Lately I have been hearing more and more bad SEO (search engine optimization) advice, and I think it is time we just talk about. I mean, how long am I supposed to sit back and watch as brands [+blogs] I love take the windy rabbit hole straight to penalty-ville?!
I mean, I get it. SEO is tricky. It is confusing, finicky and ever changing. I would listen to the "experts" too if I were you! But, that does not mean that those "experts" are always right. In fact, more often or not I have been seeing very wrong information escaping their blogs, lips, pages and websites.
So? Let's call this a truth check.
Here are the top 5 really bad pieces of SEO advice that I have see recently.
1. "SEO is all about getting links. You should be submitting your website and posting your link anywhere you can."
Oh man. If I could only tell you how many times I have heard this. Some call it directory linking, some call it link spamming, but whatever you refer to "it" as, this advice is horrendous. Seriously. There was once a time when the quantity of links was the most important variable to SEO.
But today? Google is much more interested in the QUALITY of links, not necessarily the QUANTITY. In fact, have an influx of spammy, directory links can actually hurt you! Ya, that's right. Not only is this advice going to fail you in terms of greater search visibility, but it can actually cause your site to be flagged for "breaking the rules"—in other words it can result in a search penalty and the possibility of being de-indexed.
Talk about bad advice...
So, what can we do to satisfy the still apparent need for backlinks? Create quality content worthy of linking to + make REAL relationships that will result in quality backlinks. Today, search engines like Google and Bing are far more concerned with the value that your link community brings to your audience, rather than the number of links you have managed to scrape from across the web.
Your external link profile needs to make sense. It needs to help your audience. Instead of just grabbing any and every link opportunity, spend your time building relationships and obtaining links from authoritative sites.
2. "There is no duplicate content penalty, you can repost that blog anywhere."
Please hold while I lose my lunch. I have worked in SEO exclusivity for the past five years. I have seen (been a part or) sites falling or disappearing from the SERPs (search engine results pages) and sites climbing to the top. I do not care what Google says. Duplicate content does hurt you.
What is duplicate content? Google defines it as:
"Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin ..."
The reality is, although there is no specific penalty against duplicate content, Google will only rank one site or page with any given piece of content. What does that mean? Well, if your site is a newer blog, or growing site, and the content is also posted on a higher authority site like LinkedIn, Huffington Post, etc., your site will never rank for that content.
Did you catch that? It will never rank. And what if Google decides this is a trend with your site? Well, your site will stop ranking. Sounds pretty counter-productive to me.
So what can you do? Use great placements as an opportunity for an authoritative backlink (have them include a link to your site on their site), include a small intro or description on your site, and then link back to that content. This allows you to still drive attention to your content/content on another site, without risking being flagged for duplicate content.
3. "Focus on optimizing for your brand name above all else."
Brand recognition is good—important even. But focusing on targeting your content and optimization around your brand name can be crippling for a brand. I mean, let's think about it.
If someone is looking for McAlpin Creative, then they are going to find me. My URL alone is generally enough to provide my site as the first result. But what about someone searching for content marketing? Will they find me?
The answer is no, not unless I strategically target "content marketing" as a key phrase through content and optimization of metadata. Too often new small business owners catastrophically cripple themselves by neglecting the keywords and terms needed to help their audience find them when searching for their specific product or service.
When optimizing your content + site, make sure to think about who is looking for what you offer, and what terms they are using online.
However, there is one situation in which this advice is not horrible—online reputation management (ORM). If your brand is struggling against negative search results (i.e. competitors or negative news dominating the SERPs) then optimizing numerous pages of your site(s) for your brand name can be beneficial.
4. "I guarantee to get your site to the #1 position for x terms in 1-week!"
Oh, man. I really hope you haven't fallen for this one, not just because it is complete BS, but also because if they do succeed, you are likely being set up in prime position to receive a Google penalty from the black-hat tactics. Ouch.
I could have written this one, "I guarantee to rank your site." That is just as bad. SEO is not an exact science. The algorithms are ever-changing. One day something may work, and the next you may be penalized for it. Any good SEO expert will tell you this flat out. There are no guarantees in SEO.
But, there are tried and true white-hat tactics that can set you up for SEO success, ultimately leading to higher/increased visibility online.
So what can you do? When looking for SEO assistance, make sure that you ask directed questions about the ROI of your project. What expectation is you "expert" setting? If they are honest with you, you will know.
5. "Anyone can do SEO."
Ha, Ha. Ha. Seriously? With an industry so complex, changing and intricate, I find it laughable that anyone actual believes this one, but they do. In fact, I would venture to guess that that "expert" who sold you these bad tips bought into this mindset. With so many DIY, SEO Made Simple and How to articles regarding SEO, it is no wonder that so many faux-experts are running around like they own the joint.
The beauty of SEO, the truth with come out. These spammy tactics just don't work, so good luck with that one!
What does this mean for you? Well, I am not saying that you cannot "do" SEO or add valuable optimization to your own site, but what I am saying is that unless you are experienced and have tested the tactics that you are trying, your time and money are better spent on an expert who actually knows what they are doing.
In fact, I just may be able to help you navigate the waters of SEO through a strategic content marketing strategy, which includes community outreach and engagement. Let's chat!