If you think you can get away with the same SEO practices you used last year, think again. Methods that were once considered the backbone of an SEO strategy are being replaced by more effective and modern alternatives that mirror the way people are interacting with brands. In this article, we look back on tried and true methodologies of that are quickly becoming obsolete and offer a few ideas for how to replace them.  

Overt keyword targeting

Thanks to Google becoming self-aware and using black magic to determine user search intent and preference for content, gone are the days of pumping your content full of raw keywords and keyword variations so that your website can rank better.

In addition to witchcraft and other voodoo, Google uses click signals to automatically reward documents and websites that rank over time. Forcing keywords in such an explicit way may signal that your site cannot be trusted—especially if the use of the keyword destroys the intended meaning or search intent, or presents the information in an architecturally cluttered or boring way that makes people angry.

Here’s an example using the keyword variations of “cheap dog treats”.

  • Bad: Looking for Cheap Dog treats? Need Cheap Dog Treats? Get Cheap dog treats from cheapdogtreats.com
  • Good:  Show your best friend your love with cheap but high-quality dog treats

New SEO practices recommend you focus less on the raw keyword and more on drawing the click. In other words, be memorable, helpful and if you can include the keyword, more power to you

Internal Linking Schemes that Seem Unnatural

In the past, you could get away with linking to as many internal pages as you see fit to drive up search rankings for your keywords and pages. But with 2018 SEO practices, Google places an even greater importance on positive user experience than in years past. Google will actually punish websites that clearly push links that are out of context or use a manipulative structure surrounding content topics.

Instead, refocus your linking building strategy by putting the user first, which, oddly enough, mirrors our entire people-first marketing approach. If the internal link is relevant, well-written and structurally sound — meaning you can organize and prioritize your content around topics versus pushing clicks — that’s a good start. You should also avoid linking to pages that are clearly meant to target multiple keyword variants. Ask yourself, “Is the intent of this page the same as another page?” and if the answer is yes, you could be penalized for linking to this page. You should link to a page that has a defined purpose for your reader and fit in multiple keywords intelligently into the headers and body, with a clear hierarchy and a purpose. These same rules apply to microsites — you should avoid linking to keyword-rich domain names that will quickly lose domain authority. The best shot you have at ranking higher for your content is if it’s all housed in the same place.

Macon Raine instead recommends a topic cluster model that pushes relevant content across broad general topics that then trickles down to highly specific questions with specific solutions. Here, a parent page acts as the main hub of content for a broad topic (main keyword) and multiple content pages that are related to that same broad topic link back to the parent page (keyword variations) and to each other. This linking action signals to search engines that the parent page has dominant authority, and over time, has a high chance to rank better for the topic it covers. This method presents a cleaner architecture which leads to an increased likelihood that traffic will be sent to the appropriate page.

Using exact and partial keyword match domain names to boost rankings

If you’re using domain names that don’t sound like legitimate brands, you should stop now. An EMD (exact match domain) is a domain name that matches a search term in order to drive traffic to your website. For example, BuyCheapUnderwear.com is an EMD. Let’s say for the purposes of this example that the search query ‘buy cheap underwear”  is as competitive of a search term as you could find, and if you name your website as such it will almost assuredly bring you a wealth of traffic and revenue.

But as you’ll learn, even if this works in the short term, Google’s algorithm updates for EMD (happening since 2012) will draw clicks away from you and towards your competitors who sound more credible and user-friendly, ruining your keyword strategy in the long term. Don’t do it.

Using Adwords CPC as a barometer for organic keyword rank difficulty

Adwords ads can have a direct impact on how much revenue your organic rankings produce. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the cost per click or competition in AdWords for a keyword reflects the difficulty of ranking in organic, non-paid results. There is no direct correlation between the two. There are a variety of metrics at play that directly influence organic keyword rank difficulty, but in reality, no keyword difficulty checker is perfect and can read the mind of Google. Your best bet is to use a combination of services and look closely at your competition using a variety of tools such as SEMRush and Keyword Planner. What types of links do they have and social mentions? How robust is their content surrounding certain topics? How much are they exciting visitors and drawing them in and serving them well? Where do they fall short?

Pushing Link Bait Content

The concept of click bait revolves encouraging visitors to click on a link to a particular web page, for the sole purpose of drawing people to your website.

High-quality content that satisfies the user’s intent will always win. How you choose to satisfy a user’s search/problem can create a positive association with your brand and can set you up for future success. But beware of the click-bait crackdown. The rise in clickbait articles to boost likes and traffic is leading to a new era where page-level demotions will be given to publishers who use click bait in their posts. You must be able to have the creative prowess to think of something that will grab people’s attention, generate discussion, and solve a real problem for your readers.

Good SEO practices never end – to play the game the right way, you must know and follow the rules. Need help? Contact Macon Raine to start your 2018 SEO off right.