SEO can often feel like there’s an unmanageable amount to learn. Not only do you have to learn all the best practices, but you also have to familiarize yourself with everything that can negatively impact your website and its rankings. Google takes the quality of a website into significant consideration, and while optimizing for search engines is important, user experience is more important than anything else.
However, there are many things you could be doing that you aren’t aware could be hurting your website. The last thing you want to do when you’re trying to improve your website’s SEO is to unknowingly cause it harm, but avoiding this can sometimes be difficult. Fortunately, Google provides guidelines on what to do and not do to ensure you’re creating the best user experience on your website.
Google’s quality guidelines are a non-exhaustive list of deceptive tactics intended to trick search engines that can cause your website to get reported and have Google remove it from being shown its search results.
Google ranks websites with a healthy amount of relevant and valuable content higher. The opposite of this is thin content. Thin content is content that provides little value to users and exists only to try and trick search engines into ranking it higher. There are a few different types of thin content that can be found across the internet. This includes:
Scraped Content – Scraped content is content that has been taken from existing content somewhere else on the internet. This is typically done by a bot, rather than a person. Not only is content scraping a type of blackhat SEO, but it could also be illegal.
Automatically Generated Content – Auto-generated content is created by software, not humans, so it often doesn’t read nearly as well and might not make sense at all. In many cases, auto-generated content does not provide anything beneficial.
Affiliate Websites – Content that appears on many affiliate websites is typically taken directly from somewhere else on the internet. Since users can already find this content on other websites, an affiliate website doesn’t provide any additional value. Websites that participate in affiliate programs are encouraged to create unique content that separates them from the original website a product comes from.
Redirects are necessary in many cases, so these typically won’t hurt your website at all. However, some aren’t used for the reasons they’re intended. A sneaky redirect is one that redirects a user from the page that shows up in their search results to a completely different one. This creates a negative user experience by forcing users onto a page they didn’t choose and tricks Google’s crawlers into thinking users are visiting the initial page, rather than the one they’re directed to.
Cloaking is a tactic similar to sneaky redirects. This is another method of showing users a page other than the one they clicked on while deceiving crawlers. Users are shown one page, while search engines are shown something entirely different.
Doorway pages are used to rank for certain search terms and bring in traffic, only to direct users elsewhere. These can be considered a type of thin content, a form of cloaking, and a type of sneaky redirect.
There are various legitimate ways to earn links to your website. However, there are also a few ways of building links that can get your website penalized. Links schemes are a way of getting links to a website that it didn’t naturally own, so they aren’t a reliable indicator of the website’s reputation. Google can tell the difference between links that a website genuinely earns and links that raise suspicion, so it’s important to know that good links are earned through value, unique content.
Paid Links – Paying for links is a common link scheme that can hurt your website. These links often come in large quantities and are found on low-quality sites.
Hidden Text and Links
Users are unable to see hidden text and links on your website, but these are still visible to search engines. This is done to include more keywords and links to a page in an effort to increase its rankings. Methods of hiding text and links include making the font the same color as the background and making the font so small it cannot be seen.
You want to use your keywords often enough that it makes it clear what the page is about, but there is a limit to this. Using an unnecessary amount of keywords is referred to as keyword stuffing. This involves using a keyword so frequently that the content doesn’t make sense. This not only creates a negative experience for users but search engines will also pick up on it, risking the website getting penalized. Keywords should only be used when it adds value and doesn’t impact the quality of the content.
Safety is of the utmost importance for Google. Websites with malicious behavior are those that intend to cause harm to users, such as by giving them a virus. Google doesn’t want to recommend websites that can put users at risk, and websites that do so face serious consequences.
Automated queries involve using software to send searches to Google, which is only allowed when Google gives you permission to do so. If your computer or device is sending automated queries, you may get a notification about unusual traffic from Google.
Not only do you have to be careful of what you do on your website, but you also need to monitor how users are behaving on it. In some cases, Google may be able to tell that you still have a good-quality website despite user-generated spam, but if there’s too much of it, they may need to take action against you. Even when you know that you aren’t doing anything that can hurt your website, you need to ensure you stay on top of monitoring it to prevent any spam from users.
Ensure Your Website Provides a Positive User Experience
Your top priority for your website should be that it provides something valuable for users. This is what Google looks for when ranking websites, but knowing how to do this yourself can be difficult. You don’t want to make a wrong decision that gets your website penalized. Many big companies have suffered penalties over the years, but giving your website the best chances of ranking highly doesn’t need to be a lot of work on your part. A digital marketing agency that knows all the best practices for enhancing user experience can do all of the work for you.
Contact ENX2 Marketing today to learn more about our digital marketing services.