Search engine optimization (SEO) has changed so much over the years and it is vitally important to understand not only what is important to do for today’s search engine algorithms, but perhaps more so what is important NOT to do because this can do irreparable and substantial harm to your website, potentially to the point of negating any future success. Today’s search engines are many, many times smarter than what used to exist and so the old tactics of trying to fool them automatically turn up flags which signal to the search engines that you are not being legitimate in trying to grow and build your website.
The first and still biggest abused tactic is to build tons and tons of spammy links pointing to your web pages. While there is a move away from the outright buying of links from link farms, people are still buying many, many links as complimentary products to other SEO services. Google is very good at detecting this sort of thing especially when it is unnatural. This includes when you buy links in a reviewed article- it is now best to ask for these linked to being nofollowed if you still want to pay for the review on websites with traffic- this way you get the traffic benefit without getting the SEO juice which can actually hurt you when Google looks for mischievous activity. Banner ads and text links should be big no-nos but also should be nofollowed if you see some other benefit in them. Finally, sponsoring themes for WordPress or other content management systems which include your link in the footer of the themes is a huge no-no as search engines can easily tell what is happening.
Beyond linking strategies, it is important to make sure that your content is of high quality and providing readers with something that is actually meaningful and important. The days of throwing together pages with 200 or 300 words of randomness and ranking well are over. You should have a minimum 500 words on a page if not much more- 1000 may be becoming the new standard. Longer content tends to rank better, have longer viewership times, and signals a better quality page than pages with just a few short snippets. In fact, some data suggest that posts with at least 1,200 words are the ones that rank the best. Make sure you write quality content for your users that is tied to your website’s primary purpose and is cohesive and easy to follow. Content is king. It really is. That adage is one you can count on to last as long as the internet and SEO do because at the end of the day the goal of the search engines is to provide their users with relevant content and so by providing good content on your website you meet this ultimate goal of everyone- the search engine algorithms, the users, and you in trying to provide your users with a good experience.
One of the great ironies in terms of SEO omissions these days is in ignoring internal links. This can be a great SEO error because internal links not only appear natural but are encouraged by the big search engines and can make the user experience better by allowing users to easily navigate to relevant parts of your site. This is especially true when it comes to in-text hyperlinks to other relevant articles, posts, or content. From a link juice perspective, internal links help pass along the juice so that you have a better-balanced website which is important in terms of rankings. It can also help rank for long-tail keywords and keyphrases as the deeper pages get some juice and really help you target that low-hanging fruit. Just make sure you link to relevant pages and try to do it using anchor text that is descriptive but not abusing the system. 2-3 links for each piece of content that you have is a pretty good goal in terms of internal linking and can help you easily turn around what is one of the greatest SEO errors that is seen on websites today.
The next mistake that people tend to make that you want to avoid is focusing too much on social media. We all know the power of social media in terms of viral potential as well the link juice and authority that Google gives it. This too can be abused and often is, though. It is also not a substitute for link building which is important when done in the right way and avoiding the SEO mistakes described above.
In terms of strategic thinking and developing the right tactics for your website, a big, especially amongst new webmasters, is in doing the proper research to find the right keywords to target. Many webmasters just go for the highest traffic keywords without weighing what should really be the cost-benefit of actually getting to the position of ranking for that keyword. There are often many lower traffic keywords which have much, much less competition and your cumulative effort may be better served in targeting several of those instead of 1 big kahuna. Relevance is also of the utmost importance here- not only for the website as a whole but for every single page depending on what the content of that specific page is. Spend the time to do proper keyword research and read up on how to do it if you are unfamiliar- it will pay off.
Finally, a big mistake, and one of my pet peeves is in having broken links on your website. Nothing screams to Google quite like broken links that your web page is not of high quality or not being regularly updated to keep up with the content that users want to see. There are many websites and tools which can help you find broken links on your website so you can easily find and remove or fix them. Screaming frog is one example of a popular service that does this.
Take these SEO tips and you are sure to rank much higher if you go about it strategically and have some patience. Good luck!