In the world of SEO, user experience rules. Search engines update their algorithms regularly to improve the results they show their audience. Google, in fact, reportedly changes its algorithm around 500 to 600 times a year.
As search engines evolve, so should your strategies. With every update, some SEO tactics become outdated and ineffective instantly. Even when they don’t raise a red flag, they’re marketing black holes that drain your budget but offer nothing in return. Worse, the methods that work wonders today might just cause your site’s downfall tomorrow; they might earn a penalty from Google.
To this day, Alkries LLC encounters businesses that invest in outdated SEO strategies. We want you to make the most of your marketing budget, however. So, we rounded up strategies that are no longer valuable in 2018 to help you focus your time and energy on tactics that work.
Using Exact-Match Anchor Texts
Since the dawn of SEO, people have used exact-match anchor texts to optimize websites. For instance, if a website wants to rank for the keywords “office chairs Boston,” it has to acquire backlinks that use the anchor text “office chairs Boston.”
The problem, however, is that these exact-match anchor texts don’t fit naturally into a sentence. Additionally, if a hundred websites would link to your website, they would’ve used variations of the anchor text to fit the context of their content. For instance, one website might use “office chairs in Boston” in an article about chair designs or “Boston chairs” in a blog about interior trends. These exact-match anchor text decreased user experience. And search engines didn’t like that.
So, a Penguin update enabled Google to calculate the percentage of exact-match anchor texts that lead to a domain or its individual pages. It now penalizes sites with an unnaturally high number of backlinks with anchor texts that aren’t the brand name.
The solution? Vary your anchor text cloud. Searchenginewatch.com takes different case studies into account and recommends several options like this proportion:
- 50% of your backlinks are branded anchor texts
- 15% is made up of the WebsiteName.com
- 10-20% are naked URLs
- 10-15% are page or blog titles
- 1-5% are generic anchor texts
- 1-5 % are exact and partial keywords
- 1-5% are categorized as other
Additionally, don’t focus on inserting the exact-match anchor text. Just let it flow naturally into the sentence. This makes the content more user- and Google-friendly.
Google also looks at the quality of websites linking to your site. It’s better to have exact-match anchor texts from a few, authoritative, and relevant websites than a slew of links from websites that have nothing to do with your business.
Updating Link and Article Directories
Years ago, marketers were keen to submit their websites and articles to online directories because they helped boost their sites’ visibility. Today, however, linking yourself to a directory isn’t always a beneficial practice. There are two kinds of directories that you should watch out for.
- Link Directories. These are master websites that categorized other websites. They served two purposes: One, they helped users find what they’re looking for. Two, they provided fast and easy backlinks to websites that wanted to boost their SEO.
As search engine results pages (SERPs) improved, users abandoned link directories because they didn’t get much value out of them. And when readers cast these sites aside, so did search engines. Today, link directories (with the exception of niche-specific sites that have strict editorial guidelines) contain low-quality links that could get your website penalized.
- Article Directories. Years ago, article directories provided brands with a platform where they could share insightful articles (with backlinks) to a wide audience. They were mutually beneficial to brands and readers. The readers learned valuable information, while websites earned links.
Many marketers, however, abused the strategy. They used software to spin articles and submitted them to dozens of directories. This resulted in a mass of low-quality content that nobody wanted to read. When readers abandoned the sites, so did search engines. Like link directories, the only article directories that are beneficial to your site are those that follow stringent publishing policies.
Paying for an Exact Match Domain
While some businesses buy domains that contain their brand names, some buy domains that contain keywords because they believe those would boost their rankings. As its name implies, an exact match domain (EMD) is a domain that contains keywords a site aims for. Examples include:
Before, these were a quick SEO boost. In fact, marketers could create a site with an EMD and rank higher than other domains within days. Marketers eagerly took advantage of this ranking factor. They bought EMDs and built sites but put thin content that offered little value to users. So, in 2012, Google introduced an algorithm update that penalized EMDs with low-quality content.
Is it bad to have an EMD today? No.
In fact, they have the potential to rank as much as any other domain. They’re more likely to raise a red flag, though, and they aren’t easy to market. These sites look less trustworthy to viewers and receive fewer conversions. So, if you have an EMD, make sure that your site offers rich, relevant, and valuable content.
Having a Flat URL Structure
URLs affect SEO, and for a long time, marketers favored flat URLs over their nested counterparts. Flat URLs refer to paths that are only one level deep. The website doesn’t have much of a hierarchy, and the pages don’t fall into categories. Users can access many pages within one click from the homepage. Is it easy to use? Not exactly.
Let’s imagine you own WoodenDecorSaltLakeCity.com. You might offer accessories that come in different types of wood, such as “teak” and “oak.” You also offer different kinds of décor, such as “vases” and “wall accents,” which also have their own subcategories.
When you create hierarchical or nested URLs, your pages will look like this:
When you create flat URLs, your pages should look like this:
Flat URLs were popular in 2010, when the prevailing notion was that keywords have to be as close to the root domain (in our example, it’s “WoodenDecorSaltLakeCity.com”) as possible. As a result, many marketers changed their long URLs into flat URLs.
Today, however, not many experts vouch for this strategy because they affect search engine indexation and user experience.
For Search Engines. Hierarchical URLs help search engines understand your content better. They show the importance of each page in relation to other pages. Think of URLs as a page’s ID; the more they reveal about the structure of the content, the better.
For User Experience. Although flat URLs are easy to memorize, they don’t make the buyer’s journey easier. Hierarchical URLs, on the other hand, help buyers discover products and convert. They give users a hint of the site’s content (the fact that “vases” fall under “teak” means there might be vases made of other types of wood). They encourage users to alter the URL to visit broader pages.
Dedicating a Page for Every Keyword Variation
Old SEO wisdom recommends creating a separate page for each keyword variation. Why is it effective? It supposedly lets you target each keyword and provides more pages for search engines to index. So, if you offer tableware, you might have separate pages for:
- Affordable tableware
- Best affordable tableware
- Affordable dinnerware
Many updates, however, rendered this tactic obsolete. Search engines now understand that users looking for “affordable tableware” are also looking for “best affordable tableware” and “affordable dinnerware.”
More importantly, Google puts more importance on user experience than technical optimization. Having separate pages for the same products is confusing and inconvenient for users.
The best solution is still to think about the user’s intent. Instead of crafting pages for every possible keyword variation, create a single, optimized page with comprehensive content. This way, users can find everything they need on one page. On top of that, there would be no unnecessary pages that could affect how thorough Google crawls your site.
If you’ve created individual pages for keyword variations, you might think that it’s alright to leave them as is. We recommend, however, to call an SEO expert who’ll merge content and prune unnecessary pages.
Interlinking websites used to be a great SEO strategy, but its influence over rankings waned as Google prioritized user experience. Here are two types of interlinking strategies:
- You Own the Interlinked Sites – Imagine that you own two legitimate websites. To beef their backlink profiles, you fill the sites with links that lead to one another.If you do this properly, you won’t earn a penalty from Google. For instance, you interlink your wooden décor company with your design firm (sites that are highly relevant to one another).
Take note, however, that this contributes little to your SEO efforts because search engines value the number of root domains that link to you, not the number of links. It’s better to direct resources to productive SEO channels.
- You Create Interlinked Sites – Imagine you own one legitimate website. To beef up its backlink profile, you create several websites for the purpose of linking to your site. Will this catch Google’s eye? Likely. Search engines can spot anomalous large-scale linking and penalize your site.
Instead of interlinking websites, focus on earning high-quality links from authoritative websites. This is an effective strategy that won’t raise any red flags.
With these passé strategies out of the way, let’s focus on methods that do work.
Focus on Better Tactics
Over the years, the SERP has transformed into a patchwork of sites, ads, snippets, and more. Forward-thinking SEO marketers don’t just target the top spot; they gun for Google’s specialized sections, too.
- Featured Snippets – When the SERP displays a featured snippet, the number of clicks that go to the natural search results dips. The clicks that go to the first URL drop from about 26% to around 19.6%, while the featured snippet gets roughly 8.6% of the traffic.
To get featured, know what your audience asks for — how to, how do, what is, and more. Then, provide in-depth answers, cover related questions, and use engaging content, such as images and videos.
- Knowledge Graph – These are boxes on the right side of the SERP that contain information about influential people, non-profit organizations, media, and local businesses. A knowledge graph of your business contains reviews, opening and closing hours, directions, a link to your site, phone numbers, and more.
To get featured, add schema markup to your site because it tells search engines what your data means. Optimize your Google My Business page and Google+ profile. Interact with your customers through social media to earn reviews and citations.
- Local Packs – These are listings of three local businesses that detail their star ratings, photos, opening and closing hours, website links, and directions. Since they appear high on the SERP, they garner a huge chunk of the traffic.To get featured, update your business information on your Google My Business page, add photos of your business, and encourage customers to write reviews.
- Google Carousel – This is the horizontally scrollable display of results for movies, songs, restaurants, colleges, hotels, and other queries. Google Carousel provides optimal visibility and helps people find you easily. As with many special features, you have to update your Google My Business Page.
- MetaData – This is an often-untapped SEO opportunity. Duplicate content in the metadata stops search engines from indexing the page. As a result, the page might not rank for keywords and obtain low ranks in the SERPs. If your pages don’t have metadata, now is the time to craft them. Make sure they are unique and encourage users to click the site.
- Page Speed – Loading time is a huge part of the user experience. If your visitors aren’t happy with your page speed, expect a high bounce rate and fewer conversions. In fact, pages that load within 2.4 seconds experience a 12.8% bounce rate, compared to sites with a page speed of 9.9 seconds, which garner a 58% bounce rate.
The Trick: Improve and Update
The challenging part about SEO is that it constantly changes. Search engines roll out changes that make some tactics obsolete or, worse, make them harmful to your site. As SEO evolves, so should your strategies. Your tactics should adapt to current trends, ensuring that you’ll stay on top (of the results page).
It’s time to upgrade your SEO strategies. Contact our SEO experts today and let’s discuss a new and updated SEO campaign.