SEO tactics change over time as Google and other search engines update their algorithms, as it becomes harder and harder to “game” the system to get quick results. A number of old techniques are either useless or outright counter-productive now.
It is well known that Google penalises websites for “black-hat” SEO, but it’s harder to work out exactly what that means. Essentially, any attempt to artificially manipulate SERP rankings can get your website penalised – but what is artificial manipulation, and what is legitimate optimisation?
It is well known that keyword stuffing will not help your SEO in the long (or even medium) term, but it is harder to know what keyword stuffing actually is. Obviously long lists of keywords as a block of text are wrong, but there is more to it than that. Some people think that they can still put keywords all over the page as long as it is hidden (one common tactic is to put lists of keywords in the margins of the page in the exact same text colour as the background), but Google will pick up on this.
You also need to be careful in the content you write. If you use the same phrase over and over again it will look spammy, read badly and using the same phrase over and over again will get your page penalised. Apart from anything else, using the same phrase over and over again makes your content annoying to read.
The algorithm recognises that it isn’t natural to use a word or phrase constantly, or to say things in exactly the same way. Your page will still be marked as relevant to your keywords if you use synonyms and change up your phrasing to keep your sentences natural and enjoyable to read.
Redirects are never good on your website – it simply means you haven’t done an audit for a while or adjusted your links. Deceptive redirects are even worse than that. Essentially this means you direct someone to a page that is completely different to the one they expect to go to – and some people even direct search engine crawlers and real visitors to different pages.
This kind of black-hat SEO isn’t even effective, as if you send people to a page they don’t want to see then you will simply end up with a ridiculously high bounce rate and very few sales. This is actually a common trend in black-hat SEO – it doesn’t actually create websites and pages that are likely to result in conversions and sales.
Some people will try to build links from recognised domains by spamming comment sections of social media or blog posts with links to their website. This tactic can actually work if the comment is relevant to the discussion, and it can actually lead you to extra conversions and sales.
Most people who do this don’t take the time to search for relevant discussions and contribute in a meaningful way, however. If you just go and put your link anywhere you can with a copy and pasted message then it will be removed almost immediately by most moderators, as well as marking your website as spam in the eyes of search algorithms.
So what should you do?
Search algorithms are constantly changing in response to user needs, as well as in order to remove spam. While some changes will be difficult to predict, such as the rise of voice search and (as smart phones first came in) mobile friendly sites, in general good SEO happens when you focus on improving the experience of Google’s users (and your potential customers) rather than making your top priority be quick rises in search rankings.
Remember, while it is important for people to find your site and know it is relevant to them (and this is where keywords come in) the most important thing is to show them what they are looking for. Google and other search engines are tools for the purpose of finding relevant content, so you just need to have the most relevant content.
If you’re worried about algorithms penalising you then just remember that Google wants high quality and informative content – and as long as you create that then you will be doing well.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.