As the web evolves so too does SEO. As the major search engines change how they crawl sites and deliver results, new techniques are quickly devised to keep sites ranking high in the results. While it’s true that good SEO techniques are always changing, bad techniques are always constant. Besides simply looking unprofessional, some of these techniques can actually hurt your ranking in search results. These are just a few of the techniques to avoid.
1. Keyword Stuffing
Everyone knows keywords are at the heart of SEO, but some people take keywords to such an extreme that it becomes counterproductive. Google defines keyword stuffing as including large numbers of keywords or numbers in the body of a website in an attempt to boost SEO, even if the words don’t make sense in the context of the website. This is sometimes done as a block of keywords at the end of a page or repetitious string of sentences, like this:
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Not only do these methods look unprofessional, but they actually hurt a page’s standing with search engines.
Cloaking refers to the practice of displaying different webpages depending on whether or not the viewer is a crawler or genuine human user. In the past, people have turned to this technique when the content they produced failed to significantly boost traffic. It’s also employed by hackers once they’ve gained control of a page to make the hack itself more difficult to discover. Essentially, irrelevant keywords are shown to the crawler but not the user in an attempt to boost SEO.
Cloaking was once a very common SEO practice and considered a valuable tool, but has since fallen out of favor and is seen as a deceptive practice. Google’s crawler specifically can recognize and disregard cloaking attempts.
3. Hidden Text
One of the oldest SEO techniques is also one of the most potentially damaging, not only to your standing in search results but to the faith your visitors have in you. Text can be hidden simply in a myriad of ways, including reducing the font size to zero, matching the font color to the background, or just placing it behind images. The hidden text has been used as a way to stuff more keywords and links into a page without having to display them.
Hidden text succeeds in obscuring your SEO boosting efforts from the user, but crawlers will see it as an accessibility issue and adjust your ranking accordingly.
The best way to approach SEO is honestly. If you’re unsure of if one of your practices may run afoul of search engine indexing, try looking at your page from a viewer’s perspective. Your efforts result in awkward or unnatural phrasing or obscured text, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board and redesign things. Treat your readers and crawlers as one and the same and you’ll have an easier time increasing your SEO ranking.