Search engines are now so sophisticated that changes to how they rank websites take place all the time. The Google algorithm, for example, now uses machine learning to teach itself how to improve the quality of the results it displays. These constant updates mean that webmasters are continually having to make changes to their SEO strategies in order to keep their sites performing well. Here, we’ll look at three specific SEO techniques that should now be avoided.
1. Prioritising search engines over customers
When writing page titles and meta descriptions, a well-used technique was to include as many keywords as possible in the hope that this would help the page rank for them all. This, in the past, was considered good SEO. As a result, you often got titles that were mere lists of keywords, for example, ‘Cheap T-Shirts. Men’s T-Shirts, Women’s T-Shirts, Kids T-Shirts’.
In the example above, the obvious keyword is ‘cheap t-shirts’. This is the one which needs to go in the title and the meta description. The others, however, don’t need to be included. As long as they are mentioned elsewhere on your page, perhaps as subheadings, the search engine algorithm is smart enough to know that they are there and will rank the page for them if they are relevant to a user’s search.
What should be equally important to ranking is getting a clickthrough. While ranking will get your page listed and seen, you won’t get a visitor unless the user clicks on your link. Unfortunately, titles like ‘Cheap T-Shirts. Men’s T-Shirts, Women’s T-Shirts, Kids T-Shirts’ aren’t very appealing. In fact, they can come across as spammy and put potential customers off. What’s even worse, is that if your page ranks highly but still gets few clickthroughs, search engines will realise that it is not popular with their users and downrank it.
Instead of prioritising multiple keywords, therefore, the most effective technique is to focus on the customer. This means writing the title and meta description in a way that engages the reader and makes them want to click on it. So, instead of ‘Cheap T-Shirts. Men’s T-Shirts, Women’s T-Shirts, Kids T-Shirts’, a more effective solution would be something like, ‘Great Selection of Cheap T-Shirts for Men, Women and Kids’, or if you wanted something a bit more upmarket, ‘Great Prices on Our Latest T-Shirt Collections for Men, Women and Children.’
2. Creating separate pages for different keywords
This is much used SEO technique that can be still be seen on many websites and which has, in the past, been very effective. Essentially, the idea is to take all the keyword variations that you wanted to rank for and to create a separate web page for each, for example, a site might have a ‘Cheap t-shirts for Men’ page and a ‘Men’s bargain t-shirts’ page. Local businesses often use a similar tactic using place names: ‘Manchester Tyre and Brake Replacements’ and ‘Tyre and Brake Replacements in Manchester.’
Unfortunately, there are three issues with this technique which is reducing its effectiveness. Firstly, despite the difference in title, the content of these pages tends to be more or less identical, which puts the website at risk of being penalised for publishing duplicate content. The pages could, therefore, disappear from the rankings.
Even if you are not penalised, the similarity in content means that a search engine can find it difficult to decide which of the pages, if any, is the right one to display in its results. This could lead to no page being ranked at all as the page rank value is shared across all the different pages.
The final issue is that upgrades to search engine algorithms mean that they no longer rely as much on keyword matching. Today, Google and Bing are able to drill down into the actual content and understand the topic that is being written about. Sites which focus on keywords and not on topical content no longer rank as well. To rank for the topic ‘t-shirts’, for example, it is better to have one single page that has all the keywords and related topic words (men’s, women’s, children’s, design, colours, size, fabric, comfortable, great to wear, attractive, brand name, price, etc.) somewhere on the page. This way, the entire content of the page will appear more relevant.
3. Creating separate websites for different business services
Another well-used technique that no longer brings as many SEO benefits is the practice of creating separate websites for each of your products or services. For example, where a building company creates a loft conversions site, a conservatories site and a roofing solutions site.
The reason this technique became popular in the first place was the belief that a single service site could be better optimised for its target market and thus rank higher for that service. One of the main elements in this technique was to create a keyword match domain name, for example, ‘roofingsolutionshalifax.co.uk’.
There are, however, a number of problems with this methodology. Firstly, keyword match domains no longer have the ranking power they once did. Unlike established brand names, they have an association with cheapness and low quality and so get very few backlinks to help them rank well. Even when they do rank, the name can be a deterrent that stops people clicking. Which sounds best to you: smithsroofingcontractors.co.uk or bestroofs.co.uk?
Additionally, putting all your products or services on a single website gives you a better chance to improve your domain authority. If our example building company had a single website, a backlink to one page would increase overall domain authority and thus help all its pages to rank better. This mutual benefit can’t take place if each of your services is on a separate website.
As you can see, these once very popular SEO techniques are now becoming obsolete. What has undermined their usefulness is the development of search engine technology and changes in the behaviour of searchers. Search engines take much more into consideration than keywords when ranking a site and searchers want useful titles as well as domain names that signify a high quality brand.
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