Search engine optimization (SEO) has been in a constant state of evolution since its inception. Many old-school tactics that once brought traffic now have the opposite effect.
This post focuses on what drives high traffic to websites after the demise of old-school SEO. I will also highlight practices that need to be abandoned and new behaviors that need to be embraced. But before we address what you should be doing, let’s discuss what you shouldn’t be doing.
More Links Don’t Necessarily Lead to Higher Rankings
These days, having loads of links on a page can get you into trouble with Google. Conversely, the ranking of any given page will depend more on the quality of the backlinks to that page. High-quality backlinks are weighted more heavily than a greater quantity of poor-quality links, and the relevancy of links can even trump their quality (which is the result of Google’s Penguin algorithm update).
More Content Doesn’t Necessarily Generate More Traffic
Just because your website is jam-packed with a huge volume of content doesn’t mean that you will benefit from a higher rank. If you have mediocre content on your website, you’ve probably noticed that traffic decreased significantly after Google’s Panda update. To remedy this situation, focus on producing high-quality content.
Old-School Strategies Are Out
Several ‘black hat’ strategies are being made less viable by Google, including:
- Social bookmarking
- Link directory submission
- Spinning articles
- Press releases and blog comments with anchor text
- Automated link building (black hat tools)
- Buying site wide links/blogroll links
Avoid all of the above in order to ‘future-proof’ your website. These tactics may generate traffic in the short term, but will not enable sustainable growth.
Social bookmarking refers to websites that exist solely to provide backlinks, often with money anchor text. These websites have thousands of pages with thousands of outbound links, because it is easy for anyone to sign up and submit a link. Google has taken action and removed many of these types of sites from their index.
Link Directory Submission
There are good directories and bad directories. Good directories include established websites like Best of the Web and Yahoo! Directory. There are editorial guidelines that must be followed to be listed. Yes, they have many outbound links, but they only allow quality websites.
Old-school SEO link directories exist only to provide anchor text backlinks to whoever submits to them. There is no real value to a directory visitor. These are now being de-indexed by Google, getting suspended by their hosting, or just simply disappearing.
Article spinning means taking an article and using software to spin the content so that each time the article is spun, it will look like a new, “unique” article. The articles are submitted to free article directories with the sole purpose of getting links in the author bio.
The old-school technique with press release link building was to use anchor text as the link. In 2013, Google updated their link scheme webmaster guidelines to include:
- Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites: Be sure that any links within your press release are either branded (your company’s name) or naked (when the link’s anchor text is the URL itself).
- Blog comments: The old-school way of blog commenting involved submitting comments to any website that had a comment field, whether it was related to the linking domain or not. When the link is live, the name field acts as the anchor text to the URL listed in the website field. The comments are usually generic or don’t add value to the discussion. The abuse of this practice forced webmasters to make sure any links in their blogs’ comments have the nofollow tag. Now, most comment sections need manual approval from a webmaster before going live on the site.
- Buying site-wide links: A site-wide link is a link that is usually placed in the footer or sidebar blogroll navigation of a website, which then appears on every page of the website. Many website owners buy and/or sell these types of links, which is against Google’s guidelines. Footer links and links that aren’t placed within the content don’t have as much value as they used to, so it’s best to stay away.
- Spam outreach emails: There are companies out there that will offer SEO at a cheap price because they are using automated tools and spamming links, which can be very risky for your website in today’s Google.
Life After Old-School SEO
Incorporating the practices below will ensure the relevance and power of your marketing strategy for the long term.
- Embrace long-tail keyword phrases. Search engines have evolved into effectively recognizing long-tail phrases, which are what you need to focus on to generate diverse organic traffic.
- Embrace semantic search. Semantic search tries to improve the accuracy of searches by understanding the context and intent behind any given search. Google’s aim in doing this is to render keyword targeting all but obsolete. Deliver relevant, high quality content to your audience and Google will figure out the rest.
- Add media (but don’t forget text). Google loves media. Videos, podcasts and images can generate traffic, encourage shares and engagement, and ultimately improve your ranking. Look for creative ways to add various types of content to your posts.
- Enhance the user experience (UX). Google is turning its focus onto the user experience, and how that can (in part) determine your ranking. So if you want to boost your online traffic, make sure that you deliver a great user experience.
Google has become increasingly transparent with their strategy and algorithms, to the point that everything is pretty much cut and dry. So don’t break the rules. This post serves as an introduction to the SEO-relevant elements that should form your marketing strategy. Good luck with incorporating them.
A version of this article originally appeared on the author’s blog, here.