over-optimizing, focusing on things that don’t actually matter, or getting duped into paying for irrelevant stuff that doesn’t move the needle.
Are you still stuffing your website’s content with excessive keywords in hopes of improving your search engine ranking?
Well, it’s time to ditch this outdated practice along with a few other SEO techniques. (May they rest in peace.)
On with the show…
Here are the 9 techniques that should be put to rest—forever.
- Keyword stuffing
- Over-optimized anchor text
- Duplicate content
- Link farms and paid links
- M dot
- Exact match domains (EMDs)
- Thin content
- Auto-generated city-specific pages
- Flash and doorway pages
1. Keyword stuffing
Back in my early days of SEO (at least 25 years ago), keyword stuffing was extremely common. Website owners, SEOs and affiliate marketers would try to manipulate search engine rankings by stuffing their website’s content with excessive amounts of keywords.
They’d place keywords everywhere, especially in the keyword tag. And guess what? It worked.
This technique was a quick and easy way to achieve higher search engine rankings, even if the content was difficult to read.
It didn’t matter if webmasters hid keywords at the bottom or on the side of pages—as long as search engine spiders could see them, everything was all good.
If you remember white text on white backgrounds, black text on black backgrounds, the off-screen position, teeny tiny fonts, and hidden links, you (and I) have probably been working in this industry too long ?
It was wild.
Then Google crashed the party. I won’t go into details. Just know that in today’s optimization, keyword spamming is a waste of your time.
So what should you do instead of keyword stuffing?
The answer is simple: focus on creating high-quality, informative content that naturally incorporates relevant keywords.
By creating content that provides value to your audience, you’ll attract more traffic to your website and improve your search engine ranking in the process.
Plus, Google clearly states that keyword stuffing is a violation of their spam policy.
To sum it up: Spend your time doing something that’s useful.
2. Over-optimized anchor texts
Another outdated SEO technique is over-optimized anchor text.
How long? How short? How many times till the anchor texts become excessive?
While it may seem like a good idea to include exact match anchor text, using it excessively can be seen as spammy.
Instead, it’s recommended that you use descriptive and natural anchor text that provides context for the linked page.
For example, if you’re linking to an article on “5 Tips for Healthy Eating,” use anchor text such as “Healthy Eating Tips” or “Tips for Eating Well.” Come up with different variations, word stems, synonyms, etc.
While there is no significant difference in how Google ranks longer or shorter anchor text, using more words in anchor text can provide more context to Google about the linked page. This additional context can indirectly impact the rankings of the page.
Think of it this way: You’re providing clues to search engine spiders about the content of the page they’re about to visit. If the information is clear to your users, it’s likely to be clear to search engine spiders as well.
Back in 2020, John Muller, a Google search advocate, addressed the issue of long and short anchor texts in his Webmaster Central live stream below:
“Sometimes, if you have a longer anchor text, that gives us a little bit more information. Sometimes it’s kind of like just a collection of different keywords.
So, from that point of view, I wouldn’t see any of these as being better or worse. And it’s something where, especially for internal linking, you want to probably focus more on things like how can you make it clearer for your users that if they click on this link this is what they’ll find.
So that’s kind of the way that I would look at it here. I wouldn’t say that shorter anchor text is better or shorter anchor text is worse; it’s just a different context.”
Original video of the question and answer here: https://youtu.be/i_5ap7c0ynA
Just recently, Google came out with updated information on SEO fundamentals. Below is a section on anchor texts from Google’s public document:
Bad (too generic):
<a href=”https://example.com”>Click here</a> to learn more.
<a href=”https://example.com”>Read more</a>.
Learn more about our cheese on our <a href=”https://example.com”>website</a>.
We have an <a href=”https://example.com”>article</a> that provides more background on how the cheese is made.
Tip: Try reading only the anchor text (out of context) and check if it’s specific enough to make sense by itself. If you don’t know what the page could be about, you need more descriptive anchor text.
Better (more descriptive):
For a full list of cheese available for purchase, see the <a href=”https://example.com”>list of cheese types</a>.
Bad (weirdly long):
Starting next Tuesday, the <a href=”https://example.com”>Knitted Cow invites local residents of Wisconsin to their grand re-opening by also offering complimentary cow-shaped ice sculptures</a> to the first 20 customers.
Better (more concise):
Starting next Tuesday, the <a href=”https://example.com”>Knitted Cow invites local residents of Wisconsin</a> to their grand re-opening by also offering complimentary cow-shaped ice sculptures to the first 20 customers.
3. Duplicate content
Duplicate content refers to content that appears on multiple pages or domains. This practice used to be popular among website owners who wanted to create more content quickly without putting in the effort to write original content.
In the past, it was not uncommon for websites with duplicated content to rank better than the original source. It was frustrating.
However, Google came along and put a stop to this practice. Google wants high-quality and unique content, and it’s trying to determine which content is original and valuable.
Keep in mind that the perception of intent is subjective, but overall, Google is working to provide fair and accurate rankings for all websites—or should I say, most websites?
Google is so much better at filtering out duplicate content and provides guidelines for webmasters on how to deal with original content by using canonical tags.
Canonical tags are used to indicate the original source of the content and help search engines understand which version of the content to prioritize.
4. Link farms and paid links
Link farms and paid links are practices where websites buy or exchange links to manipulate their search engine rankings.
Do these techniques still work? It depends. I would avoid link farms altogether.
When it comes to paid links, as long as you read and understand Google’s policy on the matter, you should be alright.
Keep in mind that buying and selling links is generally frowned upon, so it’s important to make it clear that any paid links are sponsored.
Also, make sure that your backlinks come from relevant and trustworthy sites. If a site doesn’t seem reputable or trustworthy, Google likely won’t view your links there favorably.
Think of it this way: If you don’t like a neighborhood, you wouldn’t want to buy a house there. Similarly, if a site doesn’t seem like a good fit for your brand, don’t associate with it.
Earn your link.
Instead, focus on earning high-quality backlinks naturally. This can be done through content marketing and outreach, where you create valuable content that other websites want to link to, and you reach out to other websites in your niche to request a link.
5. M (dot)
It’s 2023 and you’re still sending people to m.mydinosaursite.com. Seriously?
I don’t blame you. I blame mobile phones. Back in the early days, designers had to design a separate website (a subdomain) for users of mobile devices. Of course, it was a major pain.
With responsive design, your website’s layout and content will automatically adjust to fit any screen size, ensuring it looks and functions great on all devices.
If you’re on WordPress or use other content management systems, you already have responsive design. All is good. Might need a little tweak here and there, but it shouldn’t be a big problem.
It’s also important to make sure your website loads quickly and that any images or media are optimized for mobile.
6. Exact match domains (EMDs)
Basically, these are domain names that match exactly with a keyword or phrase that a website wants to rank for.
In the past, it might have seemed like a good idea to use an EMD to get your search engine ranking, but nowadays, it’s not worth your time.
Think about it: If your business’s name is James Smith Legal (just a made-up example), would you really want your domain name to be something like this: injurylawyeraccidentattorneynewyork dot com?
If you do, I have a bridge to sell you.
If you can come up with a domain name that incorporates a good keyword and your brand and still keeps the name short and memorable, then that would be really awesome.
Google “domain name generator,” and you should see a list of free name-generating tools. Or use ChatGPT, whichever works for you.
I get emails all the time from people trying to sell domain names, especially in the legal industry. And I can’t help but wonder if anyone’s falling for these schemes. I mean, if nobody was buying them, why would I (and I bet, you) keep getting these emails every day?
7. Thin content
Thin content is any content on a website that doesn’t offer much value to users, like pages with just a few sentences or pages filled with ads.
Google likes to see high-quality, informative content that matches what users are searching for.
So, if you want to avoid having thin content on your website, it’s critical to focus on creating content that’s helpful and valuable to your audience.
Of course, not all pages with low word counts are bad. It really depends on the purpose of the page. For example, pages like news articles or job promotions may have shorter word counts because of their nature.
But if you have pages with no value at all, it’s best to either upgrade them or get rid of them altogether.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out this video from Matt Cutts, a former head of Google search quality. He explains in simple terms what Google considers to be thin content and what you can do to improve it:
Here’s a great resource straight from the experts themselves:
Google’s guide to creating helpful, reliable and people-first content
8. Auto-generated city-specific pages
“I want my site to rank for the entire country.”
It’s great that you’re interested in optimizing your website for a wider audience! However, it’s vital to understand that ranking for an entire country can be quite challenging, especially if your business only serves a specific region or city.
“My SEO recommends I build a city page for each state and I will rank.”
There’s more to it than that. A page for each city, duplicated 50 times and replacing the name of the city each time, is a hopeless SEO strategy that needs to die—now.
Don’t make that mistake. It’s a waste of time and money.
Potential customers who are searching for local services are much more likely to visit businesses that are local to them.
For example, someone in South Tampa who is looking to hire an attorney is more likely to choose a local attorney over one from Orlando, even if the Orlando attorney ranks higher in search results.
And if you’re an attorney in Orlando, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to outcompete the ranking law firms that are actually located in Tampa.
It’s usually a better strategy to focus your SEO efforts on targeting your local area, which is both more effective and less expensive.
9. Flash and doorway pages
If you’ve read this far, you and I are both tired. Writing is not my cup of tea at all. But they made me do it… these cruel people at SEO Advantage ?
Do you remember the days when Flash pages were all the rage? They were so fancy with their animations, moving graphics and videos.
However, they were terrible for SEO and likely created a poor user experience. Flash pages had compatibility problems, limited functionality and security vulnerabilities, among other issues.
Similarly, doorway pages are outdated and ineffective. Instead of relying on them, focus on the following:
- Internal linking
- Building high-quality content
- Obtaining quality backlinks
You still with me? It’s great to know that you’re still with me. I just wanted to take a moment to say that I really appreciate you being here. If you have a website, you know that search engine optimization is crucial.
However, finding a good SEO team can be a challenge. Fortunately, I can confidently say that the SEO Advantage team is one of the good ones.
And rest assured, we don’t use any of the techniques above.
Do your research and find a company that truly works hard to earn your trust. I hope that you’re able to find a great team to work with.
If you talk to our clients, they’ll tell you that we’re a solid company. In fact, almost all of our clients have been with us for over 10 years, with the youngest ones being around 5-6 years.