One of my biggest pet peeves is “SEO experts” who continue trying to game search engines. I have news for you: You’re not an SEO expert if your way of thought begins with how you can manipulate search results. Search Engine Optimization should not even be thought of as a separate discipline or activity when it comes to building a quality website with qualified and sustainable organic traffic. There are still websites out there engaging in practices that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

I recently came across a client with old doorway pages living on their website, and no one realized they were still live on the website. The only reason I found them was because I was going through their XML sitemap. Doorway pages are landing pages specifically designed to rank for a specific keyword, they are inaccessible by main navigation, the content is typically very thin, and in this case the content was duplicated across eight different pages.

The deadly SEO sins are as follows:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Cloaking
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Hidden text or links
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped content
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
  • Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware
  • Abusing rich snippets markup
  • Sending automated queries to Google

Some of these techniques are sparsely used today, but the most common ones many of you are still engaging in are generating automated/spun content from third parties, scraping content from other sources, abusing rich snippet markup, abusing metadata optimization, and engaging in artificial link building schemes. Google works extremely hard to make sure you don’t succeed, and their manual penalties take a very long time to reverse once the damage is done.

It’s 2014, and it’s time for you to stop acting like an SEO person and start acting like a marketer. Approach all of your digital strategies like you would a traditional marketing strategy. Define your goals, build a strategy, create a campaign and content that your customers will love, and track the results/conversions.

Follow these guidelines when you approach your digital marketing strategy, and you’ll never need to worry about a search engine penalty or how often Google Panda and Penguin are being updated.

  • Create websites for users, not for search engines. Everything you design, develop, and write should be geared creating an unbelievable user experience.
  • Don’t deceive your website users. It’s that simple, use the Golden Rule. Don’t engage in any practices that you wouldn’t want practiced on you.
  • Stop trying to game search engines. Ask yourself the question, “If Matt Cutts was looking over my shoulder right now, would I feel good about the practices I use to optimize my website?”
  • Identify the unique propositions that separate you from your competition. Once you identify those characteristics, build a strategy to highlight them on your website.

Do you think your website is losing out on performance because of bad practices from the past? If so, post a comment here and I’ll help investigate it for you.