Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What old SEO methods may have landed you at the top of search engine results pages five years ago but will hurt your website’s rankings today? What SEO techniques used to work well but now have a negative impact on your SEO results? And what should you do instead to improve the search engine optimization of your content?
Keyword stuffing used to help a website rank well for search queries because they used that keyword density to determine the best match for the search query. This meant a site with the key term at 5% density was considered better than a site with 2% density if there were no other major differences between the sites.
However, the artificial intelligence behind the search engines are much smarter. They try to determine the searcher’s intent and match content to the question they think the person is asking. This means keyword density is almost unrelated to matching search intent, except that the key terms need to be mentioned in content at least twice to be properly matched to context. Adding related terms so that search engines can determine the context is called latent semantic indexing or LSI.
It also means that direct matches for voice search queries are far more valuable than repeating the key search term over and over in the content.
Generic Copy with a Broad Focus
Generic copy along with high keyword density used to result in high search engine page rankings. However, search engine evolution to match user intent means generic copy hurts you in several ways. First and foremost, generic copy isn’t going to be considered a match for any specific query. The search engine will skip over your generic insurance cost savings tips for one on how to save money on teenager’s auto insurance in your state. An article on “diagnosing problems with your AC” will rank poorly unless you’re a high domain authority site, whereas “diagnosing the ABC error on JKL brand name furnace” could rank well because there is so little competition for it. And your use of the error code and appliance brand name will show up as a better match when someone is using both terms in the same query.
Second, generic content from higher authority domains will outrank generic content from any lesser domain. Think about the sites that would outrank you based on the weight search engines give them. An article on breast cancer symptoms by most sources will rank low compared to Wikipedia and other high authority domains.
A broad focus in key terms, meta tags and titling hurts you indirectly. First, it hurts you is that you rank poorly for specific searches even if your content answers that question. Second, using a variety of terms that are only vaguely related to the content can cause the search engine to flag your site as spammy.
Another risk of generic content is that there is so much of it that you could be inadvertently flagged as duplicate content of someone else’s similar, generic copy.
Focusing on the Quantity of Links
Search engines continue use the number of links to a site as a measure of how valuable readers find it. The shift in SEO has been away from the number of backlinks toward the “quality” of links. In layman's terms, the quality matters more than the quantity.
Link exchanges and link spamming in comments sections of news articles now hurt your search engine results. Conversely, social media sharing of your links and links on high domain authority sites help you much more than they used to. Enable social media sharing of your links by putting social media sharing buttons on the webpages hosting your content and coordinating social media link sharing through your social media channels. Always have links to your homepage on your social media account.
Guest blogging is a mixed bag when it comes to SEO. Guest blogging with a link to your content is a backlink that helps you if the domain hosting the guest blog has a higher domain authority than your site. It doesn’t matter if the guest blog is of lower authority than your site. One indicator of this is a site that seems to outsource blogging to anyone who wants to appear, instead of using guest blogging as an occasional fill-in.
Internal linking improves your SEO, if it keeps visitors on the site. For example, a page that talks about your best-selling model should have a link on it to the content about the newest model.
Avoid any type of ads on your internal pages or too many links to other websites, since time on site is a metric used by search engines to determine whether your content was a match for the customer's expectations.
Just Throwing Up a Page and Waiting for Views
Website design impacts your SEO. Setting a page not to be crawled certainly hurts your SEO, whereas a page that takes a long time to load, lacks meta tags or title is almost ignored by search engines.
If your key word or search query is incorporated in the title itself, you’ll get extra points from the search engine. The second choice is putting these key terms or conversational queries in the heading tags; heading tags are given extra weight by search engines to identify the context of the content. Rich snippets improve your site’s rankings with search engines. Ignoring these webpage design aspects hurt you.
Another factor to take into consideration is how long the page has sat unchanged. Search engines tend to see updated content as more relevant than unaltered content. You don’t have to rewrite the content altogether; adding social media buttons and updating links on the page will get it re-crawled by the search engine and seen as new and improved.
Ignoring Webpage Design and User Experience
Responsive design such as mobile ready websites improve your site’s search engine results, whereas redirects to mobile-ready site can trip up search engines and will result in bounce backs from users that search engines read as a negative vote against your site.
User experience or UX is another factor that kills your SEO if you ignore it. If you use long drop down menus that someone on a touch screen can’t manipulate, they’ll bounce off the site and search engines hurt your rankings. Make sure the page is easy to navigate, if the answer isn’t immediately obvious on the page.
Long walls of text that make it hard to find the answer the search engine thinks is there are a negative in the eyes of the user. Unless your company is a highly reputable source of information on a topic, skip the custom search box on your site and improve the SEO of each webpage instead to rank higher for the specific query someone could ask. If you can’t create separate webpages for each query, set up frequently asked questions with logical groupings like product model or subject so that someone can quickly skim the headings to find their answers.
Don’t rely on one massive page with all FAQs, since this will ruin your SEO for any key term on that page and drive away those who do get a direct match for one of the frequently asked questions if it isn’t on the first screen.
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on October 19, 2017:
kbdressman Glad you could benefit from it.
kbdressman from Harlem, New York on November 17, 2016:
Thanks for the tips! I'm just coming back to hubpages and this was just the information I needed to know how to go about updating my hubs! Your advice is clearly explained and your reasoning makes a lot of sense. Thank you!