SEO is all about playing the long game.
Slow and steady.
Backlink by backlink, one blog post at a time.
You can try to cheat Google, but in the end, lazy SEO, thin content and workaround link schemes won’t give you the long-term results you’re looking for.
Bad SEO comes in a few different forms.
You might be guilty of a few of these yourself without even knowing it.
So, from crappy content to a failure to optimize, here are 10 of the biggest SEO sins you need to stop committing ASAP.
Link Schemes and Other Sins: 10 Bad SEO Habits to Quit Right Now
Bad SEO: Link Building Sins
Don’t try to cheat the system when it comes to backlinks.
Each link to your site comes with an individual quality score, known as PageRank, which places more weight on links coming from credible channels.
A common misconception about backlinks is that any link is a good link—you’re getting attention, right?
However, Google doesn’t see it that way.
Backlinks have the power to benefit your rankings or cause them to drop.
In fact—Google’s own Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, says backlinks done wrong can do more harm than good.
Here are the bad news backlink practices to stay far away from:
1. Link Schemes and PBNs
Link schemes, as per webmaster guidelines, span a range of practices. Think automated link generators, purchased links and more.
Link exchanges are a tricky one, as they can be as benign as two websites deciding to link to one another.
That said, webmaster guidelines prohibit purchasing links at all, even if that means you’re sending samples to a blogger in exchange for a link.
The trick here is making sure you’re only seeking out relationships with sites of high quality and that, again, fall within your purview.
There’s also PBNs or private blog networks. The term refers to a collection of expired domain names that have third-party external links.
Website owners can pay PBNs to provide backlinks, and from there, the SEO service adds content and links back to the customer website.
They’re not creating sites made to be used by actual visitors. Instead, they serve to funnel link juice to wherever the network owner sees fit.
Many people still use PBNs, as they consider them to be a quick-fix for lackluster rankings. In some cases, websites have seen positive results, but Google has been cracking down on PBNs since 2012—and that doesn’t seem to be changing.
But, the paid PBN tactic is often too good to be true. Google might catch you—and hit you with a penalty.
2. Low-Quality Backlink Sources
Google wants to see that links are coming from high-quality sites that people can trust. This means all links—coming or going—need to make sense with your site’s subject matter.
We’ve all seen content that tries to squeeze in irrelevant links—think a gardening company that links to a celebrity gossip site.
Start by looking at the dashboard to see any new backlinks.
Checking regularly makes it easy to keep on top of anything that seems suspicious, but Monitor Backlinks will also send you automatic notifications to let you know of newly added links—making your job even easier.
Get a risk-free, 30-day trial of Monitor Backlinks to try out automated backlink, competitor and keyword tracking, all from one easy-to-use dashboard.
3. Irrelevant Guest Posting
Guest posting is still a great way to expand your reach and get high-quality backlinks.
But, you should look at guest posting as a way to connect with an audience similar to your own. It should not be used as your primary link building strategy.
Your guest posting goal should be targeted blogs with credibility and the ability to give your site more exposure.
Don’t post wherever will take you. Seek out posting opportunities on sites with a similar relative quality to yours and consider how the link will work in the context of the post itself and the site.
Bad SEO: Keyword Sins
Keywords are the foundation of the SEO process. But, many marketers misunderstand the research process.
Sure, they might be selecting keywords that get the gist of what their product or service provides, but the lack of specificity means that they’re missing out on keyword opportunities that can make or break their SEO success.
Here are some of the biggest keyword mistakes you might be making:
4. Insufficient Keyword Research
You want to make sure you’re using the words people actually use.
Now, if you’re unsure whether you’re doing things right, it might be smart to start from square one. For the sake of brevity, we’ll refer you to HubSpot’s guide to conducting keyword research.
It’s important to note that you’ll want to use a few different tools to find the right keyword mix.
While Google’s Keyword Planner is useful for uncovering search terms, those AdWords ideas aren’t the only way to boost your SERP standing. KWFinder, Ubersuggest and Answer the Public are also good choices to expand your search and discover new keyword opportunities.
Be warned—doing keyword research right is a detailed process and involves a lot of testing before you land on the magic words. Check out our guides to doing keyword research and finding longtail keywords for more ideas.
5. Failing to Account for Customer Intent
One of the most important considerations is keyword intent.
What are people looking for when they type in a certain set of words? Are they looking for information or trying to make a purchase?
Commercial intent words only make sense for sites that actually sell something.
Words like “buy,” “discount” and “coupons” all indicate the searcher is trying to make a purchase. Don’t use these if you don’t have anything to offer, or you’ll risk getting penalized for irrelevant content.
Make sure you double check that you’ve chosen the right keywords for your page.
Do a quick search to see what kind of content comes up. If you’re seeing a mismatch—say, lots of how-to articles when you want people to make a purchase—you need to revisit your keyword strategy.
6. Keyword Stuffing
Optimizing content for SEO does mean you need to incorporate keywords into your blog posts or web copy.
It doesn’t mean that you need to do so at the expense of good writing.
Instead, use your targeted keywords where they fit naturally. If you’re unsure of any search-term weirdness, read your copy aloud a few times.
Google now recommends that content creators write naturally. So, web copy should sound natural, not forced. Avoid repetitive keyword usage; instead, try using synonyms or longtail versions of your target term to mix things up.
Here’s an example of stuffing at its worst:
7. Over-Optimizing Anchor Text
Another keyword mistake is overly optimizing your anchor text. This means that backlinks that point back to your site contain the exact keyword you’re trying to rank for.
While it doesn’t sound like such a bad strategy, it’s a common tactic for black hat SEOs. Basically, over-optimized anchor text makes it look like you used a link generator to get traffic.
It’s easy to spot these anchor text faux pas, though. Just pull up your backlink profile in Monitor Backlinks and filter your anchor text based on keywords.
(Remember, if you don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account yet, you can pick up your free, 30-day trial here!)
Bad SEO: Content Sins
8. Blog Spam
If you run or contribute to a WordPress site, you’ve probably noticed the irrelevant, incoherent and sometimes crude comments that show up in the comments section.
While you might think of blog spam as an annoyance, not taking responsibility can put your rankings and your readers in jeopardy. If a reader clicks on a bad link, they may be exposed to malware. Meaning, they’re likely to avoid your site in the future—the digital equivalent of food poisoning.
Google scans your website for dubious domains—and even one bad link in the comments section can result in a penalty.
Configure your WordPress account to send comments to moderation. This way, you’ll receive an email every time someone posts a comment, and you’ll need to approve it before it gets published.
9. Spun or Low-End Content
Content spinning is the SEO equivalent to how high school students write reports. Basically, the term refers to the practice of taking content from another website and rewriting it, so it’s just original enough to pass Copyscape.
Spinning can be manual or automatic, with many companies taking advantage of software that takes in a piece of content and generates something new.
But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for content writing.
For one, Google scans for duplicate content. When they see multiple pages with the same material, it creates confusion over which version should get preference in the index.
The second reason is, content spinning usually results in some pretty terrible writing.
Content strategy and creation aren’t about banging out as many posts as possible to drive traffic. The goal with web content is to communicate clearly and provide useful information to readers.
Clickbait used to be a way to generate a lot of traffic by getting the best of our natural, human curiosity.
I mean, we’ve all seen articles like this, right?
The point of these articles, along with the “Worst Bikini Bods” and “Stars Gone Too Soon,” is to get more ad views. In the case of some businesses, promoting these terrible articles means bog money.
That said, it’s not very effective if you’re trying to generate leads or increase product sales.
Clicks aren’t everything.
You might be getting a lot of traffic, but how much time are users spending on your page? Where are your conversions at? If people are bouncing away from your site due to confusion about the content, your reputation will suffer.
Instead, be honest with your visitors.
Quit Your Bad SEO Habits and Stay on Google’s Good Side
In the end, it’s worth pointing out that algorithms can change without warning.
Many of today’s best practices might not be a “thing” tomorrow.
That said, the SEO sins listed above all have something in common:
They don’t bring quality to the table. In fact, they often make users’ experiences worse.
SEO is a long slog, not a get-rich-quick scheme.
You’ll rise through the ranks by providing high-quality content, selecting the right keywords, and building positive digital relationships.
And in the end, that persistence is bound to pay off.