Last year Google rolled out ten updates to improve the quality of search results. From technical stuff such as page experience to content spam, they covered many black-hat tactics that outranked more than one website.
If you were publishing thin content, spamming links, or faking product reviews, chances are your organic traffic dropped significantly in 2022.
But there are more outdated SEO tactics that might harm you in the future if you don’t follow Google’s guidelines. So it’s better to be aware and don’t invest time in money in practices that won’t help you grow in the long run.
The problem is, how to know what is causing the drop in traffic?
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the most common bad SEO practices that are making even big companies lose online visitors massively.
Avoid them at all costs!
1. Keyword Stuffing
I have to admit this is one of my worst nightmares and a lot of SEO agencies still do it.
Keyword stuffing is simply the act of filling your content and meta tags with keywords only for the sake of SEO. There’s no context or intention to give value behind this practice. It’s only designed to work as a trick to rank higher on SERP rather than writing for humans.
For example, let’s pretend we are reading a blog post that targets the topic “best SEO agencies” and we find this section:
How to choose the best SEO agency?
“Best SEO agencies are a crucial part of digital marketing. They help businesses achieve higher visibility and reach their target audience through search engines. When it comes to finding the best SEO agencies, there are a few key factors to consider. It’s important to choose the best SEO agency with a proven track record of success and a strong understanding of the latest SEO best practices.
See how the main keyword “best SEO agency” is repeated a lot in the text? That’s exactly what keyword stuffing looks like.
This might have been an acceptable practice some long time ago, but it’s not good at all in modern times. It’s not natural and acts as an obstacle for users to reach the answer they need.
How many times have you noticed keyword stuffing while searching for a query online? More than once, for sure.
You can’t read the titles, you can’t follow up with the text, and content doesn’t solve your question at all. But the keyword you searched for in Google is spread everywhere with nonsense.
The worst part is keyword stuffing is making small businesses run away from SEO. They simply think it is all about putting keywords everywhere, so they don’t want to hire people to do that.
How to blame them? Even Yoast, a company with a solid background in SEO is measuring keyword density as if it’s a ranking factor. And it’s not! Even if you have the chance to see a page doing it and ranking anyway.
Fix and avoid keyword stuffing
Have you filled your content with keywords in weird places just to rank? Now it’s time to make things right to ensure you’re building an SEO-friendly landing page or website.
Here’s what you can do to improve the quality of your pieces:
- Don’t think solely about keywords but about topics: Use keyword research to understand the problem people are trying to solve and address it. Forget about using the keyword and focus on writing and creating content that solves a specific problem.
- Don’t repeat the keyword in headings like crazy: We all have heard about using keywords and variations on headings, but this is not a strict rule and makes your pieces look cheap. Think about your subtitles as small parts of a bigger story and write them with the user in mind. As far as your titles are related to the topic you’re addressing, you’ll be fine.
- When doing keyword research, take note of related searches and people also ask: This will give you a wider background of the search intent so you can write around that.
2. Duplicate content
It’s no secret that Google only looks for original and well-structured content. And you probably already know that copying and pasting across the internet is not good for SEO.
But what most people don’t know is that duplicate content is a threat that might harm you even if you don’t mean to break the rules.
I have suffered the consequences myself and lost too much time solving it. Most of my freelance clients experienced duplicate content issues in one way or another, so I think it is worth our attention.
In my experience, one of the most reasons why this happens is because you don’t understand user intent.
By rule, you should have one page for one search intent. Why? Because if you have two different pages with the same information your site isn’t well structured. And search engines can’t tell which page should be ranked. Basically, you’re competing with yourself.
This might seem obvious, but in practice, it’s way more difficult to know when you’re targeting the same keywords on two different pages without noticing they represent the same search intent.
At Unita, we had this issue at the beginning of the blog. We started to publish top 10 blog posts with the most featured categories in the directory of communities. But the landing pages of the categories were also ranking for the same keywords.
The result? Neither the category landing pages nor the top ten blog posts were ranking well for the keywords planned. We created content that competed with categories -one of our SEO pillars.
How to handle duplicate content
When we realized we had an issue with duplicate content, we first asked ourselves: where do users must go when looking for online communities? Do they want a blog post (top 10 articles) or a curated directory of communities in the app?
Now that everything is in place, it might sound pretty simple. The directory option was the most accurate for users searching for online communities. It’s easy to update and categorize, and if our main goal is for people to use our directory of online communities, there’s no reason to send the user to a blog post when searching for the best communities in any category.
So, after deciding the limits of blog post topics, we put in hands-on work and fixed duplicate content issues.
How? by 301 redirecting all of our top 10 blog posts to the category pages, and by setting canonicals on community posts. And we saw results almost immediately.
So, if you are having trouble ranking and have more than one page about the same topic, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the user looking for when searching for this term?
- Which of my landing pages is more related to what the user need and the format they expect to see?
- Which are the long tail keywords related to the main topic for what I want to rank for?
Then, use the information collected to make better decisions regarding how to structure your website information. And redirect and apply canonicals when needed.
3. Acquiring low-quality backlinks
You probably already know how important backlinks are for SEO, so I won’t go deep into the details about why should you have a backlink strategy in place.
The problem with backlinks arises when these links are acquired in a way that breaks Google guidelines. This includes link schemes or paid links.
If you only rely on domain authority and traffic to decide whether a link is worth the effort or not, chances are you’ll end up listing your site in a shallow directory that works as a link farm.
And this is really bad because Google is strict with sites that have links coming from spammy sites.
As a recommendation, you can follow these criteria to identify if a site is potentially spam or if is it a true opportunity to collaborate:
Don’t of backlinks
Runaway from sites that:
- Have lots of external links with dofollow tags.
- Experienced a massive traffic drop.
- You can’t find uniqueness and value in it.
- Have a blog section, but point to an external article, not their own.
- Are out of scope in your industry.
- Reach you directly with a generic message offering “backlink services from high authority sites”.
- Has a high spamming score on Semrush.
Do’s of backlinks
Say yes to strategies that point to:
- Share valuable and consistent content on communities related to your industry. Publish content related to your services or products with genuine recommendations. For example, we love to create content on Indie Hackers and the community always sends feedback.
- Look for partnership opportunities that serve to uplevel your product.
- Be a guest blogger on sites that lead your industry. Create unique content that responds to a specific question, and carefully add links to your products when possible.
Redirects are widely used in development to update features and move things around in a website. But if they are not carefully planned can cause a catastrophe and harm your SEO efforts.
Redirect bad practices
Many things can go wrong with redirects, but the ones I have seen more often are:
- Chain redirects: having multiple redirects in a chain can slow down page load times and potentially cause crawl errors.
- 302 redirects: using temporary 302 redirects instead of permanent 301 redirects, which can dilute link equity and make it difficult for search engines to understand the intended destination page.
- Unnecessary redirects: having too many redirects in place for no real reason, can slow down page load times and impact user experience.
- Broken redirects: having redirects that lead to error pages (404, 500, etc.), which can confuse both users and search engines.
Having control over the redirects on your site is important not only to ensure crawlers can access your site and users can navigate smoothly. They are also important to build and maintaining domain authority over time.
5. Improper use of header tags
Having a well-structured website is key to helping people and search engines understand what’s your website about. It’s how you lead users to the answer to a problem they want to solve.
I like to think of headings as a map for people to find what they’re looking for quickly. And this is highly important if we consider the fact that people don’t read.
Seriously, people don’t read full articles. No matter how good are you at writing.
Statistically, 79% of readers just scan content to get a whole idea, answer a question, or find a resource. And if you are part of the small portion of creators that make people read from start to finish, then you’re an artist.
So, if you want to help users find what they are looking for, it’s important to properly structure your heading tags.
Guide to use header tags the right way
Use subheadings respecting their hierarchical properties. For example, a blog post about the benefits of using project management software could have the following headings structure:
H1: The Benefits of Using a Project Management Software
H2: Streamlining Collaboration and Communication
H3: Enhancing Team Productivity
H3: Improving Customer Satisfaction
H2: Centralizing Project Data and Information
H3: Simplifying Project Tracking and Reporting
H3: Minimizing Project Risks and Delays
By following this structure, the headings provide clear and descriptive information about the content of the blog post, making it easier for both users and search engines to understand the relevance of the post.
6. Incorrect use of schema
Schema can play a significant role in increasing the visibility of your website to search engines and enhancing the search experience for users. However, it’s crucial to be cautious and make sure that you are using schema correctly. Improper use of schema can result in Google penalties and hurt your website’s search ranking.
One of the common mistakes while using schema is poorly selecting the type of schema or forcing content to fit into a specific schema to show up in special results.
This can result in misleading information being displayed to the user and can have a negative impact on their experience. To avoid this, it’s important to choose the right schema type that accurately reflects the content of your website and to only use it when needed.
How to choose the right data type
Using schema effectively is crucial to avoiding penalties from Google. One of the tools that can help you choose the right schema type is the Google Structured Data Markup Helper.
To use it, follow these steps:
- Go to Structured Data Markup Helper.
- Select the type of content you want to markup from the list of options.
- Add the information required by the schema type you have chosen, such as the name, description, and image of a product.
- Preview how your markup will look in Google Search results.
- Generate the HTML code for your schema.
At Unita, we wanted to show communities’ reviews with stars in SERP, and we made the mistake of using product schema. But we switched to WebApplication and added FAQs because it was the best choice for the type of content with produce.
7. Ignoring mobile optimization
Statistics show that mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop usage. Today, nearly 60% of searches come from mobile, and conversion rates are high too.
We can’t just ignore mobile users and pray for everything works on any device. To make sure your site is mobile-friendly, you can check out Google’s mobile-friendly test.
How to optimize your site for mobile
If your site did not pass the mobile-friendly test, here are some key aspects to consider:
- Make sure you’re using a responsive or mobile-friendly template if running a website on a CMS like WordPress.
- Avoid using unnecessary plugins that might downgrade your site’s speed.
- Make sure images are compressed and in WEBp.
- Reduce text size to make sure it is easily readable on small screens.
- Ensure that all buttons and links are large enough to be easily clickable on touch screens.