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Old-timey SEO Strategies (and why we don’t do them anymore)

Dec 18, 2014 / by Stephanie De Leon Patterson

Old-timey-SEO-Strategies-1.jpgSEO has come a long way since the 90s. “Content is king” is the ruling voice today, but that has not always been the case. Long before Google, there was a time where it seemed there were no rules. Even after Google was founded, all was quiet for the first few years. It appeared the search engine was going to leave us to our own devices until the fall of 2002 when the first real algorithm update hit. Over the next decade, Google would continue to make changes to its algorithm, boggling the minds of SEO gurus around the world.

It wasn’t until 2011 that the infamous Panda update hit, targeting thin content websites. The spring of 2012 brought Penguin, aimed at spammy link tactics. Getting hit by an algorithm update is a bit like getting punched in the gut. Seeing your rankings plummet can knock you to the ground and take the wind out of you. Even after you clean up your act, you may not see any improvement in rankings until the next algorithm update.

You might wonder who these supposedly shady websites are that get hit by Penguin and/or Panda algorithm updates, but the reality is those websites used to be the norm. Many companies participated in “black hat” tactics because they were not deemed “black hat” at the time, and they really did work to increase rankings. The finger pointing at those recent victims today may be highly hypocritical. Let’s take a look back at all of our favorite SEO tactics of ‘yore, see which updates hammered them down, and what changes have been made in response to it.

Keyword Stuffing

Before the days of “content is king,” keyword stuffing was king. If you are trying to rank for veterinary clinics in Chicago, why not just stuff “veterinary clinic in Chicago” all over your website? How else are you going to alert Google to what your website is about?

Example:

“We are the best veterinary clinic in Chicago. If you need a veterinary clinic our veterinary clinic would love to help. Our veterinary clinic in Chicago is located at the corner of Chicago Avenue and W Grand Avenue. We look forward to seeing you at the best Chicago veterinary clinic.”

Google has cracked down on keyword stuffed websites, and slapped their wrists via an algorithm penalty. These pages are seen as low-quality sites. Keyword strategies are changing, but they are still important to your campaign. You just need to use them right.

Algorithm penalty:

Panda

The Golden Era:

This practice was most effective before search engines were based on algorithmic decisions. That means you’re looking at something around 20 years old. Around 10 years ago, SEOs called the same basic practices “keyword density” to make it sound more technical. Despite its best years being in the past, though, how many times do you come across websites that still bold their keywords, hoping it will mean something?

Hidden/Invisible Text

For those SEO specialists who knew keyword stuffing was bad for the user experience, hidden text was a preferred method to rank well. Hidden text allowed you to stuff your pages full of keywords, without users being aware of it.

Example:

hidden-text.png

Do you see it? Look closely. “This is hidden text” is copied into the black background many times. Specialists would change the font color to be the same as the background, and fill it with keyword-rich text. The user would almost never notice, and neither did search engines at the time. Today, Google not only notices, but penalizes for hidden text. Have you noticed a dip in your rankings? Thank Panda.

Algorithm penalty:

Panda

The Golden Era:

This was only really effective for as long as it took search engines to realize people were doing it. Its Golden Era was at least 15, if not 20, years ago. Even so, some companies still try to hide things from their users (sometimes text, sometimes whole pages) while making it available to the search engines.

Not a good idea.

Article Spinning

It gets tiresome to write articles about subjects that many other bloggers have already covered. What is the point in taking the time to research and write a blog post, when you could just piggy back off what others wrote? Article spinning allows you to take a blog post already written, enter it into a spinner program, and alter some of the words to create a “unique” post. It is cheap, fast, and easy.

Example:

"The actual apple iphone application shop is definitely an abundant cherish residence of useful apps."

Article spinning is known for creating content that makes your eyes bleed. It is grammatically incorrect, impossible to follow, and as Google likes to call it “thin content”.

Algorithm penalty:

Panda

The Golden Era:

Generating this kind of thin content goes back quite a ways, but it really hit its peak about five to seven years ago. Just in to give the incoming pandas some obvious targets to shoot at.

Link Farming

Link farming is the SEO equivalent to “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” A group of websites would agree to all link to each other, hoping to fool Google by saying: “Look how many links I have! My website is so authoritative!”

Example:

link-farming.png

In theory, it sounds like a great plan. We all need more backlinks, so why not help each other out? Google now considers link farms a scam, and will slap your wrist with a penalty if you are part of one.

Algorithm penalty:

Penguin

The Golden Era:

Link farms like this were a popular tactic around seven to 10 years ago. Some would build their own blog networks, others would rely on sites that did nothing but host links. Modern link building is about quality sources and targeting customers who will actually click on it.

Sblogs

spam.pngOh, spam blogs. When will you learn? Google is the all-knowing big brother, and can smell your fake blog a mile away. Sblogs can range from completely nonsensical to stolen content from other websites, hoping to manipulate search results and occupy rankings for certain keywords.

These blogs were filled with links going back to the main website. I’m sorry to say that Google is not so keen on fake blogs and scammy links anymore, so be prepared for a penalty if you have one.

Algorithm penalty:

Penguin

The Golden Era:

Blogs, in general, can be extremely useful for SEO purposes, and in the last few years, we’ve seen people use them in several different ways. Most recently, guest posting to other blogs was an effective way to generate links. Now, you have to look at guest posting as a way to generate traffic, or you’re just stuck in one of the old methods.

The general consensus of the day is to not poke the bear(s). Google very clearly outlines what is and is not kosher, but at the end of the day it is up to each of us to decide what hat we will wear. Make no mistake, Google is becoming increasingly strict. If you are using any of these tactics, it is only a matter of time before you’re bear food. The thought on everyone’s minds today is: where will Google go in the next Panda/Penguin update?

Topics: SEO Blog

Stephanie De Leon Patterson

Written by Stephanie De Leon Patterson

Stephanie is a content strategist for SEO.com. She enjoys keeping up with the ever-changing SEO industry, spending time with her family, and furry creatures of all kinds.

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