Did you know that Google changes its search algorithm 500 to 600 times a year — the equivalent of once or twice a day? While some of these updates are minor and have a relatively small impact on SEO, there are also those major updates that vastly alter the SEO landscape.
With this in mind, even if you go back just a few years, the SEO tactics that worked then might be tactics best left in the past. Today, Google places more emphasis on rewarding websites with meaningful keyword-driven content, trusted backlinks, increased desktop and mobile page speeds and other factors that feed into a positive user experience.
To help you navigate today’s waters, we’re reviewing the outdated SEO tactics playbook and offering suggestions on what you can do moving forward to earn Google's (and your users’) love.
In Google’s page ranking algorithms, links are considered one of the top two criteria. Taking this into account, if we go back 10 years ago, one of the first things SEO professionals did was try to acquire as many backlinks as possible — some of which were lower quality and even irrelevant.
Now, it’s not the websites with the largest number of backlinks that wins in the eyes of Google. Amid algorithm changes, the benefits come to those websites with quality backlinks from trusted domains that add to the user experience. In fact, if your website has too many low-quality links, Google can penalize you to the point your website pages are removed from their search index.
In the simplest terms, small numbers of organically achieved backlinks from high-authority sites are worth more than any number of poor links from spammy sites. How do you go about earning these links? Here are a few ideas to save you short-term costs and earn more long-term value:
Organic website growth takes time, and there’s a natural impulse to want to speed up the clock. Piggybacking on the link-building conversation, SEO professionals have also turned to private blog networks (PBNs) in the past. Often built using expired domains that earned some authority, a PBN is a network of websites that exists solely to give a high quantity of links to a centralized website.
Because the goal of private blog networks is to manipulate search engines, this outdated SEO tactic can be filed under Black Hat SEO. While you may generate some quick domain authority, private blog networks violate Google’s webmaster quality guidelines and can lead to penalties.
(Google can often identify PBNs based on the unnatural footprint of a group of sites all linking to the same domain.)
By swapping an investment in a PBN with the organic link-building tactics above, you advance your search engine optimization efforts while staying in the good graces of search engines.
Traditionally, websites have been optimized and developed for desktop. But when you consider that a little over half of the world’s website traffic comes from mobile devices (and 96% of those searches are from Google), a mobile-first mindset is now integrated into the search engine’s algorithms.
While Google first announced its move away from desktop-first indexing in 2016, it has since fully transitioned to a mobile-first approach. This means the mobile version of a webpage is what Google uses to evaluate pages on your website and decide how they’ll rank in search results.
Today, many marketers (Kuno Creative included) are responding to this need by designing and developing websites to be mobile-first. Even if a total website redesign isn’t in the cards right now, you can apply a mobile-first approach to the new website pages and landing pages you develop on a rolling basis. Alongside that, you can use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to see if your existing web pages have any mobile usability issues you can address to boost rankings.
Tip: Rather than hiding or removing content from mobile versions of a webpage, consider updating it to include the same content from the desktop version. That way, Google can crawl all of the content created versus just a portion of it, which can in turn improve page rankings.
SEO can wear two hats: a black one or a white one. While outdated Black Hat SEO tactics (like those shared above) may generate some results early on, Google continues to crack down on these search engine hacks. It may take longer to see results, but long-term SEO value comes from the use of White Hat SEO tactics and optimizing your website to meet modern standards.