SEO 2019

1. Understand Your Audience & User Intent
Does your audience prefer text? Images? Video? Audio.

Knowing this will all be more important than ever in 2019, according to our experts.

“You need to understand what someone is expecting to find when they query a word or phrase and you need to give them the answer in the simplest way possible,” said Mindy Weinstein CEO of Market Mindshift.

Motoko Hunt, president of AJPR, agreed, adding that the interests, tastes, and preferences of your audience can change more quickly than you think.

“Even if your website content is perfectly written and optimized, if it’s done for a wrong audience, it won’t grow the business,” Hunt said.

Tomorrow’s high-ranking website is all about the audience, said Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers.

“If your site enhances your audience’s journey, you’ll be rewarded by Google and your visitor will invest in you,” McCoy said.

This is especially important because rankings have been fluctuating over the past year to help fit the semantic intent of a user’s search query, said Jesse McDonald, SEO specialist and director of operations for TopHatRank.com.

“It will be more critical than ever for SEOs and content specialists to focus heavily on the user intent of the keywords they are targeting while creating content,” McDonald said.

Casie Gillette, senior director of digital marketing at KoMarketing, has also noticed Google’s shift in keyword intent.

“We have to think more about the funnel and where we really want to spend our time,” Gillette said. “Do I want to spend time and money trying to rank for a broad term or should I instead shift my focus to terms further down the funnel, where buyers are more knowledgeable and more likely to be interested in what I’m selling?”

To adjust to this shift in 2019, you may have to change the way you’ve been doing your keyword research, said Chuck Price, founder of Measurable SEO.

“When doing keyword research in 2019, it’s imperative that you check the SERPs to see if websites like yours are ranking for a targeted phrase,” Price said. “If the top SERPs are filled with directories or review sites and your site isn’t one of those, then move on to another phrase.”

The time is now to stop matching keyword phrases and start making sure that your content comprehensively answers questions your audience is asking via search, said Jeremy Knauff, CEO of Spartan Media.

“Ideally, we should take our content a step further by anticipating and answering follow-up questions they may have once they receive the answer to their initial query,” Knauff said.

2. Go Beyond Google Search
Could Amazon and Apple cut into Google’s search dominance? Eli Schwartz, director of SEO and growth for SurveyMonkey, believes so.

“I think that 2019 will be the year that, once again, SEO will not just be about how to optimize for Google, but we will have to take into account these other ‘engines’ as well,” Schwartz said.

As Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie, pointed out, SEO is about showing up wherever and however people are searching – not just getting the first blue link. So you must learn how to drive traffic and engagement for things other than just websites.

“If potential customers are searching for apps, you need to rank in app stores. If they are searching for podcasts or videos, you need to rank where people search for those things,” Krum said. “Strong brands are becoming multi-faceted, ranking more than just websites. Strong SEOs need to do the same thing.”

Jes Scholz, international digital director for Ringier AG, said she also sees the scope of SEO expanding to cover visibility on other platforms.

“Think beyond driving users to your website by ranking number 1 in the SERPs,” Scholz said. “How can you get visibility for your content in featured snippets and thus conversational interfaces, with hosted articles, with content aggregators and other such opportunities to ensure your brand reaches your target audience?”

In 2019, you also must at least consider optimizing for devices, said Kristine Schachinger, digital strategist and SEO consultant.

“For those with products that can be sold or brands that can benefit from the exposure, being optimized for home assistant or audio-only devices can’t be ignored,” Schachinger said.

Ultimately, this all requires the best content on the fastest platforms geared to meet the users wherever they’re coming from, according to Keith Goode, IBM’s senior SEO strategist, security intelligence.

“The entire search experience is our domain of expertise and control, and our goal isn’t to just drive traffic,” Goode said. “It’s to ensure that we’ve optimized that search experience, whether web-based or app-based or [insert the next big technology]-based, to create the most efficient and engaging intersection of the user’s needs and the site’s offerings possible.”

3. Structured Data Markup Is Key
Use structured data whenever possible, said Marcus Tandler, co-founder and managing director of Ryte.

“With AI becoming increasingly important for Google, structured data is becoming more important as well,” Tandler said. “If Google wants to move from a mobile-first to an AI-first world, structured data is key. No matter how good your AI is, if it takes too long to ‘crawl’ the required information, it will never be great. AI requires a fast processing of contents and their relations to each other.”

JP Sherman, enterprise search and findability expert at Red Hat, said you should start looking at and understanding structured data, schema, active and passive search behaviors, and how they can connect to behaviors that signal intent so that the behavior of search becomes a much larger effort of findability.

“Contextual relationships between topics and behaviors, supported by structured markup, is the critical trend we need to start understanding, testing, and implementing for 2019,” Sherman said. “Using information architecture, tags, metadata and more recently, structured markup, we’ve had the ability to give search engines signals to understand this topical and supportive content structure.”

Further, Jamie Alberico, SEO product owner for Arrow Electronics, said you should “leverage your existing content by integrating speakable and fact check structured data markup. These markups are a key link between factual reality and the screenless future.”

And Bill Slawski, director of SEO research at Go Fish Digital added this tip:

“[Understand] and [use] appropriate schema vocabulary on pages for products, offers, events, contact information, sameAs social and entity associations, organizational information, ratings, and speakable content.”

4. Create Exceptional Content
Google algorithm updates in 2018 revealed that Google is intensifying its focus on evaluating content quality and at the depth and breadth of a website’s content, said Eric Enge, general manager of Perficient Digital.

“We tracked the SEO performance of a number of different sites,” Enge said. “The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”

Enge said he expects to see the trend of Google rewarding sites that provide the best in-depth experiences continuing in 2019.

“Google was continually tuning their algorithms in this area throughout the year, and I believe there is still a lot more tuning for them to do,” Enge added.

That means if you’re still creating content just to keep your blog alive, that won’t be good enough any longer, said Alexandra Tachalova, digital marketing consultant.

Block fraudulent clicks on your Google Ads.
Automatically protect your ads from competitors, bots, click farms and other forms of click fraud. Simple setup. Start your free trial today.

Start Free Trial
ADVERTISEMENT
“The issue with this content is that it isn’t good enough to acquire links, so there’s a slim chance that it’ll rank on Google,” Tachalova said. “Think twice about publishing such posts, since they won’t pay off. It’s better to do one post that is properly distributed every few months than doing several per month that will only receive a few visits.”

What you need to do is create content that solves a problem – content that moves, motivates, and connects with people, said Matt Siltala, president of Avalaunch Media.

“If you can answer a question, get a lead, make a sale, help with SEO (link building), reputation management, social proof or community building purposes with a piece of content, then you win!” Siltala said. “Do your research, be the solution to the problem that people have, and provide something that is meant for people versus trying to ‘SEO’ the crap out of it and you will always do better in your efforts.”

Shelley Walsh, director of ShellShock, expects to see the level of content quality rise in 2019.

“Content strategy in SEO is not just about answering a query and getting users to the page. It must also use language to engage the user and guide the user to the next action,” Walsh said. “There are still far too few pages doing this well. More use of content maps and experience maps would help this.”

5. Increase Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness
Establishing and growing your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness – better known as E-A-T in Google’s search quality rating guidelines – will be another key trend in 2019.

“Although the E-A-T guidelines are written for Google’s algorithm raters, rather than Google’s algorithm itself, it helps us to understand where Google is heading in the short term,” said Dixon Jones, founder of DHJ Ventures. “I think this will help SEOs start to understand that ‘quality’ comes with context. You cannot rank so easily writing authoritative content unless you are already an authority on a given subject.”

Grant Simmons, VP of search marketing at Homes.com, said you should look at content distribution and promotion from a reputation standpoint.

“Hire experts to author, leverage data from known entities, and ensure credentials and credit is given to both, with appropriate affinity to the promoted brand,” Simmons said. “How can you get more of your employees to blog, write, and speak? How can you (the brand’s people) be the go-to source for journalists around your core topic expertise? Because that level of expertise is what Google is looking for to power their results.”

Like Google, Bing also wants to reward E-A-T.

“A major goal of our ranking team is to build an algorithm that would rank documents in the same order as humans would as they are following the guidelines,” said Frédéric Dubut, Microsoft’s senior program manager, Search & AI. “You can only do so at the scale of the web by generalizing your ranking algorithm as much as possible. It turns out that modern machine learning is very good at generalizing, so you can expect our core ranking algorithm to get closer to that ideal Intelligent Search product view that we hold internally and which we try to capture in our own guidelines.”

6. Invest in Technical SEO
Websites continue to grow in complexity every year, making technical SEO a major area of investment in 2019 and beyond.

Some key areas of focus on the technical side of SEO will be:

Speed: “Sites will finally start to become simpler and faster as SEOs discover that Google is rewarding sites more than once thought for [first meaningful paint] speed,” according to Jon Henshaw, founder of Coywolf Marketing and senior SEO analyst at CBS Interactive.
JavaScript: “A new year means that even more of the websites you encounter will be heavily JavaScript driven (likely one of the big frameworks, such as React, Vue.js, and Angular). That means it’s time to familiarize yourself with at least a little JavaScript, and how the major search engines play best with JavaScript-driven websites,” said Paul Shapiro, director of strategy and innovation for Catalyst.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): “For 2019, you should start thinking about how your website could live on as a PWA in the future. How can your PWA become a keepable experience your users would like to put on their home screen?” Tandler said.
7. Win with On-page Optimization
On-page optimization will continue to be important in 2019, said Tony Wright, CEO and founder of WrightIMC.

“We are still seeing incredible results from nothing more than on-page SEO tactics for many companies that come in the door,” Wright said. “Links are still very important, but the biggest bang for most companies’ SEO bucks is ongoing on-page optimization. Because on-page SEO isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it tactic.”

Alexis Sanders, technical SEO manager at Merkle, also shared some key website optimizations:

Content that answers common user questions.
Ensuring internal site search is providing relevant results.
Shortening conversion process.
Ensure that repeat customers can restock commonly purchased items simply.
Customer support responds to questions related to the business.
Consider use of chatbots to lighten the load for basic, common questions and procedural tasks.
Users are easily able to navigate to physical locations.
Providing users with their stage in fulfillment funnel (think: clear, visual process forms).
8. Get Ready for Voice Search
Last decade, “the year of mobile” became a kind of running joke. Every year, the experts predicted that this, finally, would be the year of mobile. Year after year. Until hype finally matched reality around 2015.

Well, is this year the year of voice search? Once again, not quite.

As Wright put it:

“In my opinion, the ‘juice isn’t worth the squeeze’ yet for most companies when it comes to showing up in voice queries,” Wright said. “However, I think more companies will look into a voice optimization strategy next year. As I said last year, voice search is coming, it still just isn’t quite there yet.”

Although voice search got lots of attention in 2018, Aleyda Solis, international SEO consultant and founder of Orainti, said voice search is just a piece of a bigger shift, from specific “results” to “answers” as part of a longer “conversational search journey.”

“This will only gain more prominence and importance in 2019 – and the shift has already started,” Solis said. “While ‘voice’ might be an easier way to request answers in some scenarios, it certainly isn’t the ideal format to fulfill the intent in more complex answers (e.g., when comparing services or products).”

All that said, Michael Bonfils, managing director of SEM International, said voice search is a game changer for multinational and multilingual websites.

“Hopefully, marketers will realize in 2019 that the effective use of voice response can’t be done by translators (machine or human). The use of voice is, and can be, very different from country to country, region to region, dialect to dialect, social class to social class, etc.,” Bonfils said.

9. Watch Machine Learning
Dave Davies, CEO of Beanstalk Internet Marketing, said machine learning is about to explode in 2019.

“While we’ve seen machine learning in search with RankBrain, Google News groupings, etc. we haven’t really experienced the true power of what it can be. This is the year that changes,” Davies said. “We can see the prep work coming with some of the layout changes the engines are pushing out and their drive to answer intents rather than questions. This is the root of machine learning’s impact on search.”

But machine learning won’t just be something to watch on Google and the search engines, said Jenn Mathews of Jenn Mathews Consulting.

“Companies need to adopt machine learning to develop unique content for SEO, beginning with a set of data based on specific variables,” Mathews said. “Machine learning, coupled with the need for analysis and reporting, as testing new strategies and implementation is imperative to understanding successes and failures.”

10. Optimize for Featured Snippets & Other Google SERP Features
In addition to optimizing for your own website, you must also optimize for the Google search experience in 2019.

“Answer boxes, recipes, the knowledge graph, carousels, and who-knows-what-else will take an even bigger bite out of organic traffic,” said Ian Lurie, CEO and founder of Portent. “That makes SEO even more important, because exposure is as much about visibility in the SERPs as it is about clicks.”

That means optimizing for featured snippets (a.k.a., position zero) and other Google search features will continue to be an important trend – and more important than ever – in 2019.

“We have been able to achieve many answer boxes for our own site and client websites,” said Jim Bader, senior director of SEO at Vertical Measures. “Every time this happens, it results in a significant spike in organic traffic.”

Get More 2019 SEO Trends & Insights
We’ve only scratched the surface so far. Our experts also discuss the importance of links, video, localization, and more in our ebook:

Click here to download 47 Experts on the 2019 SEO Trends That Really Matter

Go in-depth with more uncensored and unfiltered insights and tips straight from these experts on how to dominate SEO in 2019:

Jamie AlbericoJamie Alberico
Arrow Electronics Dawn AndersonDawn Anderson
Move It Marketing Jim BaderJim Bader
Vertical Measures Andy BettsAndy Betts
Advisor
Michael BonfilsMichael Bonfils
SEM International Doc SheldonDoc Sheldon Campbell
Intrinsic Value SEO 10 Important 2019 SEO Trends You Need to KnowCatfish Comstock
BusinessOnLine Dave DaviesDave Davies
Beanstalk Internet
Marketing
Frederic DubutFrédéric Dubut
Microsoft Eric EngeEric Enge
Perficient Digital Shelly FaginShelly Fagin
SEMrush Casie GilletteCasie Gillette
KoMarketing
Keith GoodeKeith Goode
IBM Brian HarnishBrian Harnish
Site Objective Jim HedgerJim Hedger
Digital Always Media Jon HenshawJon Henshaw
CBS Interactive
Sam HollingsworthSam Hollingsworth
Elevation Ten Thousand Motoko HuntMotoko Hunt
AJPR Mark JacksonMark Jackson
Vizion Interactive Dixon JonesDixon Jones
DHJ Ventures
Ryan JonesRyan Jones
SapientRazorfish Jeremy KnauffJeremy Knauff
Spartan Media Cindy KrumCindy Krum
MobileMoxie Ian LurieIan Lurie
Portent
Jenn MathewsJenn Mathews
Jenn Mathews
Marketing Consulting Julia McCoyJulia McCoy
Express Writers Jesse McDonaldJesse McDonald
TopHatRank.com Corey MorrisCorey Morris
Voltage
Chuck PriceChuck Price
Measurable SEO Arsen RabinovichArsen Rabinovich
TopHatRank.com Adam RiemerAdam Riemer
Adam Riemer
Marketing Alexis SandersAlexis Sanders
Merkle
Kristine SchachingerKristine Schachinger
SEO Consultant Jes ScholzJes Scholz
Ringier AG Eli SchwartzEli Schwartz
SurveyMonkey Paul ShapiroPaul Shapiro
Catalyst
JP ShermanJP Sherman
Red Hat Matt SiltalaMatt Siltala
Avalaunch Media Grant SimmonsGrant Simmons Homes.com Bill SlawskiBill Slawski
Go Fish Digital
Aleyda SolisAleyda Solis
Orainti Alexandra TachalovaAlexandra Tachalova
Digital Marketing Consultant Marcus TandlerMarcus Tandler
Ryte Shelley WalshShelley Walsh
ShellShock
Frank WatsonFrank Watson
Kangamurra Media Mindy WeinsteinMindy Weinstein
Market Mindshift Tony WrightTony Wright
WrightIMC
Download SEO Trends 2019 Now

Past Editions of SEO Trends:

SEO Trends 2018
SEO Trends 2017
Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

CATEGORYSEO

ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ’s Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!

First Name*
Last Name*
Email*
Ebook
Danny Goodwin
Danny Goodwin
Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal
Danny Goodwin is Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal. In addition to overseeing SEJ’s editorial strategy and managing contributions from … [Read full bio]

ADVERTISEMENT
Related Posts
10 Most Important PPC Trends You Need to Know in 2019
10 Most Important PPC Trends You Need to Know in 2019
5 SEO Career Trends for 2019 [New Research]
5 SEO Career Trends for 2019 [New Research]
10 Social Media Trends That Will Matter Most in 2019
10 Social Media Trends That Will Matter Most in 2019

ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ’s Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!

First Name*
Last Name*
Email*
How to Put Your Rank Tracker Data Into Action
How to Put Your Rank Tracker Data Into Action
5 Easy Secrets of Fast Instagram Promotion
5 Easy Secrets of Fast Instagram Promotion
Wed, May 22 at 2 p.m. ET.

ADVERTISEMENT
How to Manage and Maximize Content Creation on a Large Scale
How to Manage and Maximize Content Creation on a Large Scale
Wed, June 12 at 2 p.m. ET.
Kelsey Jones on Creativity, Living on Hope & Hustle, and Launching a Successful Business
Kelsey Jones on Creativity, Living on Hope & Hustle, and Launching a Successful Business
The Complete Guide to On-Page SEO
The Complete Guide to On-Page SEO
Advanced Technical SEO: A Complete Guide
Advanced Technical SEO: A Complete Guide

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT
Read the Next Article
5 Overused SEO Phrases to Nix & 5 Hot Phrases That Are In
Julia McCoy Julia McCoy / December 10, 2018
893
SHARES

7.7K
READS
5 Overused SEO Phrases to Nix & 5 Hot Phrases That Are In

ADVERTISEMENT
Did you know the concept of search engine optimization is more than 20 years old?

Twenty. Years. Old.

It’s as old as late ‘90s relics like the Spice Girls, Tamagotchi, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, the final season of “Seinfeld”, and “Titanic”.

Most of that stuff seems pretty dated now.

So why does SEO live on?

It’s not just SEO, either.

There are countless overused SEO phrases out there that just seem to keep on living, even though the search landscape has never remained static.

Today, we’re going to go into the top five overused SEO phrases to consider using a little less, and five hot phrases that are critical to online marketing success in 2018, 2019 and beyond.

Ready?

5 Overused SEO Phrases to Nix
These are the top overused phrases that we should consider using a little less, or at least understanding more before we toss them into too many conversations, articles, etc.

SEO
Link building
White hat SEO
Black hat SEO
SEO hacks
1. SEO
According to Loren Baker for SEJ, the SEO process was originally referred to with terms like “search engine placement,” “search engine positioning,” and “search engine registration.”

None of those phrases have stuck, but SEO certainly did.

The thing is SEO doesn’t really describe what search engine marketers and content marketers do.

Are we optimizing search engines? No.

Are we even optimizing for search engines? No.

We’re optimizing content and webpages for the user experience (or we should be).

So why are we still so dependent on the term “SEO”? Because it’s well-worn and familiar?

I don’t know if we’ll ever get a replacement that’s as ubiquitous, but it needed to happen yesterday.

2. Link Building
The term “link building” is used everywhere in the SEO world.

In general, it seems pretty harmless.

That’s all swell and dandy, but there’s a dark side to link building.

As Brittany Muller of Moz said on an episode of Whiteboard Friday:

“It’s no secret that links are one of the top three ranking factors in Google and can greatly benefit your website. But there is a little confusion around what’s OK to do as far as links and what’s not.”

whiteboard friday link building

As you can see from the resulting whiteboard, there are way more “don’ts” than “dos” for link building.

In fact, link building as a practice can get very sneaky and slimy. (Link schemes? Hidden links? Abusing links?)

It’s time this term is retired in favor of one that connotes only positive linking practices.

3. Black Hat SEO
The term “black hat SEO” should be obsolete because it doesn’t work!

In the end, people trying to game Google and search engines will lose because:

An algorithm update inevitably will weed out bad tactics, making sites that use them plummet in the rankings.
Or the user experience will degrade so much that the temporary high rankings won’t matter.
4. White Hat SEO
There’s only one “good” SEO anymore, and that’s user-friendly, human-focused SEO.

It’s the only technique that leads to consistent, steady gains for everyone involved – your audience, your website, your brand, and your business.

Bottom line: There is no “white hat” or “black hat” – there’s only what works.

5. SEO Hacks
“Hacking” is a negative term.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Hackers” are people who see it as their calling to violate boundaries and infiltrate personal data, not to mention cheat and exploit others.

“Hack” as a noun also has mainly negative connotations. This is what the dictionary says about it:

meaning of the word „hack“

another meaning of the word „hack“

phrases with the word „hack“

Why should we want to “hack” anything?

There are no SEO hacks – there are only tried, tested, and trusted techniques.

5 Hot Online Marketing Phrases to Invest In
Now that we have the overused SEO phrases out of the way, let’s turn over the coin.

What are some phrases that we should use more?

Content marketing
SEO copywriting
AI (artificial intelligence)
VR (virtual reality)
Trust building
1. Content Marketing
No question about it: Content marketing is today’s marketing.

b2b content marketing performers graph

Overwhelmingly, organizations that commit themselves to mixing content marketing and SEO are top performers with measurable success (via CMI’s 2019 B2B report).

2. SEO Copywriting
Another hot phrase: SEO copywriting.

More than ever, content needs keywords that are inserted effortlessly, naturally, and intelligently.

To make those words flow together as smooth as silk, you need SEO copywriting skills.

3. AI (Artificial Intelligence)
AI is entering the conversation about digital marketing more frequently, every day.

From content robots to voice assistants/voice search, artificial intelligence is creeping in and changing the way we search (and optimize our content for search).

4. VR (Virtual Reality)
As for what’s next on the technology horizon, we might be looking at virtual reality merging with content.

Right now, you only need your mobile phone to get access to a VR experience, according to Claire McDermott for CMI.

She interviewed Susan Hill, the CEO and chief storyteller for a pioneering VR brand, who made a prediction for how the internet experience and virtual reality could merge:

“The internet is fast becoming a place you step inside. Just as you had to make your site responsive for mobile, so too will you have to make it responsive for VR.”

image with title „3 ways to experience 360-degree content“

5. Trust Building
SEO and content marketing are continuing to trend toward a user and audience focus.

That means, instead of trying to get square with search engines, you should be trying to help your users.

Thus, trust building is a phrase that should be on everybody’s tongue.

Search Is Always Changing… And We Should, Too
Out with the old, in with the new.

We can’t be resistant to change if we want to be #1 for our audiences.

We should leave tired SEO phrases in the dust and adopt a new vocabulary that matches the present state of online marketing.

What words would you add to the “overused” list? Which ones do you think deserve to be part of SEO and content marketing conversations in 2019? Tell us in the comments!

More Resources:

SEO 101: Learn the Basics of Search Engine Optimization
6 Old School SEO Habits That Never Grow Old
5 Bad SEO Content Tactics You Should Have Abandoned Already
Image Credits

In-post Image #1: Moz
In-post Images #2-3: Screenshots taken by author, December 2018
In-post Image #4: Think with Google

CATEGORY SEO
Facebok
Twitter
Linkedin
Email

ADVERTISEMENT
Related Posts
What Is Link Reclamation & How to Regain Lost Link Value
What Is Link Reclamation & How to Regain Lost Link Value
What Is Edge SEO & Why You Should Adopt It
What Is Edge SEO & Why You Should Adopt It
See, Think, Do, Care: A New Way to Communicate Your SEO Strategy
See, Think, Do, Care: A New Way to Communicate Your SEO Strategy

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT
Read the Next Article
12 Completely Outdated SEO Practices You Should Avoid
Sam Hollingsworth Sam Hollingsworth / December 7, 2018
1.7K
SHARES

22K
READS
12 Completely Outdated SEO Practices You Should Avoid

ADVERTISEMENT
SEO has gone through extensive evolutionary changes over the years, and continues to do so every day.

While most traditional marketing tactics (for the most part) still hold true in digital marketing today, SEO changes have quite drastically changed the landscape.

Most, if not all, of these changes have helped improve the web – and search, in particular.

Yet, some people still cling to the “old ways” and try to use outdated SEO practices to improve their brand’s organic search visibility and performance.

Some of the tactics worked a few years ago, but now just aren’t as effective as they used to be.

Yet many novice marketers and/or small business owners are still using these “zombie” SEO techniques (tactics that should be dead, but aren’t for some godforsaken reason).

Not only are they ineffective, but many of the 12 outdated SEO practices below are potentially dangerous to the well-being of your brand, websites, and other digital properties.

1. Keyword Abuse
There are so many ways webmasters and “marketers” continue to misunderstand keywords’ role in general SEO initiatives, and how they should be used in the day-to-day strategy.

Let’s take a more granular look at specific types of keyword abuse and mismanagement, including irrelevant usage, writing for a specific keyword density, and keyword stuffing.

Irrelevant Keyword Targeting/Confusion
All too often, novice SEO practitioners try and fit their content and messaging within the confines of their keyword research (and not much else).

These “marketers” will shape the content and its metadata to represent keywords it’s not properly aligned with, nor the proper intent of the users conducting the searches for the high-volume keywords being targeted.

This causes brands to likely lose the attention of readers before ever having the chance to communicate a real message with them.

If the keywords marketed for don’t align with the content on the page, the disconnect will hinder the success of content even if it’s otherwise of good quality.

Don’t try to mislead users and direct them to content that is misrepresented by high-volume keywords in order for increased visibility.

Google knows what this looks like, and it can truly be defined as an obsolete SEO practice (as well as a “black hat” technique, in many instances).

Keyword Density
Writing for a specific “keyword density,” like many keyword-focused marketing tactics, is just missing the mark.

Google no longer depends on keyword density (or the ratio of specific keyword usage to the overall page copy) to determine whether a webpage is an effective source for answering a search query.

It is so much more advanced than simply crawling for keywords; search engines like Google use a multitude of signals to determine search results.

While keywords remain important to the topics and ideas they represent, they are not the lifeline for ranking for high-value search queries.

The quality of content and how the messaging is delivered are the lifeline for that.

Keyword Stuffing
This is probably the oldest trick in the book.

SEO is about keywords, right?

So, loading up our webpages with keywords — especially the same high-value keyword we are aggressively targeting throughout the website — is going to help us show up higher in search, thus outranking out competition?

Absolutely not.

Search engines have, for a long time, known what keyword stuffing is and what kind of text combinations are unnatural. They notice these as attempts to manipulate search results and demote the content as such.

Yes, there may still be valuable content that uses simple keyword stuffing, either intentionally or unintentionally, that is not demoted because of its actual value to users.

Back in the day, webmasters trying to game the system would go as far as putting every keyword variation of a high-value keyword in the website footer or, even more sketchily, make those keywords the same color as the site’s background, effectively hiding them from humans but not the search engine crawlers.

Webmasters have also tried this with links. (Don’t do anything like this.)

Remember, you’re writing for humans, not search engines.

2. Writing for Robots
It’s important to understand that writing unnatural is, well, not natural.

And search engines know it.

The belief is: writing for the web means we should repeat a subject by its proper name every time it is mentioned, working in variations and plural/non-plural versions of the word so that “all bases are covered.”

When crawled, the crawlers see the keyword repeated, and in several different versions, thus leading the page to rank well for the keyword variations used (over and over … and over again).

This isn’t going to work anymore.

Search engines are advanced enough to understand repeated keywords, their variations, and the unfavorable experience of generally bad content.

Write for humans, not search engine crawlers or any other robot.

3. Article Marketing & Article Directories
Any attempt to game the system doesn’t usually work out in the world of SEO.

But that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Especially when these tactics offer noticeable improvements to a brand, its website, and/or its associated digital properties.

Sure, article directories worked. And they worked pretty darn good for a long time, too.

Commonly considered one of earliest forms of digital marketing, article syndication was low-hanging fruit to those in the know. And it made sense since the idea was similar to other channels like TV and print that already use syndicated content regularly.

But Google eventually caught on, unleashing its game-changing Panda update in 2011.

Panda chewed up the search landscape, targeting content farms and directories, as well as other websites offering crap content (whether it was simply bad/false, horribly written, makes no sense, or stolen from someone else).

The idea behind article marketing doesn’t make sense in today’s world, where your high-quality content needs to be original and demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

4. Article Spinning
Typically done with software, article spinning is the black-hat tactic of trying to recreate quality content using different words, phrases, and organization.

Essentially the end result was a garbled mess of an article that made the same points as the source material.

It’s no surprise this isn’t effective anymore.

While AI is getting better all the time at creating content, anything generated by a machine is still of a lower quality than what a human can produce – something original, helpful, and of substance.

5. Buying Links
This one is still biting webmasters many years later.

Like most SEO tactics, if it seems shady, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Buying links is no different.

ADVERTISEMENT
Once upon a time, it was routine practice to quickly pay to get a high volume of links pointing at your site.

Now we now that backlink profiles need to be maintained and optimized just like the websites we oversee, and low-quality domains with far too many backlinks pointing to a website may be dangerous to a website’s health.

Google can easily identify low-quality sites, and it will also identify when those sites are sending an abundance of links out that they shouldn’t be.

Today if you want to legitimately help boost the authority and visibility of your website, you need to earn links, not pay someone to build them manually.

6. Anchor Text
Internal linking is a characteristic of any good site structure and user experience.

This is typically done with anchor text, an HTML element that allows us to tell users what type of content they can expect if they click on a link.

There are various types of anchor text (branded, naked, exact-match, website/brand name, page title and/or headline, etc.), but some have most certainly become more favorable than others, depending on the usage and situation.

In the past, using exact-match and keyword-rich anchor text were standard SEO best practices.

Since Penguin, Google has been better at identifying over-optimized content.

This goes back to the Golden Rule about producing well-constructed content that is user-friendly and natural.

If you’re optimizing for search engines and not humans, you’re likely going to fail.

7. Obsolete Keyword Research Tactics
Keywords have certainly gone through some drastic changes over the last five to 10 years.

Marketers used to have a plethora of keyword-level data at their fingertips, allowing us to see what works well for our brand and what doesn’t, but also to get a better understanding of idea targeting and user intent.

Much of this went to the wayside with keyword “(not provided)”.

In the years following, tools popped up that tried to replicate keyword data. But to fully recreate it correctly is simply impossible.

And yet, even with that now-stripped keyword data, marketers are required to do keyword research of their own to get an understanding of the industry, the competition, the geographic region, etc.

To do this, many marketers turn to Google’s free Keyword Planner. While the data in there has been subject to some scrutiny over the years, it’s a free Google-owned product that gives us data we previously couldn’t really come by, so many of us continue to use it (myself included).

But it’s important to remember what the data actually represents for keywords.

“Competition” in the Keyword Planner pertains solely to paid competition and traffic, thus it is practically useless to build an organic search strategy around this data.

Some alternatives to this are the Moz Keyword Explorer tool and SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool, both of which are paid tools.

Google Trends is helpful for this type of competitive analysis, too, and it’s free.

8. Pages for All Keyword Variations
This was once a useful tactic to rank well for all the variations of high-value keywords targeted by your brand and its messaging.

Fortunately, algorithm updates like Hummingbird, RankBrain, and others have helped Google understand that variations of the same word are, in fact, all related to the same topic.

The best, most-useful content around these entities should be most visible due to the value it offers users on the topic, not just one variation of the word.

Aside from the fact that this will lead to brutal site self-cannibalization, it makes a website considerably harder to use and navigate since content will be so incredibly similar.

The negative user experience alone is reason enough not to do this. But the added fact that Google knows better than to overlook this practice makes it a no-brainer.

This tactic evolved and eventually helped lead to the inception of many content farms that were targeting traffic solely for their keyword value and visibility.

This was attributed to the “old way” of optimizing a website — for keywords and search engines, rather than users and their intent.

9. Targeting Exact-Match Search Queries
The tactic of targeting exact-match search queries in hopes to rank for those queries solely for the traffic numbers — and not because the search query or its answer actually pertained to the business optimizing for it — became a somewhat popular practice before the full deployment of the Google Knowledge Graph.

Marketers would strive to rank in the top spot for exact-match search queries to trigger a breakout box and an increased click-through rate for their sites.

10. Exact-Match Domains
Having high-value keywords in your URL makes sense. To some extent.

But when it becomes confusing or misleading (i.e., it results in a bad user experience), you have to draw the line.

A main best practice for domains is to keep it consistent with your brand.

Brand names should be short, concise, and somewhat meaningful.

Why wouldn’t you want the same from your domain?

Google would value exact-match domains a long time ago because it made sense to use it as a signal.

The behavioral data now has helped Google make changes like this (and many others) that are common sense, clean-up moves.

Run a good company and offer great products and/or services under the brand name, and Google will do work of making your brand visible when it’s relevant to the people searching for it.

11. XML Sitemap Frequency
We should never try to manipulate search engine crawlers so that our website is crawled more than others because it believed new content was published or substantial site changes were made.

But, since webmasters did that in the past, the sitemap is used quite differently than what was once intended.

Previously, webmasters could give a priority number to each page of a website listed in the sitemap ranging from 0.0 to 1.0.

Since that was never quite used correctly, crawlers don’t even honor the frequency rating.

Instead, search engines just crawl the content it deems it needs to crawl

Make sure you adhere to XML Sitemap best practices. Sitemaps are an incredibly important element for every website.

12. Bad Content
Face it. There was a time in our world when crappy content could still rank well.

Oh, how times have changed.

Stolen content, thin content, keyword-stuffed content, non-credible content — there was a time when all of this could get by search engine crawlers and regurgitated back to users as worthy results.

But no more.

We know what it takes to make quality content that is rewarded by search engines because they tell us what’s right and what’s wrong.