Search engine optimization takes time; there's no way around it. But it can be highly profitable when done right. Exactly how long it takes to see SEO results depends as much on what you do as on what you don't do. It's important to focus on tactics that have a long-term value versus short-sighted moves that can wind up hurting you months from now.
Below you'll find seven outdated SEO tactics that aren't going to fly as search engine algorithms, notably Google's, become better at detecting what websites truly deserve to rank in search results. But don't worry -- I've provided elegant alternatives to each that will be more useful in the long term.
1. Link Buying
As opposed to obtaining links to your website from other sites organically, this is when you take a shortcut and buy links from websites to improve search engine rankings. This could include paying for reviews of products, services, etc., as well as using a link brokering service that you pay on a monthly basis to purchase and maintain links on your behalf.
- Why not do it? Um, remember what happened to J.C. Penney? And then Overstock.com? Buying links is a blatant violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. It's pretty much guaranteed that eventually Google (or your competitors) will catch you in the act. The result? Search engines will lower your rankings and possibly remove your website entirely from search results.
- What to do instead: Earn links organically. That means consistently create unique, quality content that others in your industry will find of interest. Infographics, videos, "Top 10" lists are all known to draw traffic and links. Join relevant online communities and become a trusted member, known for offering advice without being a salesman.
These days, there are lots of online wire services offering to blast out your press releases so they get scraped by other sites. The goal is to get attention online and obtain links back to your site.
- Why not do it? From a purely SEO point-of-view, it's a waste of time and money. Links from low-visibility websites that scrape your press releases do not help you rank better.
- What to do instead: To get high-quality links and press at the same time, start using HARO, where you can connect directly with journalists looking for sources on stories. If you are quoted in a reputable media outlet and the story links to your business's website, this is a much better way to boost your search engine rankings.
Sounds harmless enough: Write content for various ezine websites that publish your content for free and offer a link back to your website.
- Why not do it? This was not a bad SEO strategy up until Google's "Farmer Update", which essentially took away much of the SEO value that the ezine-style content farms had. But even prior to the Farmer Update, writing articles only for the sake of obtaining links resulted in low-quality, barely readable content that did little to grow your brand.
- What to do instead: Spend time writing one insightful article for your own website or guest blog post, rather than writing 10 uninspiring ezine articles. You will find that one high-quality article will often be picked up and linked to from multiple sites.
By entering your website url into the comment fields of certain blogs, it was once possible to improve your search engine rankings.
- Why not do it? It's a waste of time. Now these links offer little to no SEO value and frustrate the very bloggers you should become friends with.
- What to do instead: Leave insightful comments that other users will appreciate. Engage in conversations and be of value to other members. Rarely promote your own content, except when highly relevant. In the long-term your SEO efforts will benefit far greater than leaving random blog comments.
This is the antiquated practice of linking to a website simply for a link back to yours. The idea is that both parties benefit with improved search engine rankings.
- Why not do it? Most search engine algorithms are able to detect unnatural link schemes, often created by link exchanging. Also, it can hurt your rankings to link to websites that have a lot of low-quality links obtained through link exchanges.
- What to do instead: Find websites where you can write guest blog posts or give an interview in order to obtain a link.
Many online directories allow you to submit your website for inclusion, which offers a link back to your site.
- Why not do it? Search engines give very little value to these content-poor directories, thus rendering links from them worthless. Don't waste your time submitting your website to any and every directory. You could go on forever.
- What to do instead: Pick and choose directories. Your chamber of commerce, local directories like Yahoo Local, Google Places, and Dmoz are examples of worthwhile places to submit your website.
To rank higher, you put the same or (almost the same) keywords all over your website.
- Why not do it? Since the early 2000s, most search engine algorithms have been smart enough to identify unnatural language patterns in text and when they detect the overuse of a keyword, your ranking takes a hit.
- What to do instead: Use language that is intended for your users, not search engines. Targeted keywords in conjunction with their synonyms, naturally spread out throughout your text will have a much greater impact on improving your site's relevancy and rankings.
Alhan Keser is Chief Marketing Officer at Blue Fountain Media.
Flickr photo courtesy of Lin Pernille Photography, CC 2.0