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Part of our services includes staying on top of SEO strategies, and over the past several years we’ve been conducting SEO audits on a variety of small business websites. What we’ve determined is that in their push to get first-page placement on Google, many have overdone their efforts which can do more harm than good.

The following steps will help you avoid spammy SEO strategies and gain Google’s love and attention (the right kind of attention).

  1. Keywords in Page Titles

If you’re into search engine strategies at all, you already know that Google looks at page titles which helps them tell what your page (s) is about and have a major impact on how they’ll rank. If you’re not familiar with page titles, they’re a part of the meta-tag code that should be present on each page. Page titles aren’t visible on the website itself but are visible in a browser.

Because of the importance that Google puts on page titles, a lot of people over-stuff their keywords into the title. This is a common mistake we see repetitively as we review websites. Not that long ago, keyword stuffing actually could improve your search engine rankings but not today. These days keyword stuffing doesn’t work very well and can end up being counterproductive. While it’s important to include your keyword in the page title, if you repeat your keywords too many times or include unnatural variations, you can end up hurting your Google search engine rankings because they’ll be able to tell you’re trying to cheat the system. Besides that, even if you do get first-page placement, putting too many keywords in a title can also make it look spammy to visitors who may avoid clicking on the link because it doesn’t look legitimate.

  1. Forcing Keywords into Your Website Copy

Another overused SEO tactic is forcing keywords into your website copy, forgetting that your clients and potential clients will be reading it, not a robot. Overstuffed website copy definitely looks like spamming and is counterproductive when it comes to your marketing goals. It’s important to remember that the reason you’re throwing time and money at SEO is to generate leads and sales. If your website content feels spammy to your visitors it will have a negative effect on your conversions. Bottom line, it’s a bad idea to force keywords into your website copy.

  1. Building near Duplicate Landing Pages Just for SEO

One spammy SEO technique that online marketers still seem to fall for is creating “near duplicate” landing/website pages. Here’s how this technique works. Say you’re a Home Decorating company in Johannesburg. You more than likely will want to “naturally” work a keyword like “Johannesburg Home Decorating” into your homepage text (the secret here is “naturally”). Then, some “search engine expert” told you that you should go to another city so you decide to build a similar page making small modifications that include changing the keyword phrase as well. These techniques used to work, but they don’t any longer. Sure, you may still stumble on some of these types of pages online, but you can bet that they won’t be there for long. Google has become a lot smarter when it comes to identifying keywords/synonyms embedded in virtually the same search content. With each algorithm change, Google’s abilities to pinpoint scammers improve even more. Instead of creating a number of nearly identical pages for various synonyms, just group your keywords into interesting topics, and then create content for each topic that your visitors will enjoy reading.  It’s all about the user experience.

  1. Anchor Text That’s Over Optimized

In terms of SEO, it’s important that you develop your website’s authority. What you need to keep in mind is that a key factor in your website’s authority is the quality and quantity of the website links that are linking to your website. Think of a link from another website as a vote in your website’s favour and this link has what’s referred to as anchor text (clickable text). Anchor text helps Google determine what a specific page is about. Once again, imagine you’re a Home Decorating Company based in Johannesburg and your goal is to get your website at the top of Google for “Johannesburg Home Decorating.” Wouldn’t it be awesome to find that countless websites are linked to yours with “Johannesburg Home Decorating” as anchor text? Sounds great, doesn’t it? The problem comes in when people opt for low-quality backlinks.

More about Low-Quality Backlinks
When we conduct our SEO audits, we also check out a website’s link profile to determine how many links it has, where they’re coming from, as well as figure out the anchor text of the links. In many cases, we find that websites are using highly concentrated anchor text and most of their incoming links also contain the same keywords. Here’s the problem. It’s highly unlikely that this kind of anchor text placement isn’t going to take place naturally and Google is well aware of this strategy now. This type of linking pops up as a huge red flag to Google today. When Google sees this kind of linking, they know you’re trying to manipulate the search engine results. Consequently, using this approach with SEO will do you more harm than good in the long run. Google’s unnatural link penalties and algorithm updates are now focused on penalizing unnatural linking schemes.

If you plan on being in business for the long term, it only makes sense that your online enterprise needs to take a sustainable approach to SEO as well. By avoiding these 4 spammy mistakes, you’ll be able to stay on Google’s good side.