When it comes to climbing up the Page Rank list to the top of Google searches, there are two camps: “White Hat” and “Black Hat” SEO, referring to the good guys and bad guys in the tradition of cowboy movies. Black Hat SEO involves practices that are obnoxious and/or immoral, while White Hat SEO practices are devoted to making sure that you’re generating genuine interest, and then making sure that potential readers can find you.
Search engines, and Google in particular, have caught up with Black Hat practices, and so not only is it irritating to your potential audience, but it will actually harm your Page Rank once the search engines catch on. Therefore, they definitely count as “worst practices.” This list will address a few Black Hat techniques that are still getting used, but also some mistakes that those devoted to White Hat practices might not even know they’re making.
1. Forgetting about human readers.
This is the number one biggest mistake you could possibly make when it comes to SEO. Both search engines and human readers want valuable content; the kind that others link to because they genuinely want to share it.
If you aren’t thinking about your actual readers, people won’t share your content, meaning that you’re missing out on valuable links and an increased audience. Think of it this way– if you put a little extra effort into making sure that your site is valuable to people, they will do your link building for you.
Google is improving its algorithms all the time, and it knows when your site is built to cater specifically to its bots, whichwon’t do you any favors.
2. Being “two-faced,” literally.
Having a site that presents one face to search engines and another to people is a big no-no.
Some sites will have separate versions of the same page for visitors and for search engine bots, but there are less extreme examples that will still harm your reputation. Some people will try to add keyword-stuffed text and/or backlinksto a site in a font that is the same color as the background, or sneaky links that are only a pixel wide. Google will notice!
3. Copying someone else’s content.
Your high school English teacher’s badgering is even more relevant when it comes to online media. If you copy something that’s published online, people– and search engines– really will notice.
Plagiarism is always wrong, but it’s also easy for search engines to detect, and will lead them to decide that your site isn’t very valuable, since it isn’t unique.
4. Copying your own content.
You’ve also got to be careful not to copy your own work. It’s not a moral issue like copying the work of others, but any duplicated content confuses search engines. It’s best to avoid copy-pasted guest posts, or extensive repetition on your own site. Take the time to make every page unique.
5. Using bad URLs.
You put a lot of thought into your domain name, but how much attention are you paying to the URL of each individual page or post?
Many blogging sites will just generate a URL for your new post, which is called a dynamic URL. It will be messy and usually full of meaningless numbers. The URL contains information that search engines use, so make sure that they are unique, descriptive, and contain a sprinkling of keywords.
6. Inserting keywords inorganically into pages, resulting in keyword stuffing–
The concept of keywords is a basic one in SEO, and the conventional wisdom is the more keywords, the better. This isn’t true, especially now: search engines can pick up when you’re using keywords just for the sake of using keywords.
When it comes to keywords, just like with most facets of SEO, a careful plan is best. Pick a few keywords for which you want to rank, and sprinkle them throughout your pages, inserting them only where it feels natural.
7. –or keyword dilution.
Keyword dilution is another common problem, wherein the site will be flooded with too many unrelated keywords. Not only does it prevent you from scoring very highly in any particular area, but search engines watch out for it in particular.
8. Using irrelevant anchor text.
Google uses the anchor text of a link for information. Don’t make links that say “click here for more information” instead of something more descriptive, like a phrase that’s a couple words long and relevant to what the link leads to. Maybe something more like “graphic design portfolio” or “contact form.”
9. Getting links that make you look bad.
As with many SEO practices, quality is more important than quantity. Getting a link back from a trusted blog is much better for your site than a link from a directory.
Buying links won’t get you very far, either. Both Google bots and real people at the company devote their time to looking for paid links.
Once again, it’s best to focus on creating great content that’s valuable to those who visit your site, and encouraging them to share it.
10. Forgetting about title tags and meta descriptions.
Page titles are what is displayed in searches, tweets, and bookmarks, making it one of the first things that potential visitors see.
Meta descriptions are also super important, so you’re probably already using them– but are they unique? If the meta description is the same on every single page, both search engines and human readers won’t feel like they’ve found something unique and worth their time.
One Final Tip: You’ll want to protect your website from hackers, especially after putting all this work into it and ensuring good SEO practices. The best way to do this is to use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, to secure your connection when uploading your content. This is really important if you do any posting utilizing Public Wi-Fi, as that is where hackers lurk and even a novice one could easily steal your information.
SEO practices are changing all the time, which can make it really hard to keep up. Since you first started learning about SEO, was there something that you realized you were doing wrong? What was your site missing?