Coinciding with the announcement of the Google Panda 4.0 update, there has been a lot of talk lately about the penalties being levied against various high-profile sites for questionable SEO practices.
My Guest Blog, Expedia and Rap Genius are three notable examples from recent months that highlight the types of SEO practices that are garnering penalties from Google.
In the end, Google always judges against SEO tactics that it believes to be "manipulative" or a detraction from "a good user experience" on a website.
Bearing those standards in mind, there are a few things to be avoided if you don't want to get a warning from Google.
This is one of the easiest way to get dropped from SERP rankings. Adding as many keywords as possible to a piece of content may seem like a great way to generate traffic for your site, but that's actually not the case. Adding a large volume of keywords to your writing used to be a tactic that would increase your rankings in search results, but with abuse by spam and other low quality sites, the practice of using too many keywords can harm your rankings.
The reason behind it being that some sites were using keywords that did not relate to their contact directly, and overall, keyword stuffing often results in a lower quality user experience because the content does not read naturally when keywords are forced into a sentence. With keywords, remember that quality over quantity will always win. Therefore, make sure that you write naturally about the topics that make sense for your site and know that Google's algorithms are intelligent enough to discern whether your intent is to keyword stuff or to provide site visitors with quality content.
Using "Doorway" Tactics
This is another tactic viewed as manipulative. "Doorway" pages are sites designed not to house original content, but rather to refer the visitor to another site, hence the name "doorway". This is a classic form of misdirection, where the user visits a site for one reason, then finds that they will have to go elsewhere (or worse off, they get automatically directed elsewhere) to find what they seek. Misdirection, however harmless it may seem, will draw penalties.
Providing Low-Quality Content
There is some ambiguity about the difference between high-quality content and low-quality content. High-quality doesn't necessarily mean a thousand-word, investigative piece of journalism regarding stock market manipulation, nor does it refer to posting a viral video with kittens dressed up like Medieval knights that attract 25 million hits.
Quality, as Google spells it out, has more to do with original content. Sites that create their own content are considered high-quality, because of the fact that it introduces something original and new into the Internet. Sites that copy content from other sites are considered low-quality. For this reason, it's better to create new, original content than to copy existing content from other sites. Even if written by amateur writers, as long as the content is original and engaging for the reader, the Googlebot will be inclined to favor it in a positive light.
Improper Inbound Links
Link building consistently falls into gray area for many webmasters. Inbound links are arguably the most important part of SEO, but what constitutes a quality inbound link?
The best way to understand what constitutes a quality inbound link, is to understand what a low-quality link is. An inbound link is defined as when an external site creates a hyperlink from their site to a page on your site, hence creating a link for users to travel from the site hosting the link to a page on your site. If the linking site is considered a "low-quality" site by Google standards, then the inbound link itself is considered a low-quality link.
Google's reasoning is that if the site is low-quality, either because it's a "doorway" site or a "spammy" site (among other possible causes) the link itself might be low-quality. Google likes it when sites link to other sites because of the inherent (and related) high-quality content that the reader might find, and not for the sake of simply linking.
Ultimately, quality content is crucial when it comes to best SEO practices. Gone are the days when keyword stuffing or mass link-building could increase SERP rankings. If your website uses any of the tactics mentioned above, be aware that you should change things up before Google comes knocking.
To read more about proper SEO techniques, check out these 5 tips for thriving in the face of Google's Panda 4.0 update.
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