Back in the good old days the web was like the Wild West or some kind of land grab.
Anyone could pretty much pitch up, stick up their website and claim their piece of internet real estate.
All sorts of techniques were used to manipulate the results of the search engines like Google who were still finding their feet. As a consequence website owners could try to manipulate the weaknesses of their evolving search algorithms.
But over the years the search engines and in particular Google have raised their game and some of the old school techniques have been well and truly kicked into touch.
In fact some of these techniques could really be damaging your business. So whether you do your own SEO or you get someone else to do it for you, here are 7 Old School SEO Techniques you definitely should be avoiding.
Old School Technique #1 – Article Marketing / Article Spinning
The idea behind Article Marketing was to submit articles to numerous Article Directories in exchange for links back to a target website.
The process involved creating an article on a particular subject that was related to the products or services offered by the business creating the article. The article would include keywords that they want to rank on (e.g. low cost e-cigarettes) and would then use these keywords as anchor text to link back to the target website.
The beauty of this approach at the time was that it was easy and could be scaled up to an industrial scale by using automatic article spinning software which would create multiple versions of the same content for submission to multiple Article Directories to avoid having to create fresh content every time.
But what made Article Marketing successful was also the reason for it’s demise and that was that it was too easy. Anyone could create a low quality piece of content and upload it to a number of low quality Article Directories and link back to their site.
Basically there was little to no editorial quality and therefore links from these places became toxic as Google got better at filtering out this type of thing.
To some extent Article Marketing was replaced by Guest Blogging. However, there are different types of guest blogging. The first is remarkably similar to Article Marketing whereby content is written for a blog that has low (or non existent) editorial control. This type of guest blogging is definitely one to avoid.
The recommended type of Guest Blogging is where content is created for a blog that is carefully curated and cared for. It will have an engaged audience and an editor or content manager who will work with you to create content that resonates best with their audience.
If you are permitted to link from within the post you have written it will generally be to high quality content on your website rather than directly to a ‘money’ page like a product page.
Old School Technique #2 – Spammy Directories
Ever seen an advert offering 500 directory links? If you do, run a mile. The chances are you’ll get getting links from hundreds of low quality, spam filled directories.
Google is smart enough to know that most of these directories were set up with the intention of gaming the system in one way or another.
As with Article Marketing, these types of backlinks were just too easy and as a consequence these types of links have lost their value. In some cases if you have a profile that consists largely of directory links from these types of sites they could be damaging your ranking.
Rather than going for low grade directories you should raise your sights and focus on getting listed in high quality directories such as business.com or DMOZ as well as local business listings like Yelp or ThomsonLocal if you are a local business.
Sure, there may be a cost associated with some of these, but in the long term that cost should be weighed against the cost of your site getting penalised by Google for having too many low value directories linking to you.
Old School Technique #3 – Over Optimized Backlinks
Anchor text is the text that is used on a page which then links to another page. It is important because it gives Google clues as to the content of the page that is being linked to.
Back in the old days pre-Penguin and pre-Panda you could find paid link opportunities where you could easily choose the anchor text that links to you (e.g. Best Plumber Manchester).
One sure way that Google can spot paid links is if the anchor text of your backlinks are too over optimized. For example, if you sell oriental carpets and the majority of your anchor text is ‘low cost oriental carpets’ pointing to your home page then that type of pattern of links and anchor text could get picked up by Google as spammy and possibly an attempt to game the system.
If someone was going to link to you naturally they would be using all sorts of anchor text including just using your domain name or other types of text.
The best way to address this is to stop going for over optimized backlinks. If you’ve got a blog then you can create high quality content and then start to reach out to other blogs or websites that may be interested in your content.
In the example above relating to Oriental Carpets you could create a ‘Definitive Guide To Oriental Carpets’ or a ‘Buyer’s Guide To Oriental Carpets’ or go for a niche and focus on Persian Carpets, Isfahan Carpets, etc..
This type of content is valuable and informative and other websites are far more likely to link to it than they are to link to a ‘money page’. These types of links are much more natural and are left to the discretion of the blog that is linking to you.
Old School Technique #4 – Private Blog Networks & Link Wheels
I’ve bundled these two old chestnuts together because whilst they are two distinctive methods the principle is the same. They involve trying to game the system using a number of websites around your main website which link to it and are easy to manipulate.
Typically these would be either expired domains (Private Blog Networks) or Web 2.0 sites (Link Wheels) like Squidoo, Blogspot and Jimdo. The idea is to create links between these sites and ultimately get them to link back to your main website, thus creating an artificial set of backlinks.
The trouble is that Google has doubled down on this type of clear manipulation of its search rankings so this is not something you should try.
If you’re looking for backlinks then focus on creating great content that will get backlinks. Then start to promote that content with focused outreach. Also build relationships with influencers and start to post content on their blogs.
Old School Technique #5 – Spammy Blog Comments
This is a simple technique that involves finding as many blogs as possible that accept comments and leaving the most basic comment possible in exchange for a link back to your website.
You know the type of thing: “Great post. Thanks!”
If the person leaving the comment wanted to be really spammy then instead of leaving their real name (e.g. Fred Bloggs) they would use a keyword as their name (e.g. Cheap Pet Insurance) and use that as the anchor text to link back to their blog.
This type of thing is just plain bad. Any blog that allows this is just going to be of the spammy variety and has probably had their card marked by Google. If you’re building a backlink strategy based around this then all you’re doing is pointing a load of toxic links to your site.
Leaving meaningful comments on high quality, curated blogs is a good thing. As long as you focus on contributing to the debate and helping the community then that’s a good thing.
You can make this process really efficient using tools like ContentGems to find great content and organize your favourites using Feedly. That way you save a heap of time going out and researching great content – just let it come to you.
Rather than aim to build backlinks using this technique, look to build relationships. Not just with the blog owner but with the other members of the community who are commenting too.
This is a smart strategy that is an essential part of any content marketing strategy because your focus is on relationships rather than purely backlinks.
Old School Technique #6 – Creating Keyword Specific Pages
I’m a big advocate of businesses creating service specific pages on their websites. It offers a far better experience than lumping everything together in one generic ‘Services’ page.
For example, let’s say that you are a Business Accountant. You offer a wide range of accountancy services that businesses will need such as Tax Accounting, Cashflow and Forecasting, End Of Year Accounts, Payroll Services, Income Tax, etc..
You should create a page for each service. That way you’re spreading your net wider and you leave yourself plenty of space to create really useful content for people searching for these services.
This is a legitimate reason to create more pages. However, if you start creating pages specifically targeting certain keywords that’s another matter altogether.
In this example you wouldn’t want to create a page for ‘Low Cost Tax Accounting Services Northampton’ or ‘Best VAT Accountancy Cambridge’. That’s just spammy and it’s not going to fool anyone – not Google and certainly not your visitors.
As illustrated in the example above, by all means create service specific pages, but then make these pages as appealing and interesting as possible. Develop a content strategy that is focused on answering people’s questions and which informs and educates them.
These types of long form pages are far more likely to provide people with the information that they want. When I say long form content I mean around 500 words minimum. That’s usually the minimum you’ll need to explain what you do on that page.
Google picks up on this because it detects a lower Bounce Rate. That way it gives you a higher ranking based on the fact that your content seems to be more engaging for its users.
Old School Technique #7 – Keyword Stuffing
Ever seen a page that read like this?
“Buy antique jewellery, vintage jewellery and all jewellery from High Street jewelers, specialists in jewellery, antique jewelry and vintage jewellery. We ship jewelery, antique jewellery and hot vintage jewellery worldwide. You can count on us for all your jewelry, antique jewellery and vintage jewellery needs.”
Notice also the use of several misspellings too as an extra way to try to get traffic from misspelt searches.
This kind of stuff is toxic. Don’t be tempted to do it. Your visitors will hate it and that will be picked up by Google when they hit the ‘back’ button. They’re just telling Google ‘get me out of here!’.
As with the example above for Keyword Specific Pages you need to focus on creating the best possible content for each page. In the example of a jewellery store you could create Buyers Guides or really interesting videos on how to choose a particular piece of jewellery (i.e. engagement rings) or how to choose Diamonds, Sapphires or other valuable gems.
Your visitors will love this type of content and you know the really great thing – most of this stuff is either up in your head or somewhere on your hard drive or outbox.
SEO is evolving. There are loads of old tricks that are still in use but which could cause you some serious damage if used.
You need to move on and embrace Content Marketing and always aim to educate, inform and where relevant entertain your visitors.
They’ll thank you for it and Google will reward you too.