Outdated SEO Tactics: Why They Fail & What Works Now

In this post, we will uncover the outdated SEO strategies that might be dragging down your search rankings.

We’ll also share where to redirect your efforts to drive more organic traffic to your website and create better user experiences.

Chelsea Alves

If you think you know the most effective search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, but you haven’t brushed up on your knowledge in the past few years, you probably need a refresher. Google, the world’s most-used search engine, is notorious for constantly refining its search engine algorithm. After all, the aim of the search giant is to provide the best search experience possible.

As consumer needs and expectations continue to evolve and change, so too must its search ranking algorithm to deliver relevant results to search queries. This can be great for searchers, but it can be frustrating for businesses to keep up with.

Whether you’re just getting started with your SEO career or you’re a seasoned digital marketer, it’s important to get a pulse on what SEO strategies are winning and which have become obsolete.

Outdated SEO strategies

In this post, we will uncover the outdated SEO strategies that might be dragging down your search rankings. We’ll also share where to redirect your efforts to drive more organic traffic to your website and create better user experiences. Let’s get started.

Poor content quality

Google continues to place importance on creating high-quality content. This is evident across a score of its recent updates which aim to improve the overall quality of websites — the biggest of which was Google’s Panda algorithm update in 2011, a change that noticeably impacted 11.8% of Google’s queries.

Previously, SEO’s wanted to take the easy way out with content creation. This included tactics such as:

  • Duplicate content: Duplicate content is typically copy-pasted from other websites, and it can therefore be confusing for search engines to determine where the original content came from. Duplicate content is not technically a penalty, however, it can negatively impact search engine rankings. Google refers to it as “appreciably similar” content in more than one location, and its search algorithm may not be able to decide which version is more relevant.
  • Content written for robots: In Google’s Helpful Content update, it made it clear that content must be written in a people-first manner. Injecting a bunch of search terms sporadically throughout your content doesn’t constitute valuable content, and neither does using AI to write content quickly for you. These ploys will not help you rank higher, because they create a worse user experience. In the Helpful Content update, Google states it will “reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience,” meaning quality content will see positive impacts in search performance.
  • Thin content: Have you ever searched for information about a specific business location and instead found information for its corporate office? How did that make you feel? You likely felt frustrated, and this experience likely had a negative impact on your perception of the brand. This is an example of thin content; poor quality content that may include content duplication, irrelevant content, insufficient information, or keyword-stuffed content. Poor user experiences are no longer acceptable to Google.

What you should do instead

Kick the outdated SEO practice of writing bad content to the curb. Instead, focus on creating informative content that brings value to the reader.

For example, if a searcher finds themselves on the landing page for one of your many locations, the information they find on that page should be unique and fresh. Share nearby landmarks, cross streets, or promotions specific to that store.

You will also want to include that store’s address and phone number, not your corporate address or phone number. Ensure each piece of content you’re creating is for a purpose, rather than to meet a quota.

You may also want to consolidate content, especially if you have two blog posts on similar topics and one doesn’t generate as much traffic.

As an example, amid the major core algorithm update that took place in June and July of 2021, Sterling Sky saw a noticeable traffic increase for a personal injury firm client after making ongoing content optimization updates for six months.

These content optimization efforts included content consolidation, optimizing outdated content, and building quality links.

Traffic after content optimization

Image courtesy of Sterling Sky

Keyword density

There is often much confusion surrounding keyword optimization. How often should you mention your target keyword throughout your text? How much is too much? …Is there such a thing as too much?

Search engine crawlers scan web copy to understand what the page is about. In the past, SEO marketers would use keywords often throughout the copy, hoping search engine crawlers would see this and move the page to the top of the search rankings any time someone searched for that particular term. This outdated SEO tactic actually backfires, and sites will see a drop in traffic instead if they attempt this.

Having a focus keyword is still important; however, exact match keywords and keyword densities are no longer necessary. This decreases the content quality and disrupts your content’s flow.

Tools like Yoast SEO for WordPress can help you determine how many times you should be including your focus keyword in your copy. It can also enable you to find other opportunities to improve your SEO and the content’s readability.

What you should do instead

Using an abundance of exact keyword matches throughout your copy won’t get your site to the top. Nor will targeting popular keywords with high competition. Instead, look for high-volume keywords with low competition. Some of these keywords may include 3 or more words, known as long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords typically have less competition and have higher intent.

For example if someone searches for “7 foot tall faux olive tree”, they already have a good understanding of what they’re looking for as opposed to someone who searches for “olive tree.”

Bad link practices

Bad link practices

Link building has always been an important ranking factor. However, in the case of backlinks, quality is better than quantity.

Back in the early days of SEO, article syndication was a huge opportunity to get your link on many sites with little effort. In 2005, Google put a halt to this black hat technique and made it abundantly clear it won’t tolerate deceitful link building. Google also doesn’t consider links left in forums as an effective link-building tactic that impacts rank.

What to do instead

Unethical means of distributing your website links through link farming, forums, or article directories won’t push your site to the top of the search engine results pages. Instead focus on the following effective SEO tactics instead:

  • Public Relations: Share relevant news through a PR distribution provider such as an award your company won, a new product you’re announcing, or a new leadership team member. Include a link to the applicable landing page within the press release.
  • Guest blogs: Guest posting opportunities allow your business to publish a blog post on a third-party website. Most sites will allow you to include a backlink within the copy. This can help build trust with Google, especially when publishing content on high-authority websites.
  • Broken links: Find broken links on authoritative sites and contact them to ask if they are willing to replace the link with one of your relevant content pieces. This is a win for both you and the external site: you receive a quality backlink, and they improve their user experience.
  • SEO agencies: Don’t have the time to tackle link building on your own? Find a reputable SEO agency to help take on this time consuming endeavor for you.
  • Social media: Create a stream of consistent, quality content across all of your social media channels. The more engaging your content is, the more likely it is to be shared by your followers, helping you organically build your brand name.

Having the wrong KPIs

As SEO marketers, we place a strong emphasis on hitting our key performance indicators (KPIs). We need metrics to attribute our successes and identify where we can improve.

Traditionally, the sole KPI many marketers focused on to determine the success of their SEO efforts was how much traffic the page brought in. The issue is, more traffic doesn’t always translate to more money. A web page may have thousands of visitors, but what if those visitors aren’t converting?

What to do instead

One metric won’t accurately measure your digital marketing performance — nor will it indicate if your SEO initiatives are working. Redefine what success means to your business. This likely entails looking at a few additional metrics, such as:

  • Bounce rate: When a user finds your website, do they immediately leave or do they click through to other pages?
  • Click through rate: The percentage of users that click through to your site when they see it on the search engine results pages.
  • Organic traffic: The number of desktop and mobile users that come to your page from a search engine.
  • Domain authority: Does Google view your site as a trusted resource in your industry? This will be a rating between 1 and 100. The higher the number, the more Google perceives your site to be a high-authority resource.
  • Load times: This takes into consideration your web page’s load speed. The faster the load speed, the better the user’s experience will be.

Concluding thoughts

Knowing the difference between good and bad SEO tactics can make the difference between growing your business or failing to reach your full potential. SEO best practices, like Google’s search ranking algorithms, are always evolving. What works one day may not work well the next.

Staying up-to-date on SEO best practices is crucial in this industry. It requires constant learning, networking with colleagues, and attending industry events to freshen up your knowledge. You can also revisit this site frequently to keep up with current and emerging SEO information.

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