Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
In the case of SEO, knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what you should do. A company can do all of the things Google suggests when it comes to on-page SEO, but this won’t mean much if you’re also using black hat tactics. In other words, the “black” methods trump the “white” methods when it comes to on-page SEO, and in most cases your website simply won’t rank. Fortunately, understanding some of the on-page SEO methods to avoid is easy to put into (or take out of) action.
Understanding On-Page SEO and Black Hat Tactics
It’s first important to understand the difference between on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is exactly as it sounds: optimizing your actual website for Google. Off-page SEO is what you do away from your website in order to prove to Google that you’re a reputable site. Off-page
Acceptable and successful On-Page SEO includes:
- Internal Linking
- Unique & Relevant Content
- URL Structure
- Meta Data
- Image Optimization
- Keyword Density
Once you understand what you should do, it’s time to move on to the all important “avoid at all costs” list.
Top 5 On-Page SEO Tactics to Avoid
Those in the industry typically refer to these types of SEO methods as “black hat tactics” as opposed to “white hat.” If you can avoid these strategies, your hard work on your campaign should be able to shine through and help your website rank:
1. Links: Avoid hiding and selling links.
Creating invisible links means that you are linking to something that is of no use to the reader. Some webmasters think that they can embed an irrelevant link (usually to another one of the webmaster’s websites) into a piece of text in order to help give that webpage PR juice. Some webmasters even try to do this by embedding a link into a piece of punctuation in the text as a way to fool the Google spiders into crawling. If you’re going to incorporate link building into your SEO practices, make sure it’s done manually. Automated link building can and will get you penalized by Google.
2. Keywords: Do not practice keyword stuffing.
This action is just as it sounds. Websites often try to stuff keywords onto a page so that search engines see them and visitors do not. This is often done by creating very small text or typing in a keyword in white on a white background. Search engine bots then think that the page is all about a certain keyword (although it can be entirely unrelated), and your website will rank. That is, of course, until Google catches you and knocks your ranking done. This kind of unethical tactic wastes more time than it saves you, so just don’t do it.
3. Pages: Doorways pages will get you penalized.
Doorway pages are a way for a website to quickly create low quality pages that rank well for many different keywords. These pages are usually of no use to readers and are full of copied content, but companies do this in order to funnel readers onto pages that will convert. In other words, a company will rank well for certain keywords with a very poor page and then hope that visitors will find their “money making” pages once they get there.
4. Content: Never use duplicate content.
Creating unique content is time consuming, so many companies scrape content online. In other words, they copy content from other websites and claim it as their own. The duplicate content penalty does not apply if you link back to the website and give credit, but you do have to make sure you have a good mix of your own content and content you’re sharing from others. You’ve heard over and over that content is king, and not much has changed there. The content you put forth for users has the potential to offer high value and positive ranking results, so channel your energy into creating valuable, utility-driven work.
5. Delivery: Do not have one page for your visitors and another for Google (known to the experts as “cloaking”).
The biggest thing to remember is that everything you do on a webpage should be for visitors and not Google bots. All of the above black hat tactics are a way to try and fool Google, and in the long run, it just doesn’t work. Google continuously updates and optimizes to provide users with the highest quality resources, so in most cases you will get caught, penalized, and lose any good SEO work you’ve done (or any work at all).