Over the years the search ranking algorithms employed by companies like Google have changed a lot. The most recent iteration employs natural language learning and artificial intelligence with a strong emphasis on mobile search. Although algorithms are closed-guarded proprietary secrets, search engines provide free resources and guidelines on how to optimise content. Despite this, many small enterprises continue to use outdated, obsolete practices. At best, doing so is ineffective; at worst they can actually heavily penalise your pages. Here are some of the methods still commonly used by inexperienced content developers.
In days past, one of the common strategies was to use as many keywords as possible. The system was abused and content was difficult to understand because it didn’t read like natural text. These days, search algorithms have the ability to recognise content like this, flag it as spam and make your page rankings sink accordingly. Today, your content needs to be natural-sounding, original, and with a sensible use of keywords.
A new page for every keyword
Closely associated with keyword stuffing, was creating a new page for each keyword phrase. The ideas was that the page would be an exact match for the search term and so would rank at the top of results. Unfortunately, this tactic was also abused. These days search engines work hard to deliver relevant, quality content that directly addresses what people are searching for. In other words, instead of having multiple pages flirting around a topic you should have a single, definitive page that delivers accurate, quality content that is interesting and informative.
Exact-match domain names
Another strategy was to register domain names that exactly matched keyword phrases. For example, “www.bestshoesinlondon.com”. If your business name is Best Shoes London then obviously “www.bestshoeslondon.com” would be reasonable, however, if not then buying an exact match domain name isn’t going to guarantee you a high ranking unless this is also paired with great content, and other ethical SEO strategies.
Keywords in meta data
Meta data is the information you don’t see when you load a page. It is text that is intended to help search engines understand your content so they can index it more accurately. In the past it was common to just list every relevant keyword possible. For example:
<meta name=”description” content=”shoes, best buy, London, sports shoes, tennis shoes, boots.”>
Instead, write a natural text description of the page. Yes, you can include keywords but make sure they fit in naturally. It should be written as a simple, informative description that might even read a bit like an ad. Don’t duplicate your descriptions—each page needs its own unique description.
It applies to other type of tags too, for example the image ALT attribute (aka the “ALT tag”). This also shouldn’t be a list of keywords; it needs to describe the image in a meaningful way. Alt tags are often read aloud for visually impaired people so make them meaningful. An example of a good alt tag might be:
<img src=”boot8.jpg” alt=”Photo of Patagonia’s narrow fit hiking boot”>
Compare this to a poor alt tag like:
<img src=”boot8.jpg” alt=”Shoes, boots, free, special offer, best shoes London, best hiking boot”>
Can you see how the second one appears like you are trying too hard or are employing dubious tactics?
Link sharing and buying
The authority of your content depends not only on its quality and how well it is written but also on its backlinks—that is, the links directing people to it from other sites. People used to swap lists of links or buy links. In social networking today, some people still try to sell “likes”. These practices don’t work because links or likes that can be bought are not high quality. Because Google factors in not only the quantity of links and social proof but also the quality and relevance of these referrers, it is better to let backlinks develop in an organic fashion. If your content is really good people will want to link to it anyway.
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