Search engine rankings are comprised of a series of algorithms that take into account your website’s keywords, content, backlinks, user experience, and much more. There’s so much to consider when designing, maintaining, and updating your website that it’s easy to miss something or take a shortcut that ultimately costs you a high placement.
Many SEOs out there look for ways to trick search engines and save money, but what they ultimately find out is that these bad practices come back to bite them pretty quickly. Search engines are getting smarter, and search algorithms like Penguin and Panda are updated regularly, so any “black hat” practices won’t work for long. User experience is beginning to play a bigger role in SEO, so whether you’re trying to buy your way to the top or you aren’t providing visitors with the information they’re looking for, a poor user experience will be reflected in your rankings.
Don’t hurt your chances of being found online by utilizing one of these practices!
By far one of the oldest tricks in the book, buying backlinks still remains a frequent offense in the SEO world. It’s important to create links between your website’s original content, such as blog posts or ebooks, and other websites in your industry. This helps your business establish credibility and authority, along with valuable partnerships.
However, purchasing these links is not how you should go about doing this. Google’s Penguin algorithm was created to penalize websites involved in “link schemes,” such as purchasing links or asking for them in an unnatural manner, by lowering search rankings. If you’re guilty of buying links, Google will undoubtedly uncover this offense and send you a warning through the Google Search Console to notify you that they have found unnatural links on your site, at which point you can say a hearty goodbye to any decent rankings you previously had.
It may be tempting to take this seemingly easier route to work your way up search results, but by doing so you’ll ultimately hurt your rankings in the long run. Build your links “by the book” and your website and company’s credibility will thank you for it.
When SEO was first established, overloading your website content with keywords was a common practice. After all, isn’t the best way to rank for a certain keyword or phrase to use it throughout your site? At the surface level that seems plausible; however, from a user experience standpoint, that couldn’t miss the mark more.
For example, if you go to a website for a health and wellness company and they use “fitness company” 20 times on the homepage because they want to rank for that phrase, you’re probably going to get annoyed and bounce from the site. That content is neither interesting to read nor effective in building trust with visitors. And in reality, you’re probably supporting your competition by creating such a poor user experience and driving traffic to their sites.
This tactic is called keyword stuffing, and search engines have put their foot down to deter companies from making their content borderline unreadable. They will penalize companies that overload their website with the same term or phrase, and reward those that emphasize rich content that educates and engages visitors.
Poor Content Quality
Piggybacking off of the last offense, content that lacks quality or valuable information will ultimately hurt a website’s search rankings. Simply creating dozens of webpages with various product/service titles and leaving the pages essentially bare of information will not help your website rank or be indexed in results. Google’s Panda algorithm was launched to combat this bad practice and will reduce rankings of websites that use this strategy.
If your company doesn’t offer a large variety of products or services, you are much better served maintaining a website of a few quality pages versus creating 50 pages that serve little to no purpose. Your website is your digital brand, so what do you think a blank website says about you? It either makes you appear illegitimate and untrustworthy or simply inexperienced in your field.
On the other side of the equation, if you have a plethora of content on your web pages but it adds little to no value to users, then search engines will likely reduce your rankings as well. Taking the time to write quality content that provides consumers with the information they need to make an educated purchase decision is well worth the effort. Not only will your rankings benefit, but your business and customer satisfaction likely will as well.
A poor mobile experience is a relatively new element to search engine algorithms, as Google released its mobile-friendly update on April 21st of this year. As users continue to favor mobile devices over traditional computers, it’s essential that websites cater to this audience. Updating your website with a responsive design, creating a mobile site, or launching a mobile app are all effective ways to provide a high quality experience across devices.
Now with Google’s algorithm, any searches you make on a mobile device will indicate which URLs are mobile-friendly, and mobile-friendly sites will often be ranked higher in search results. So if you haven’t taken the time to update your website, you don’t want to wait much longer. If your visitors have to zoom in and out just to read the text on your site or pages take too long to load, they’re probably going to seek out another resource with a better user experience.
Nearly 60% of searches are conducted on mobile devices, and this number is only going to rise. Don’t wait to evaluate and improve your website’s user experience so you can capture both rankings and this growing audience.
Even if you pay regular attention to your website’s traffic and rankings through Google Analytics or another tool, it can be easy to miss signs of search engine penalties and a poor user experience. There are so many algorithms and updates, it’s practically impossible to keep up. Despite the fact that content and user experience have become more prominent in recent years, the importance of keywords and links hasn’t faltered.
Among Google’s 200 ranking signals, the effective use of keywords (without going overboard), building quality backlinks, educating your audience through quality content, and providing a positive user experience are all important elements. Unfortunately, none of these things can be attained through quick and easy fixes. You have to take the time to research the best keywords for your business, build partnerships within your industry, and write thought-provoking content. However, the end result will be well worth the investment, as your website will rank higher than competitors who took the easy way out.