December 19, 2012
/ by ckettmann
The post-Penguin/Panda SEO environment is different; the rules have changed. In the past, all it took for someone to get their website on top of the SERPs was a collection of backlinks
from link directories and article directories, a few comments, and of course, some mediocre-quality content focused on a keyword.
In February 2011, in a push to drive high-quality search results from reputed sources, Google launched its Panda algorithm update, which focused mostly on website quality and user-friendliness. It followed in April 2012 with its Penguin update, which focused on identifying and devaluing manipulative link building tactics. These updates were an attempt to filter genuine websites from among the ones built solely to profit from search engine rankings.
In this post-Panda and Penguin era of SEO, webmasters can’t afford to make link building and content-strategy mistakes. The stakes are quite high.
Content & Links: Two Pillars of SEO
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call “content” and “links” the two pillars (and metrics) of SEO. These dictate the quality and ranking of your website/webpage. Not coincidentally, they are where one can easily make mistakes that can be costly.
Mistakes In Content/Content Strategy/Content Marketing
Above all, content must be your first step toward consistent and long-lasting SEO. Let’s begin with the errors commonly committed in content strategy.
1. Poor Quality
Needless to say, poor-quality content won’t do you any good. By poor quality, I mean:
Remedy: If you want to eliminate poor quality content, you need to make the proper investment in time and money. You’ll need to build a solid content strategy, pick topics that are promising, write effective, well-researched and informative content, and proofread the work. Then, and only then, you can publish it.
This is a weakness that’s instantly recognizable on websites built solely around target keywords. You find multiple posts on the same topic, using slight variations of keyword phrases. Google is smart enough to catch this now, and the consequences are furious and fast.
Remedy: Never publish content just for the sake of keywords. If you want to target similar keyword phrases, use them all in one comprehensive, information-packed article. When writing, don’t think about keyword density; just use them naturally.
3. “Thin” Content
One concept that has sparked considerable debate in the SEO industry is the notion of “thin” content. To me, a piece of content is thin when the information it provides is minimal or unimportant. Thinness doesn’t necessary correspond to word count. A short but very informative article from a reputed website can rank highly compared to a lengthy post from a not-so-reputed website for the same keyword. When your content is long but contains very little valuable information, it shows.
Remedy: If you’re concerned about word count or the length of an article, you should post only as much as necessary to cover the topics you choose. Otherwise, tackle niche ideas or broad topics for which you can compose long, informative articles. Insert relevant images and videos to make them richer.
4. Keyword-Focused Content
Most SEOs have realized that focusing on keywords while writing is no longer a priority. Content should be focused on the reader first and for the search engines second. This means you should focus on producing value, and that’s why keyword density is no longer a good measure of search-engine friendliness. Simply avoid awkward keyword phrases that don’t fit into a grammatically-correct sentence.
Remedy: Just don’t think about keyword density when writing an article. As long as you use your target keyword(s) at least once, you’ll be fine.
5. Duplicate/Similar Content
This is the single biggest mistake you can make. Duplicate content (content copied from another website) amounts to plagiarism. Most people don’t do this, but quite few writers re-write content from a single source. In the process, you run the risk of publishing similar content: similar keywords, similar title, and similar topic. Google has developed a knack for identifying such similarities, and if your website isn’t reputed, you go down.
Remedy: No re-writes (at least not until your website is an authority). Consult a variety of sources, find more information, and then write the whole article from a different perspective. Add your own opinions and experiences to add value and make the content unique.
6. Unformatted Content
Improper titles, no sub-headings, no bullet points — these are clear examples of an improperly formatted (or unformatted) content, which has very little SEO value. Formatted content helps readers comprehend information faster and avoid the dreaded “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read) ruling.
Remedy: Format your content with appropriate title tags and meta descriptions. Present your content for readers to digest the information easily.
7. Irrelevant Internal Linking
Internal linking is important both for SEO and to help readers find more interesting content within your website. But if it’s done poorly, it can negatively affect your rankings. If you link keywords just for the sake of search engines, sooner or later that’s going to show up as well.
Remedy: Link back to your own articles within your website/blog only when it makes good sense to do so. Vary the anchor text you use in your links. Be natural about it.
8. Outdated Content
Websites are plagued by content that is outdated. When robots continuously crawl websites, some of the content from the recent past may be outdated and they will construe the information as misleading. This happened to a lot of websites that published information about “iPhone 4” when the next version due out was the iPhone 5.
Remedy: Check your archives for content that has invalid information. Edit/remove content which could be construed as misleading.
9. No New Content/No Updates
Maintaining a blog is essential for SEO purposes. But not everyone realizes that just setting up a blog isn’t enough. If you don’t update it regularly with relevant, valuable information, Google isn’t going notice it.
Remedy: Set up a content editorial to maintain a constantly-updated blog.
10. Links to Dubious Websites
Post-Penguin, link-building is being scrutinized very carefully. If you link to websites that are of poor quality, dubious nature (i.e., spam), or have very little value or authority, you are probably risking the reputation of your own website.
Links are like real-world ties between people. One bad link and your reputation can plummet rapidly.
Remedy: Do sufficient research before you link to a website. Only link to high-quality, authoritative and valuable websites.
11. Links From Dubious Websites
When Google rolled out its Penguin algorithm update, links from dubious websites brought down thousands of websites in Google’s search results, so SEO specialists came to realize the negative power of spammy inbound links.
Links from dubious, spammy, or bad-quality websites can even damage rankings for websites with good-quality content on them. Monitor your Google Webmaster Tools account for unnatural, artificial links. Google’s Disavow Links tool can be of assistance here if you want Google to discount links from specific websites. Read this guide if you want to know how to identify which links to remove or disavow.
Remedy: Monitor your website for spam backlinks. Remove them whenever you can; if not, use Google’s Disavow Links tool.
12. Anchor Text
Anchor text was a specific metric initially, but like many other SEO tactics, it’s been overused and exploited. Now, Google has decided that if you use too much of the same anchor text in the links to your website, you are probably doing something unnatural. This is what Penguin identifies and corrects for.
Remedy: Limit the amount of exact-match anchor text you use to link to your website. Think about how a non-SEO specialist would link to your website if they were to do it naturally.
Links from directories once held value. Not so today. If you favor directories, you should rely only on those that have an enormous reputation — not among search engines but among users. Beware of directories, because links from them can actually hurt your SEO.
Remedy: Link only from highly reputed directories in your niche. A safe list of high-quality directories can be found at Yext.
14. Paid Links
Paid links are dangerous in the post-Penguin world. Google expects you to work naturally to build links and content, and paid links are a total violation of this policy. It’s ok to build links naturally by writing and supplying excellent content; that’s precisely what this article does, after all. You can even pay someone else to do this process for you (as a consultant). But paying a company to place a link on a website can tank your website in the rankings.
Remedy: Absolutely no paid links.
15. Blog Commenting
Blog commenting, in the good old days, was a popular SEO tactic. Today, most websites use platforms like Disqus or Facebook to enable comments and discussions.
Usually, these platforms don’t have any link value, resulting in many people regarding blog commenting as a bad tactic for SEO. But contrary to this belief, comments done the natural way are still a vital part of SEO efforts.
People notice valuable comments and consistent commentators, so you can build relationships with the authors of blogs through consistently useful comments and discussion. Those relationships are of much greater value than just the link you may get.
Remedy: Don’t stop devoting some of your time to engaging in meaningful discussions. Relationships matter.
Author bio: Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based SEO agency, as well as Crackerize.com, a lyrics-humor website. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.
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