When you are trying to build a business online, whether SaaS, services, or online retail, there is one linchpin in your marketing plan that you should always be aware of – Google.
While there are many, many tactics you can use to drive traffic (and resulting customers) to your website, ultimately SEO can, and should always be, a channel to keep in mind.
The great thing about SEO is that because the traffic you get from search is organic (web surfers actively looking for content, or products similar to what you offer) it tends to be very good, and high converting traffic. The other great thing about search traffic is once you’ve laid down your SEO foundation, it tends to be a lasting marketing asset. Searchers will continue to be able to find you whether you continue your SEO efforts or not (although you should always strive to maintain and improve them over time).
The bad thing about SEO is you can be at the mercy of Google and their algorithm changes.
You could say that I wake up every morning deathly afraid of what Google will bring. Or, you could say that I don’t do that because I try my best to be up to date with the best practices that Google looks out for, as well as the old practices that Google now says might have a negative impact on your site.
So on that note, here are 3 tactics that you should eliminate from your SEO strategy
1. (Bad) Link Building
No question, your website’s link profile is critical to your search engine rankings, domain and page ranking for your business. However the “building links at any cost” tactics of the past have long fallen out of favor with the folks at Google (and the other search engines).
Only a few years ago, there was a booming cottage industry of link farms, website directories that were thin on content, and other easy sources of paid links. Google recognized that most (if not all) of these links offered no value to visitors, and were almost purely designed to catch the attention of their search spiders. As such, Google not only devalues any thin and purchased links these days in it’s ranking algorithms, but sites that have nothing but these types of links can be severely punished as well.
So if you come across sites offering lots of links for a fee, or even free sites that allow you to post your own links on a page with little to now value to a web surfer. Turn away. At worst these types of links will do nothing to boost your rankings. At worst, they may end up making your search rankings worse.
2. Keyword stuffing
A simple on page SEO tactic that used to go a long way in catching the attention of search spiders was to stuff your content with as many keywords as possible. As Google has continued to improve their search algorithm, this is one of the old school “tricks” that is now the easiest for them to catch.
When creating content, you absolutely should use keywords and keyword phrases. However, you should never be using keywords to the detriment of readability, and certainly never when it is inappropriate. Content that Google deems hard to read or overly stuffed with keywords or words repeated unnecessarily, is also content that Google will flag as SPAM. That is not a list you want your site to be on.
3. Invisible Text
Invisible text, or text that is hidden from readers but embedded into your website code, or buried at the bottom of your page is another technique that used to be popular, and pretty effective too.
However, like the other tactics we talked about, those days are over. Search engines have adapted to recognize invisible text, which today at worst will make no difference in your search rankings, and at worst may get your site hit with a penalty.
So if that’s the list of tactics that you shouldn’t use anymore.
So the question you’re probably asking yourself is this. If those are the things that I shouldn’t be doing, what “Should” I be doing when it comes to SEO.
1. Stay in School (in spirit)
First and foremost, get educated. It’s a good idea to get a rough understanding of the elements of your page that Google is now putting more focus on.
Arguably the best resource online is the search strategy content published by the team at Moz. Rand Fishkin and his team can help guide you not only to he latest and greatest tips, but they also have a vibrant and exceptionally active community of other online marketers sharing advice in their forums.
We have also published a handy infographic on this blog not too long a go that provides a very thorough list of elements that Google considers in it’s SEO algorithms.
2. Lead with Content
Next content. Great content is really the secret weapon in winning the war of SEO. But rather than just tell you to create great shareable content, and leave you to your own wits. We’ve published a great instructional blog here, describing how to use a technique called the Skyscraper Technique, to better your odds of creating something highly shareable and engaging.
3. Be Social
This is perhaps one of the most controversial areas of SEO. Google has been very coy about how much, and if at all they value social signals and social sharing in their search algorithm. The way I look at things, at the very least it can’t hurt. After all, the next most important place you want to be catching the attention of potential customers (after search) is most definitely social media.
The more presence you have on social media, and better yet, the more your customers are talking about you in social media the better. Again here’s a post we published not too long ago that goes into how you might be able to harness social, as wells as word of mouth or referral marketing to really make the most of this channel.
So there you have it. Google isn’t anything to be afraid of. Just make sure your strategies are up to date to be able to get as much immediate and long-term benefit out of it as you can.