By Jill Whalen
In my day-to-day reviews of client websites, I see lots of things done to websites in the name of SEO that in reality have no bearing on it.
In an effort to keep you from spending your precious time on supposed SEO tactics that will have absolutely no effect on your rankings, search engine visitors, conversions or sales, I present you with 16 SEO tactics that you can remove from your personal knowledge base and/or SEO toolbox as being in any way related to SEO:
- Meta Keywords: Lord help us! I thought I was done discussing the ole meta keywords tag in 1999, but today in 2011 I encounter people with websites who still think this is an important SEO tactic. My guess is it’s easier to fill out a keyword meta tag than to do the SEO procedures that do matter. Suffice it to say, the meta keyword tag is completely and utterly useless for SEO purposes when it comes to all the major search engines – and it always will be.
- XML Site Maps or Submitting to Search Engines: If your site architecture stinks and important optimized pages are buried too deeply to be easily spidered, an XML site map submitted via Webmaster Tools isn’t going to make them show up in the search results for their targeted keywords. At best it will make Google aware that those pages exist. But if they have no internal or external link popularity to speak of, their existence in the universe is about as important as the existence of the tooth fairy (and she won’t help your pages to rank better in Google either!).
- Link Title Attributes: Think that you can simply add descriptive text to your “click here” link’s title attribute? (For example: <a href=”page1.html” title=”Spammy Keywords Here”>Click Here</a>.) Think again. Back in the 1990s I too thought these were the bee’s knees. Turns out they are completely ignored by all major search engines. If you use them to make your site more accessible, then that’s great, but just know that they have nothing to do with Google.
- Header Tags Like H1 or H2: This is another area people spend lots of time in, as if these fields were created specifically for SEOs to put keywords into. They weren’t, and they aren’t. They’re simply one way to mark up your website code with headlines. While it’s always a good idea to have great headlines on a site that may or may not use a keyword phrase, whether it’s wrapped in H-whatever tags is of no consequence to your rankings.
- Keyworded Alt Text on Non-clickable Images: Thought you were clever to stuff keywords into the alt tag of the image of your pet dog? Think again, Sparky! In most cases, non-clickable image alt tag text isn’t going to provide a boost to your rankings. And it’s especially not going to be helpful if that’s the only place you have those words. (Clickable images are a different story, and the alt text you use for them is in fact a very important way to describe the page that the image is pointing to.)
- Keyword-stuffed Content: While it’s never been a smart SEO strategy, keyword-stuffed content is even stupider in today’s competitive marketplace. In the 21st century, less is often more when it comes to keywords in your content. In fact, if you’re having trouble ranking for certain phrases that you’ve used a ton of times on the page, rather than adding it just one more time, try removing some instances of it. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.
- Optimizing for General or Peripheral Keywords: You’re not gonna rank for a one-word keyword. You’re just not. You are likely not even going to rank for a 2-word keyword. So stop wasting your time optimizing for them, and find the phrases that answer the searcher’s question. For example, most people seeking legal help aren’t putting the one word “lawyer” into Google. They have a very specific need for a certain type of lawyer as well as a specific location in which they hope to find said lawyer. So rather than throwing the word “lawyer” all over your site, ask yourself this: There are people out there who want what you’re providing. What are they typing into Google? Now focus on those words instead. And don’t even get me started on people who put words on their pages that are barely related to what they do “just in case” someone who types that into Google might be interested in what they offer. You won’t rank for those phrases anyway, but even if you magically did, they won’t make you any sales.
- Targeting the Same Keywords on Every Page: The keyword universe for any product or service is ginormous. (It really is.) Even if there are one or two phrases that bring you the most traffic, why the heck would you want to miss out on the gazillions of others as well? Stop focusing every page on the same handful of phrases and start targeting each page to its own specific set that most relate to what you’re offering there.
- Focusing on Ads as Links: Banner ads, Google AdWords links and most other forms of online advertising do not create links that count toward your link popularity. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use this form of marketing – just don’t be deluded into thinking that it will have a direct effect on your organic search engine rankings and traffic.
- Mad-lib Doorway Pages: While you may offer lots of products or services that are extremely similar to one another with just one minor change, it’s not a good idea to create separate pages for each of them and making only minor keyword changes to each of them. While this may be okay for paid search landing pages, it’s a duplicate content spammy nightmare for organic SEO purposes. (In fairness, I do sometimes still see this technique work, but it’s still not advisable to do it.)
- Linking to Google or Other Popular Websites: It’s the links pointing to your pages from other sites that help you with SEO, not the pages you’re linking out to. ‘Nuff said.
- Redirecting a Keyworded Domain to Your Real One: So you have your business name as your domain (as you should), but you have noticed the unfortunate fact that Google seems to really like domains that have keywords in them. Buying one (or more) and redirecting it to your actual website can’t provide you with any advantage because a redirected website (and its domain name) is never seen by the search engines. And besides, even if there were something magical about doing this, again, you’re only talking about one keyword phrase.
- Republishing Only Others’ Stuff: While it’s fine to republish an article that someone else published first, if that’s all your blog consists of, it’s not going to help your search engine rankings. Instead of republishing entire articles, discuss them in your own posts and provide your thoughts and opinions on what’s good / bad / ugly about what the others are saying. It’s all about adding value.
- Making Minor Changes to Freshen Content: This is not going to help a thing. If any old articles or posts need to be updated, then update them. But just changing a date or a few words will not have any effect on your search engine rankings or traffic.
- Main Navigation That Links to Every Page: If linking to pages in your main navigation gives them more internal link popularity and therefore more possible weighting with the search engines, then surely linking to every single page of the site in your main navigation should be a good idea, right? Wrong! It isn’t. All it does is spread your internal link popularity too thin and confuse the heck out of your site visitors. Don’t do it. Choose to link only to top-level categories and perhaps subcategories (if you have a reasonable number of them) in your main navigation. This allows users to drill down further when they’re in the category sections themselves.
Did I miss any? I’m quite sure I’ve just touched the surface on waste-of-time SEO tactics. How about you? Do you agree with the above? Disagree?
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen