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How to win at SEO by avoiding these mistakes

The last thing you want is to lose your business’s ability to ever rank on Google.

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Image: Google

As a business owner, chances are you understand the importance of having search engine optimization in your marketing strategy. Without SEO, the chances of your website appearing in search engine results pages are essentially slim to none. There’s no doubt about it: you need SEO, and it should be a key part of your strategy. 

“Modern consumers turn to search engines as a starting point for their research efforts,” says Mimvi, an SEO agency in New York. “Countless studies have demonstrated the power of SEO; it helps build brand awareness, increase discoverability, improve conversions, and much more.”

The benefits of SEO are clear. However, some businesses attempt to take shortcuts in optimization. Black hat SEO is a term used to describe unethical techniques designed to trick search engines into ranking your pages higher, faster. But these attempts will almost always hurt you. Major search engines like Google consider this “cheating” their algorithms, and if you’re caught, your website could be penalized heavily—or banned altogether. 

The last thing you want is to lose your business’s ability to ever rank on Google. With that in mind, here are five black hat tactics you should avoid: 

Keyword Stuffing

Content is king in SEO, and Google searches content to look for keywords that help determine the relevancy of the page. If a blog post is about cooking classic chicken soup, then the term “classic chicken soup” and variations of that term will be used throughout. However, in a desperate attempt to rank for specific keywords, some business owners or marketers might stuff keywords throughout the content, creating an unnatural experience for the reader. 

Keep in mind the user experience is Google’s primary concern, and keyword stuffing is not user-friendly. Even if you managed to bypass Google’s ever-evolving algorithms, your bad user experience will result in high bounce rates—and search engines will notice. If your users are consistently arriving on your page and leaving right away, think about how this impacts your site’s usability in the eyes of Google. To err on the safe side, keep your keyword density around the 2% mark. There are several online density tools to help you check. 

Duplicate Content 

Duplicate content is a red flag; Google expects content to be unique or sourced properly when it’s not. If you pull content from another site in an effort to quickly get content up, chances are you’ll be penalized for duplicate content. In some cases, your duplicate content may not be malicious, and in these cases, there are protocols to follow. For example, as an ecommerce business, you might have multiple versions of the same items. In this situation, you could indicate your preferred URL with canonicalization. If you’re unsure of how to handle unique cases like this, always work with an SEO agency to guide you. 

Invisible Text

Earlier, we mentioned how keyword stuffing hurts the user experience because it creates an unnatural piece of content. Shady marketers will attempt to circumvent this by using text containing keyword phrases that match the color of the background. This is also called “content cloaking.” The end goal is to still get credit for crawlable keywords while maintaining content readability. However, Google conducts both automatic and manual reviews of websites, and if you’re discovered to be cloaking, your site may be removed and/or blacklisted. This is important to Google because they rely on a cohesive experience between the results that search engines provide and what the user sees. If those don’t align, you’ll find your website in trouble. 

Article Spinning 

Article spinning is the process of taking existing content and spinning it to manipulate the duplicate content check, feign originality, and avoid plagiarism. While these spinners—paid and free—may seem tempting, you should avoid it at all costs. Article spinners take natural content and, when spun, can churn out content that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t bring any value to your site. Spun content is almost always easy to pinpoint. If you see a piece of content that your business resonates with, use it as a springboard for a new piece of content that reads well to both visitors and search engines. 

Link Farms

Linking is one of the most important ranking factors. Each inbound you receive is essentially a “vote,” and the more votes you get, the more useful Google perceives your website. Link farms consist of a collection of websites that exist purely to serve the linking strategies of one another. With this tactic, the goal is to inflate the amount of inbound links for a website. However, link farms often have way too many links (which appears suspicious) and those links are very low quality. Too many low-quality links pointing to your website is a major red flag, and should be avoided. 

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