If you're still using these tactics, watch out!
The SEO industry has changed a lot over the past several years, primarily because Google has been on a rampage crushing tactics it views as manipulating search results.
SEO will always be important but the game has changed tremendously.
Here are 4 tactics that used to work brilliantly but don't any longer. May they rest in peace.
1. Article submissions & press releases
Google exploded onto the search scene in the 2000's and quickly became the dominate search engine primarily because the founders realized that looking at links were the best measure around at the time to determine the quality of a page.
Once SEOs saw that links were a major factor in ranking, they started building links en masse without discrimination. That led to the rise of blog comment and forum spam – both of which still persist today – among many other annoying strategies to get a site ranked.
But it also led to other – less obviously spammy – methods of gaining links. Two of those were article submissions and press releases and oddly enough there are plenty of SEO companies out there still using these tactics today.
The problem is that once any tactic gets heavily abused, Google works tirelessly to make it obsolete, and in some cases, penalize you for using it.
Nowadays these tactics are at best, useless, and at worst, could actually get you penalized.
2. Indiscriminate guest blogging
Once article directories, press releases, and a host of other overused strategies to build links bit the dust, SEOs scrambled for a new method to build links at scale.
There weren't many tactics left to build links at scale, so guest blogging literally exploded. Guest blogging services started popping up all over the place. There were entire blog networks that existed for sole purpose of publishing guest post content for a fee.
The practice slowly started becoming less effective, and then, in Jan 2014, Google brought the hammer down hard. Matt Cutts wrote a rather scathing critique of the practice and Google penalized one of the most well-known guest blogging networks, dropping them out of the SERPs entirely.
Cutts also implied the publishers using that network could face penalties as well.
3. Meta keywords tag
Meta keywords used to be one of the main data points search engines looked at when determining how to rank a page. Stuffing meta keywords (see keyword stuffing below) went out of favor years ago, but people still use the meta keywords tag.
The problem with the tag is 3-fold:
- Google has been ignoring this tag since 2009.
- It takes time and money to setup and manage.
- In the end all it really does is tell your competitors what keywords you're targeting.
4. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing literally means stuffing keywords you want to rank for into your page content and meta tags, and it went out of favor years ago.
That said, I still see it in widespread use today; to be fair, it's a milder form of stuffing than you might have seen in the early 2000's, but it's still out there.
Today, there are 3 major problems with keyword stuffing:
- The search engines now have over-optimization penalties, which means keyword stuffing can get you penalized.
- Search engines are much better today at understanding the real meaning behind a particular search term. You don't necessarily have to have both "auto glass company" and "windshield replacement company" in your meta title and page content to rank for both – the search engines are beginning to understand those are (mostly) the same things.
- It provides a terrible user experience, which increases bounces back to search (commonly known as "pogosticking"), possibly resulting in a drop in search rankings.
All these tactics took advantage of loopholes in the search engine ranking algorithms that have since been mostly closed.
It's the goal of any search engine to provide its users with exactly the information they're looking for as quickly as possible.
While the loopholes have been closed, SEO isn't dead and never will be. There will always be tactics you can use to drive organic search traffic, the trick is understanding what searchers want and giving it to them. Because in the end, that's exactly what the search engines want.