SEO 101: 5 Bad SEO Habits You Need to Break in 2016

In the SEO world, change is the only constant. With Google making 500 to 600 algorithm changes every year, it’s important to keep up with what’s new for 2016 and what needs to be left behind. With that in mind, let’s jump right into five outdated SEO habits you should break.

Bad SEO Habit #1: Keyword Stuffing

Before 2009, Google and most major search engines used the keywords meta tag field, the area in the backend of a website where you can enter your keywords, to help determine a website’s relevant terms, and this field directly influenced ranking in Google. It became easy for website owners to manipulate the search results by adding in as many keywords as possible into the keywords meta tag field and on page content, so Google started placing less emphasis on this field.

So how do keywords factor in to your metadata and on page content? Today, Google cares more about how you’re naturally using keywords in your content and their placement in title tags and heading tags to convey site relevance to the search engines and the people who might be visiting your site. So, throwing a list of 20 keywords into your keyword meta tags and page content now looks like an attempt to manipulate the search results, which can penalize your site. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so enter one focus keyword into the keyword meta tag to highlight what’s most important on a page or in a piece of content and naturally include it in your on page content. This will help you avoid a penalty from Google while still giving the search engines some context for your page.

Bad SEO Habit #2: Forgetting to Optimize Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

When search engines look at your website, they need a little help deciphering what your page is about. The keyword meta tags definitely help, but title tags and meta descriptions can give the most context to search engines looking to display your website for searches about your products and services and they summarize your page to searchers.

The title tag essentially defines what your page or piece of content is about and should be around 50 to 60 characters. The meta description provides a summary of the page or content piece and should be around 100 to 130 characters. For example, the title tag for this piece of content is “SEO 101: 5 Bad SEO Habits You Need to Break in 2016,” and the meta description is “Learn how to improve your website’s SEO by breaking these bad SEO habits this year.” The title tag and meta description work together to let search engines, and the searcher, know exactly what this blog is about. Make sure to include a relevant focus keyword in both your title tag and meta description to further improve your website’s SEO.

Bad SEO Habit #3: Not Including Local in Your SEO

You know where your business is located and the geographic areas you serve customers in, but that isn’t always the case for major search engines like Google.

Make sure you’re including geographically specific keywords in your content and meta tags. It’s not enough to just talk about your products and services on your website. You need to be talking about your products and services in relation to your geographical area or city. For example, if you own an HVAC repair business in Dallas, you can include content about Dallas on your pages, in your meta tags, and in your site’s code so that search engines know when to show your website for searches in that specific area. Don’t take for granted that Google and the other search engines are going to know where your customers live.

In addition, make sure your website is technically optimized for your primary location, and that you are using local markup on your site that is consistent with how your location information is displayed in your local listings. Google and other search engines look for consistency in Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) across your website and local listings when determining where you will appear in search results, so maintaining updated information listed consistently should be an important part of your local SEO strategy.

Bad SEO Habit #4: Writing for Search Engines Instead of People

Google has spent the last few years trying to encourage website owners to write for the people searching rather than the search engines. Google has released several updates that reward websites that adhere to this practice and penalize websites that don’t. For example, the Panda Algorithm Updates released over the last several years recognize and reward quality content written for the user. With this update, unique content that adds value to a topic and addresses the searcher’s query directly is going to perform better in the search results than poorly written, barely legible content with randomly stuffed keywords throughout it.

Google took this even further with the Google Hummingbird Update in 2013. With the Hummingbird Update, Google introduced Semantic Search to their algorithm. Essentially, Google learned that for some keywords, A=B. This was revolutionary for the world of search and made it easier to write content for people because Google understood that “Dallas Hotels” meant the same thing as “Dallas Hotel.”

Why is this important, you ask? It’s important because it allows you to write directly for your customers and prospective customers without having to jump through linguistic acrobatics to get Google to properly index and suggest your website in their search results. In 2016, make sure you’re writing for your website users and customers. Don’t just speak at your customers; speak directly to your customers.

Bad SEO Habit #5: Ignoring Mobile Search

According to Google’s Amit Singhal, during the summer of 2015, more Google searches were performed on mobile phones than were performed on desktop computers. While this may not come as a surprise to people who live on their mobile phones, this mobile search trend is expected to continue as we move further into 2016.

In the past, it was perfectly fine to not have a mobile or responsive website for small screen devices like mobile phones and tablets. In 2016, however, Google prefers to serve websites that are mobile friendly for searches conducted on mobile devices, and has even created a mobile-friendly tag and a mobile website test to emphasize this preference. Now, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, there’s a chance it may not appear in mobile searches.

Your SEO Strategy

So, what does this all mean for your website? It means that if you aren’t focusing on all users, writing content for searchers instead of search engines, and tailoring your website for mobile, you’re not going to get the most out of your SEO efforts.

What bad SEO habits are you resolving to leave behind in the new year? Let us know in the comments.

Scott Davis

Scott Davis is the SEO Analyst for Strategic Accounts at ReachLocal. His professional experience in marketing spans over 17 years and includes public relations, direct sales, direct promotional marketing, event planning, e-commerce marketing, writing, editing, website design, website development, search engine optimization and search engine marketing. He is an avid music fan and plays acoustic and electric guitar.

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  • Carolina Pickens

    These are all great reminders for content writers and those who work with SEO. Thanks for sharing!