In this post, we have decided to take a quick trip down memory lane (purely for nostalgic purposes of course) and look at some of the popular tactics that marketers may remember using for the last two decades ago.
With Google constantly tweaking its algorithm, many old-school SEO tactics are now defunct but may have worked for you ten to fifteen years ago.
Here are a few popular classics that people may have remembered doing back when search engines were not as advanced as they are nowadays.
1) Keywords in domain URLs
A practice still in use today, many people began to include a keyword they wanted to rank for an actual address of the website (for example, affordable-shoes.com). While this may have worked well 15 years ago, Google’s then-head of web spam Matt Cutts confirmed in 2009 that from a pure rankings point of view, having a keyword does help “a little bit” but it no longer has the ranking power it may have once had.
Over the years, Google has become more sophisticated in its approach to ranking sites and now looks at around 200 individual factors before deciding where a website should be ranked in its search results. This fundamentally means that while many websites that do use a keyword in their URL’s are able to rank respectably, in many cases, those that do not contain a keyword are still able to rank highly.
While including a targeted keyword in your websites URL can help, placing all your hopes on ranking a website just on this is now wishful thinking.
2) Meta-keywords tag
Meta keyword tags date all the back to the early search engines of the mid-90’s and look a little something like this:
Found in a websites source code, site owners primarily used it to rank for major keywords, since meta keywords were considered as a way for primitive search engines to rank websites. Just like many other techniques, meta keywords were eventually abandoned due to people “keyword stuffing” or spamming as many keywords as they could think of into its tag. Meta Keywords were officially confirmed as no ‘longer used’ by Google back in 2009, so why are people still using these? Although other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing have confirmed they are still using them, the ranking benefit that comes from meta keywords are low.
Quote from Yahoo:
“What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system.”
Quote from Bing:
“Today, it’s pretty clear the meta keyword tag is dead in terms of SEO value. Sure, it might have value for contextual ad systems or serve as a signal to bots plying the web looking for topics to target, but as far as search goes, that tag flatlined years ago as a booster”
- Don’t waste your time thinking of keywords to put into the meta keywords tag, search engines are just going to largely ignore them.
- A far better use of your time would be incorporating keywords into your content (as long as you are not keyword stuffing!). Give the search engines a reason to want to rank you higher.
3) Reciprocal link building
A common practice which should largely be avoided, reciprocal linking is still happening due to the relative ease of doing this. Reciprocal linking is essentially the technique of building links by “swapping links” with another site. This was a very popular strategy years ago, where people would send out emails to as many sites as possible in the hopes of trading links with them. While this is arguably okay to a small degree if done sparingly, the problem with this type of link building (as with many techniques found on this list) was that it was done with the intention of ranking higher in search engines and in excessive amounts. Google is therefore no stranger to this type of back link building and as such is considered a “link scheme” which is a violation of Google’s guidelines.
Excessive link building looks unnatural to search engines and eventually, too much of this may cause them to look upon your site unfavourably.
4) Creating a landing page for every keyword variant
A common practice that, just as with many of the other techniques listed in this article is still happening today. This technique essentially involved targeting a single keyword in a landing page and then building up other landing pages around very similar variations of that keyword. This still worked 5-8 years ago, but with the introduction of new algorithms such as Google Hummingbird that uses semantic search, this technique no longer works as well.
Rather than creating a page for all the keyword variations you can think of, it is far better practice to create one landing page to target all variations using these in the title, header, description, and content body.
5) Content spinning
Considered a BlackHat technique (therefore against Google’s Guidelines, this was a method where a marketer would use software to re-write or “spin” somebody else’s content so that
- It appears to be written genuinely by them.
- It appears to be the original piece
Content that was spun had many uses, which included selling links, improving traffic to a site was an effective way of generating content quickly. While it is clear to see what the advantages were, the bad nowadays outweighs the good. Google has become very aware of the web becoming polluted with poor quality content and moved to address the issue by launching Google Panda, an algorithm that targets poor quality content. The fact that Google Panda has now been included into Google’s core algorithm, it has made it very difficult for websites with spun content to rank top of the search results.
- Spinning content is no longer an effective way of ranking a website.
- Consider writing unique content that is written by real people.
- There are plenty of freelancers on the web that can help you do this if you struggle with writing.
6) Keyword stuffing
Probably the spammiest of the old techniques on our list. Keyword stuffing was the methodology of adding excessive amounts of keywords into a page in the hopes of ranking for as many search queries as possible. As such (Google has stated in its guidelines), loading a page up with huge amounts keywords is strictly a no-no, especially if this affects the quality of your on-page content. In other words, anything that is perceived as spam by search engines will most likely be treated as spam and could potentially trigger a penalty.
It is important to remember, that this is an issue that Google has had to deal for a long time and over the years, has become extremely efficient at devaluing websites it believes are attempting to influence rankings and keyword.
Don’t do it.
7) Building as many links as possible
In the past, marketers and SEO’s focussed a large portion of their time on building links; lots and lots of links. Up to a certain point, this technique worked, but similar to keyword stuffing, in time this has become an outdated method of trying to rank a website. Fast forward to 2019, Google has evolved into a sophisticated but well-oiled indexing machine.
With Google’s launch of ‘Google Penguin’ back in 2012, manipulating search results through high volume link building just doesn’t work anymore. This is because Penguin directly scrutinises a websites backlink profile by proactively seeking for link schemes, deliberate link building patterns or paid for links for the purposes of ranking a website higher. As the phrase goes; “quality over quantity” and this does not look to be changing anytime soon.
- Follow best practice on generating links.
- Instead of paying for them, best practice would dictate ‘earning’ links through the creation of good quality content.
- Give the search engines a reason to want to rank you higher.
This last tactic used by old marketers is debatable.
Let me explain…
Since primitive Google depended so heavily on links as a ranking factor, marketers begun to search for the fastest ways to build links. Directories were one of the most obvious ways of doing this and offered webmasters the perfect opportunity to build up a websites link profile the easy way. In other words, directories were easy-to-obtain links that required little effort in generating them. Even better, link directories usually accepted just about any website. If you have worked in online marketing for long enough, you will have most likely come across adverts or emails offering 200 “high quality” directory links for a cut price. Google has now caught onto this.
Alarmed by webmasters adopting the quantity over quality approach, it released the ‘Google Penguin’ algorithm. An algorithm specifically targeted at reviewing websites backlinks. Fast-forward to 2019, the reality is that building up a huge profile of directory links of this nature simply carry more harm than good. Old SEO directories and article submission websites are now a thing of the past, as Google has clearly indicated that these belong to the category of “link schemes” which can result in a Google link penalty.
But hold on a minute…
That’s not to say that all directories are bad. Niche specific directories are a prime example of this. If you are a private GP for example, it is perfectly reasonable to be listed in a directory that lists websites in the healthcare field. As many niche specific directories have strict rules and guidelines for being listed, they are generally pickier on which websites they will include in their website. This prevents directories of these sorts for becoming “just another spam directory” in the eyes of Google. There are also well known and reputable directories such as “Yell.com”, “192.com” and “scoot.com” to name a few.
Consider submitting to directories that are well known on the web, reputable and in your business niche.
So, there you have it, some of the top techniques that are no longer going to have the same impact they once did. While there are plenty of others out there, these were some of the more popular techniques that existed. If you think your website might have been hit with a penalty as a result of some previous SEO work performed on your site, get in touch with us for a health check.