SEO, It’s About What You DON’T Do

Gregory Ciotti

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In my old position as an SEO analyst, I often found myself having to correct my clients’ assumptions about search engine optimization. Some had the misconception that SEO was all about keywords and meta tags. If anything, these are among the last factors to consider. Other, slightly savvier clients thought it was all about building good content and inbound links. Sure, these are certainly important elements of a successful campaign, but they aren’t even the first things to worry about. With each of these clients, I had to share the following revelation:

SEO isn’t as much about what you do as what you DON’T do.

That is to say, if you’re going to start down the road of search engine optimization, you have to know where the potholes are before you get underway. If you’re getting started doing SEO for your blog, here are some of the most important practices to avoid.

  • Keyword Stuffing. Stuffing keywords is only useful for getting your site penalized or delisted. Period. There is no legitimate reason to do this except to game the search engines, and they’re very good at detecting it. Whether you’re putting them in your content, in alt tags, in meta tags, or wherever, be sure to use your keywords in moderation.
  • Mirrored Sites and Content Duplication. “Why settle for one top 10 rankings when you can have all ten?” Because it can cause all of your rankings to drop. This is the reason that scrapers are dangerous. Ideally, your content should be as unique as possible to a single page. As I mentioned previously, search engines are probably smart enough to recognize content duplication within blogs (e.g., the same post text on your home page and the individual post page), so some duplication isn’t much cause for concern. Generally speaking, though, the more unique your content is, the better off you’ll be.
  • Cloaking. Showing one thing to users and another thing to search engine spiders is a big red flag. To those who think it’s a good idea, here’s a news flash: It’s just as easy for a spider to change its user agent as it is for a browser. You can bet search engine spiders are crawling your site under a variety of names just to see if you’re cloaking or not, so don’t do it.
  • Hidden Text and Images. No matter how you hide content, search engines are smart enough to detect it. Granted, there are legitimate reasons to hide content from users, but it’s pretty obvious when you’re up to something. Just to be on the safe side, consider carefully if you really need to hide your content or if you could find another solution.
  • Cross Linking. Generally speaking, it’s okay to link your sites together. People do it all the time. However, it can be considered spam if you do so excessively (e.g., in the footer or side bar of every page), especially if the sites reside on the same IP block. As with everything else, ask the question, “Is this adding value for the user?” If you can answer yes, it’s probably okay.

Knowing and avoiding practices like these is the first step toward ensuring good search engine rankings. Only after realizing what not to do (and correcting it if you’re already doing it) should you move forward with keyword research, content development, link building, and all of the fun parts about SEO. If you are looking for tools that can help you with that, check the SEO Tools compilation that the guys from Search Engine Journal did.

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9 Responses to “SEO, It’s About What You DON’T Do”

  • Bijesh

    Is it bad to write a blog on my website in free blogger for seo.
    I have a my own blog in my site and if i write free blog to promote will that effect my website ranking ?

  • Arama Motoru Optimizasyonu

    You are right what not to do for SEO. All Seo Specialists know what they should not do. SEO specialists could be divided into two categories: 1)White Hat Seo,
    2)Black Hat Seo.
    For a short time,even if Black hat Seo Specialists could obtain more success, for a long term always White Hat Honest Seo obtains great success.So,never apply black hat seo techniques.

  • SEO Leeds

    Always consider the user experience when planning your SEO.
    This will help you with your ranking with good results anyway, rather than resorting to underhand tactics.

  • Tee

    Great article; i’m wondering though, doesn’t submitting posts as articles to sites like isnare (a way i’ve been advised to get one way links) pose a problem as far as duplicate content? I’m a fairly new webmaster/blogger and until I discovered your site I had no idea crawlers penalized for that. I suppose I’ll just need write new articles for my submissions. Anyway, thanks for being so thoroughly informative and keep up the great work!

  • Mohsin

    Well said. SEO is not at all black hat techniques as is commonly believed.

    It’s important to remember that proper SEO is aimed at the search engine users, not the search engine themselves. So even if you manage to trick the search engines to send you a bunch of traffic, what are the chances that you would be able to convert the users after they have arrived at your page?

  • jeni

    I just read your post about scrapers. That seems to be my biggest problem right now – literally every day new sites come up and scrape my content, and if I tried to go after all of them, it would be a full time job. Hopefully it doesn’t have an impact on my search engine rankings!

    Also search engine related – when I first started my site, I was using links and banners to products on Amazon, without using nofollow. All those pages dropped out of google, but once I put no follow on the links, all my pages came back!

  • Chip

    I’ve seen a lot of these sites, doing it just for traffic and money. It’s a pity only a small percentage of bloggers do the right thing.

  • Daniel

    True, in fact a good rule of thumb is to forget search engines are there to begin with!

  • Ben

    It’s tough enough to keep up with regular blogging, let alone doing devious SEO tactics as listed in your post. Thanks for reminding us that we do need to play by the rules.

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