This post is a must-read for all small business currently using an SEO company as well as those considering one.

Has your provider (or prospective provider) offered you a link wheel, reciprocal linking (link trading), blog commenting, or social bookmarking? If these terms are the main talking points of what is being recommended, be warned, you are likely heading in the wrong direction.

When it first started, SEO was all about fooling search engine algorithms for the leading position. Website owners would buy links, manipulate anchor text, and keyword-stuff blog posts for quick wins. Then, with Google’s first Panda update back in February 2011, it all came crashing down. Overnight, businesses lost traffic and revenue. The quick wins stopped working, and user experience along with valuable content came out successful.

There’s no magic or mathematical recipe to Search Engine Optimization, so don’t let sketchy agencies convince you otherwise. SEO is a primary part of inbound marketing. It’s a practice that’s becoming more scrutinized for attempting shortcuts. Here’s what to keep away from and why along with some alternatives.1. Poor Web Design

1. Poor Web Design

While this first one isn’t really a “method,” it is a major issue for many businesses employing an SEO strategy. Your site is a representation of your name and brand. Ensure that it is functional and search engine friendly. Prospective clients will be warded off by a poorly designed website within seconds. Therefore, if you need to create a website, you need both a Search Engine Optimization specialist and a good web designer. Your web design and SEO strategies should work together to create a site that functions according to your needs and brand.

2. Hollow Content

The reasons for this one is simple: people won’t read or link to content that isn’t useful, and they will lose interest in your site and your business in seconds. It cannot be doubted that great and useful content will always gain you powerful links. So, keep the following in mind when creating content on your website:

  • What is your target audience and what are they looking for?
  • Is your content search engine friendly?
  • Do you believe that your articles are refreshing and innovative? Will other sites connect to it?

In cases where your content is being outsourced, ensure that those writing for you are qualified and professional. Also, keep in mind that when you were composing the same stuff for so long that it begins to feel dry even to you, the odds are that your readers feel the same.

3. Article Submissions

Article submission web sites, such as “EzineArticles” were previously used by webmasters to bring some quick links back to the web sites. Sites like these consume a lot of time, yet they bring you no reward with the new Panda update. Instead of going for quick links, focus your energies on establishing relationships with authoritative bloggers. Write guest posts that will add value to their websites and followers. In return, you will obtain a reliable reference from a website and get direct experience from their community. You can also try a more efficient backlinking strategy, but those take time and effort.

4. Trading Links to Pass PageRank

Old school SEO marketers would attempt to improve their Google PageRank (a numerical rating system that benchmarks a website’s quality for certain keywords, topics, and phrases) by getting links from important sites. They’d pay money to participate in link wheels and other gimmicks to build links unnaturally. Google uncovered this practice and started running surveillance. If you get caught with unnatural links (which is more than probable given the sophistication of Google’s technology), you’ll be penalized.

Instead, focus on building authority through blog posts, videos, presentations, content syndication, priceless press, interviews and genuine relationships with fellow website owners. Construct a network of people and share your knowledge instead of superficial links.

5. Spammy Commenting & Cheap Backlinking

This practice is often adopted by questionable SEO marketers to rapidly build backlinks. For a low price, you can hire an international “advisor” to construct thousands of links by leaving meaningless site comments in broken English that backlink to your website. This practice ruins user experience and might hurt your reputation. Not to mention, it’s utterly tasteless. Instead, keep commenting, but only in a way that legitimately provides value to article readers and builds your network and influence. Slow, steady, and high quality wins.

6. Depending Completely on Your Website

Despite the truth that many sites and blogs nowadays have social sharing buttons, most webmasters are still not taking full advantage of these and are ignorant of the potential. Larry Page, Google’s CHIEF executive officer, projected that within the forthcoming years, personalization, as well as the social signal, will be critical parts of any Web search. Encourage sharing and be active on the social media. It is estimated that links value of social media has increased over 25%. This is because search engines are setup to know that social media accounts are operated by real people; therefore, they give more importance to them.

7. Pointless Press Releases

Public relations and press releases foster business transparency and all parties benefit from it.Therefore, you should never submit a press release that offers no value to your readers. Chances are, you’re paying for your press releases, so your goal must be to put them in front of as many eyes as possible. There must be more than fluff for you to share. Pointless press releases simply damage your company by basically showing the world that your firm isn’t doing anything notable.  Avoid making press releases for link building alone; you will end up wasting a lot of time just like in article submissions. Instead, come up with something newsworthy and high-quality. If it is of benefit to someone, it will boost your media relations significantly, and the links will soon follow.

Share substantive news and information about changes, increase, and activities within your business. What makes you happy? What makes your customers proud to use you? In the event you care about what you’re doing, somebody else will also. Be passionate and persuasive. You should also be sure your press release is optimized.

8. Putting Too Much Weight in Keyword “Density”

Google’s stand on using too many keywords or “keyword stuffing” your articles has been made pretty clear, yet there are still old SEOers who continue to overload readers with their keywords. Overusing a keyword in your article in the hope that it would rank it better with the search engines achieves the opposite effect.

Instead, use the right keyword density when writing your articles and focus on delivering useful information consistently and your users will reward you accordingly.

9. Focusing Too Much on Rankings

Many providers of SEO fall into this category. These providers focus on the Page Rank, ‘figures’ and ‘statistics’ that make them look shiny and smooth to their current and prospective clients.  What you should be focused on in your SEO campaign are the tangibles that come from it: the traffic increase, the conversion (how many readers you are turning into buyers). After all, what good spending all that money on ranking first if you’re not converting your rank to traffic and your traffic into customers?

10. Focusing on Just Google

For most sites, a huge percent of the organic traffic comes from Google. This can be dangerous — SEO must be whole. Don’t dismiss the others. If for any reason, there is a major search engine revolution, you need to be riding high on whatever new search engine’s on top. Instead, you should always seek to establish a broader traffic portfolio. Remember that search-engines such as Yahoo and Bing may also bring you quality traffic as many of your prospective customers use them.

Keep in mind that there is no scientific ‘right way’ to do your SEO. The key lesson to learn is that search engines are trying to measure your value to website visitors. So, start providing value. Some experts say the best SEO is no SEO, what they mean is you should be focusing on building a compelling user experience — one that keeps your visitors coming back.

Ask your current or prospective provider about these methods and find out what they think. Obviously, at Coactivated, we do not use these outdated tricks, but you’d be surprised at how many agencies have had difficulty changing their methods, and it’s your business that will suffer because of it.

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