Bad SEO is any practice that hurts your rankings, provides a poor user experience (UX), or goes against Google’s guidelines. These are often outdated SEO practices.
But bad SEO can also be accidental. Like your site having lots of duplicate content you didn’t know about.
Or, intentional. Like trying to exploit a search engine algorithm through unethical techniques.
High-quality content is one of the cornerstones of SEO. So, naturally, poor content can translate to bad SEO.
Producing low-quality content to save time or money will likely accomplish the opposite. It can lead to poor search rankings, low conversions, and a hit to your brand’s reputation.
A piece of content may be low quality if it:
· Isn’t original
· Doesn’t answer the user’s search query (i.e., what they typed into Google before landing on your page)
· Doesn’t back up claims with facts and citations
· Has numerous grammatical or spelling errors
· Has poor readability
· Lacks E-E-A-T
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
It’s essential in “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) content—like health and financial advice—which can affect someone’s livelihood.
To avoid publishing low-quality content, you need to produce high-quality content that’s:
· Satisfying search intent
· Grammatically correct
· Credible (demonstrating strong E-E-A-T)
This type of content is relevant to both your site and your audience.
To brainstorm relevant content ideas, open Semrush’s Topic Research tool.
Enter a word or phrase within your site’s niche. Then, click “Get content ideas.”
Duplicate content refers to pages created with the same content. Or nearly the same, with a few words changed here and there.
By nature, duplicate content is unoriginal. And unoriginality can be a marker of low-quality content.
There are a few potentially negative consequences of duplicate content, like:
· Lower page rankings
· The wrong version of a page showing in Google results
· Indexing issues
All of the above can lead to a decline in site traffic. Which can harm your business or website goals.
Duplicate content can happen without you realizing it.
For example, if you accidentally create a new piece of content on a topic you already have a page about. Or if you publish variations of pages (like separate U.S. and U.K. versions of a page).
You can easily find duplicate content on your site using Semrush’s Site Audit tool.
There are multiple ways to prevent duplicate content:
A canonical tag is a snippet of HTML code that signals to Google that a page is the original, even if versions of it exist elsewhere.
Use 301 Redirects
A 301 redirect tells Google a page has been permanently moved. A 301 redirect can be used in various situations, such as moving an existing page to a new URL.
Displaying too many ads above the fold can negatively impact your site.
Ads can be a great way to monetize your site. Placing them front and center where more people are likely to see and click on them is often wise.
However, having a “top-heavy” page means you have too many ads above the fold—the part of your website that’s first visible before a user scrolls down.
Could you balance your above-the-fold ads with non-monetized content?
Again—ads above the fold are fine.
But users shouldn’t be met with a large block of them upon clicking on your page. Instead, mix ads in with the content they came for.
And follow ad placement best practices.
For example, avoid these types of ads on desktop displays:
· Pop-up ads
· Auto-playing video ads with sound
· Prestitial ads with countdown
· Large sticky ads
Keyword stuffing is the practice of unnaturally loading your content with keywords.
This practice makes content appear unnatural and difficult to read for users. And it can result in a manual action from Google.
It’s an outdated SEO practice that was once commonly used to manipulate the Google search algorithm. But the algorithm has evolved to detect stuffing, and the practice will do your SEO efforts more harm than good.
Keyword stuffing sacrifices the quality of a piece of content. Writing for the sake of jamming in keywords is usually apparent. Resulting in lackluster—and sometimes even confusing—content.
Use keywords naturally in your content.
Keywords are a critical component of good SEO. But optimizing a page for keywords should never mean the quality suffers.
It comes down to how you use keywords. Not how many keywords you use. Or how many times you use a specific keyword.
The important thing is to use keywords naturally and where they make sense.
For example, your target keyword should appear on your page:
· Meta description
· Opening section
· Body (when it naturally comes up)
Toxic backlinks are backlinks that can harm your website’s visibility in Google results.
These potentially harmful backlinks are typically acquired through what Google calls “link spam.”
In its link spam guidelines, Google gives the following examples:
· Buying or selling links
· Exchanging links for money, goods, services, or samples
· Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”)
· Partner pages exclusively for the sake of linking
· Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
· Requiring a link as part of a contract
· Paid ads with optimized links
· Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
· Keyword-rich, hidden, or low-quality links embedded in widgets
· Links in the footers or templates of content that appear on other sites
· Forum comments with optimized links
Having links that appear to come from one of these spammy techniques could result in a Google penalty.
To find out whether you have bad backlinks, go to Semrush’s Backlink Audit tool.Start a project, configure your settings, and then click “Start Backlink Audit.” When your audit is ready, you’ll see a detailed report of your site’s backlink health.
Content spinning (also called article spinning) is when you take someone else’s piece of content, tweak it slightly, and then publish it on your site.
It’s thinly veiled plagiarism.
So even if you’re clever about changing words here and there, publishing spun content can harm your SEO.
Avoid content spinning by only publishing original content.
To get ahead of your competitors, there are two approaches you can take:
1. Get inspired by competitor content: Look at what competitors are producing to get inspiration for your content. Then, find ways to approach the topics from new angles. Or, take a similar approach but add value where the competing piece is lacking.
2. Take advantage of competitors’ content gaps: If you’re pressed for content ideas, look for gaps in your competitors’ strategies and create content that’s ahead of the competition
Anchor text is the clickable text that’s connected to a link.
Here’s an example of a link where “rankings on Google” is the anchor text.
Links help Google crawl and index your site. By leading crawlers from one page to another relevant page. Anchor text also helps those crawlers understand what the linked-to page is all about.
Anchor text is similarly important for the user experience. It directs users to relevant resources. And lets them know what to expect if they click on the link.
However, some SEOs misuse anchor text by over-optimizing it.
Over-optimized anchor text is stuffed with keywords in an attempt to rank the linked page higher for those keywords. Here’s an example from Google of over-optimized anchor text:
To avoid over-optimized anchor text, follow anchor text best practices, like:
· Be descriptive but concise
· Only link where a link is relevant
· Make it clear what’s being linked to
· Don’t stuff anchor text with keywords
· Use natural language
Remember that Google guidelines are meant to improve the user experience. So, first, think of how links and their anchor text benefit the user. Rather than how it appears to Google crawlers.
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