Ranking in the top ten in Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) is something every website owner and administrator strives to achieve. You spend days, months and even years trying to craft the best website title, description, and build quality content and attract relevant inbound links to impress Google. All that is good and recommended because Google loves quality, links and content and Google will reward websites that build high quality links and content. But your efforts wouldn’t pay off if your desire to achieve success becomes overwhelmed by desperation and sneaky practices rather than playing by the rules. So, you need to avoid the sharp practices that attempt to manipulate the system. Google hates anything that tries to manipulate its search algorithm.
In this post we focus on 10 common practices that will hurt your ranking because Google considers them to be bad Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. We strongly recommend that you avoid these bad bad SEO practices discussed below:
Unwholesome SEO Practices to Avoid
These are simply bad SEO practices. Sometimes, they are termed black hat SEO and some literature refers to them as search engine manipulation. Google frowns at them and will punish your website if it indulges in any of these black hat SEO. So, here are a list of 10 SEO practices you must avoid if you want to rank high and maintain your good rankings.
- Over optimization and exact match keyword optimization.
- Link purchases
- Spammy links
- Link exchanges
- Deliberate and aggressive link building
- Auto generated content
- Keyword stuffing
- Duplicated content
- Guest posting for links
- Too much outgoing links
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Over optimization and exact match keyword optimization.
Many times, the desperation to swiftly rank high in the search engines forces webmasters to optimize highly for exact match keywords. Google has started devaluing websites for exact matches and now favors the use of Latent Semantic Indexing which is a blend of related keywords. When you rely only on “exact match”, you are over optimizing and this is no longer fashionable for today’s SEO. We suggest the use of natural language and long tail keywords.
We have also observed that Google has increased the number of characters displayed in the search engines. It now displays up to 65 characters. This suggests that Google is encouraging long tail keywords contrary to exact match.
So you need to avoid over optimized content especially page titles and go with a natural language if you wish to improve your website ranking performance.
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The value of links in SEO has become quite profound and no serious SEO can downplay the value of links to a website. However, one mistake you should not make is to think that you can buy links to gain top rankings. That strategy no longer works. It could have worked some ten years ago but definitely, the reverse is the case today. Google has made improvements to its algorithm recently thus making. link purchases to be unattractive and an unacceptable practice that will earn you a penalty instead of a promotion.
The best way to build links instead of buying them is to build quality content that users will want to reference and share with others in their own posts. When you build on quality, research and are innovative, you will gain popularity and a lot of links will point to your post because of the innovative findings.
So, do not buy links. You might think that a few purchased links should not have any negative impact but we can assure you that Google will certainly catch you and punish you for buying links instead of earning them.
Besides, here are a few reasons you should be scared of link purchases.
- You never can predict the website that will provide the inbound link. Having a link is one thing, but the relevance of the link is also weighty. When you get links from websites that are not related to your industry, it points to a possibility that your link was bought. Since you cannot control where the link will be placed, it is better to allow it to happen naturally on relevant pages that discuss something related to the industry and more likely to be serving customers that can be interested in what you offer.
- Link placement could be automated and massive. This immediately tells Google that you have bought the links and the next thing will be Google’s hammer falling on your page.
- Recovering from a Google penalty is not so easy. It is better to build and grow your website slowly and steadily instead of getting a penalty and frustrating every possible gain that could be achieved. Slow and steady wins the race, they say. Go natural and allow the reward to be deserved and sustainable. That is a better way to go.
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Generally speaking, Google considers manipulative links as spammy. Here, spammy links refer to low quality links pointing to your website from low authority, low quality websites. Because Google frowns at spammy links, if you link to them or they link to you, you are seen as encouraging the process and that could create a ranking problem for your website.
You could be wondering if competitors won’t capitalize on this. According to a MOZ forum, it is extremely hard for Google not to distinguish between a genuine effort and a spammy effort so you need not bother about what anyone does. Just focus on building quality.
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These are deliberate sharing of links between websites just for the purpose of SEO. You should not exchange links to give a false impression about an endorsement for your website. When Google assesses your links and finds that they are just exchanges, it devalues that link, ignores it and may even be punished for the manipulative act.
Deliberate and Aggressive Link Building
This involves an aggressive effort to build links. It could involve updating your blog posts with links. We have seen that if adding internal or external links is the only reason to run updates, then don’t do it because it will hurt you seriously.
Link building should be natural, flowing from the quality of your articles,reasonable and useful to your readers. The best links are those that you earn, not those you got through some smart ways.
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Auto Generated Content
There are contents that do not make sense at all except that they contain links. They are auto generated by a software and links inserted into them. Such links hurt and are of no value to your website therefore, you should avoid them. Moreover, Google could penalize your website for using such a strategy and your rankings can be hit badly.
Keyword stuffing is one of the most common unacceptable SEO practices known. Despite its popularity as a black hat practice, keyword stuffing is still very much a common mistake with SEO practitioners. Let it be stated here that using a keyword multiple times does not represent stuffing in so much as it is used naturally to communicate the message. But trying to rank for a keyword by using it multiple times on a page could amount to keyword stuffing.
The recommendation is that keywords should be used naturally and not used manipulatively to force the search engines to give it more relevance and some undue priority.
Further reading: How Best to Use Keywords in Your Website Content
Google loves quality and duplicate content does not fall within the scope of what Google considers as high quality content. Avoid copying content from other pages on your own website or from other websites. Having said that, it is important to state that Google does not actually penalize you for duplicate content, however, you are unlikely to rank high with duplicate content.
Cloaking is a black hat SEO strategy where webmasters show different content to users and search engine bots or spiders. That is to say, what search engines see is different from what the search engines see. The most common practice is to write texts with the same color as their background. That way, texts are not visible to human visitors but search engines see them. The idea is to load the website with keywords that people will not see but bots will see, and the goal is to manipulate the search engines and achieve high performance on the search results.
What are the different types of cloaking?
- User-Agent Cloaking
- IP based cloaking
- HTTP_REFERER cloaking
- HTTP Accept-language header cloaking
Common ways to implement cloaking
Let us now understand how to put cloaking into action with a few easy pointers:
This can be done by adding text in the same colour as that of the background so that it is not visible to the human eye.
We know Flash is not recommended as per SEO guidelines. But some websites cannot avoid it. So rather than remaking the entire website in plain HTML, they create content-rich web pages and provide them to search engine crawlers and the flash pages to visitors.
A good SEO technique requires having a “TEXT to HTML ratio” that is as high as possible. In other words, the web page should have more text (content) as compared to your HTML tags. But if someone is writing short articles or posts, your text to HTML ratio will be very low. To avoid re-designing their website in such scenarios, people choose cloaking to meet SEO guidelines.
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Guest Posts For Links
Some SEOs are mainly involved in guest posting for links. Google places more value on the extent to which your posts enrich its search and are useful to users and not how many links point to your websites from a particular post. Of course, Google is able to access the value of a post and links pointing to the posts and does not just attach equal weights to every link. For instance, search engines will consider how relevant the links are, are they pointing to related websites,, are they found on relevant topics that discuss something similar to what is being discussed in the post being linked to or is it just a link with little or no value to the reader.
You should avoid links that are worthless and valueless and focus on value for users. Try to write for people and not for the search engines and the links that come will be high quality.
Too Much Outgoing Links
When your website provides too many outgoing links, it suggests that your website is being used as a link farm and could possibly be selling links. You have to be most effective in your use of outgoing links so that the search engines do not mark your website as one that is providing an environment from spammy websites to flourish.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has changed significantly over the past few years and what worked before is no longer working now. We suggest you focus on optimizing for users rather than for search engines. Avoid keyword stuffing, exact match keywords, cloaking, link purchase, link farm and all other blact hat SEO practices mentioned above.
Focus on quality posts, avoid duplicate content and write original posts that provide value and therefore can be linkable rather than buying links. Build your quality content based on these recommendations and watch your website gradually get some improvement in its search engine ranking.