We’ve entered a new decade, and with a new era comes the due responsibility of saying good riddance to bad habits and practices. In SEO, this is no exception. In 2020, we can expect search giants to tighten up their criteria, bringing smarter algorithms and an emphasis on quality to the forefront.
So what does that mean for your brand? I believe it means it’s time to part ways with a few SEO practices that could be doing more harm than good. As the managing director of a digital marketing company, I’ve determined five strategies to avoid this year:
1. Duplicating Content On International Websites
If you own a number of top-level domains (or TLDs) across different countries, you need to understand that each country comes with its own linguistics, speech and consumer behaviors, and all of that translates into search queries.
By copying your content from your “.com.au” TLD, for example, and replicating it across your “.co.uk” TLD, you’re missing out on the opportunity to geographically target the right audience, even if you do make use of geolocation and language tags. Google’s algorithms are complex, meaning there’s no end to the ways it can narrow down on your specific target audience, so using the same content won’t get you there.
If you’re looking to expand your business into a new country, create customized, targeted content that speaks specifically to them. They have their own interests and needs; they’re not your same audience from the other side of the world. You need to put the effort in to make sure:
• Your content is geotargeted to your audience.
• You’re not duplicating or causing your existing TLD’s content harm by cannibalizing it.
• You’re creating a unique user experience for anyone who lands on these pages.
2. Link Schemes
You might think if you register around 10 high-quality, expired domains that just point back to your primary website, that’ll give your brand some “juice” on Google, right?
I still see SEO “experts” preaching the power of this, but in 2020, it’s time to stop. If you do decide to initiate a link scheme, it’s possible that you could see positive results for a few weeks, months or even longer. But if you’re planning on using this approach for the long-term, you’ll likely be caught, and those results will almost instantly vanish. Trying to influence Google this way manipulates the values the algorithms run on. What you could end up with is a penalized website and loss of business.
So avoid it. I always tell my customers that trying to cheat a search engine is like lying or cheating on your partner and then getting caught. It can take a very long time to earn that trust back (if you even do at all).
3. Having Your Mobile Website Be Different Than Your Desktop Version
Have you ever heard of “mobile parity”? This term refers to both the mobile version of your website and your desktop version looking equal to each other. Neither should offer more value to the user than the other, and they should both give a seamless user experience and easy flow to conversion.
Now, it will be even more important to make sure your two versions look the same. They need to resemble each other so that your users don’t feel frustrated or confused when they cross devices or try to work out how to engage with your brand. With more than 5 billion people actively using smartphones across the globe, ensuring you’re double-checking all website elements is a must. This includes:
• Checking internal links;
• Making sure visuals are the same;
• Ensuring any redirects are operating properly;
• Making the branding look consistent;
• Making sure content is easy to access, digest and navigate on both versions;
• Making sure the website loads fast.
Failing to do this could mean your audience finds a gap in your messaging or that they don’t feel they can relate to your brand at all.
4. Fake Product Reviews
Buying or faking product reviews is something you should definitely avoid, no matter what your intentions are. Perhaps you’ve suddenly obtained a one-star rating that’s plummeting your conversion rate. I get it. But taking the time to understand why you got that rating in the first place and making proactive moves to collect positive ones is the better path to success.
Paying for reviews is illegal in some countries. In the U.K., for example, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took action against a marketing firm that used fake reviews to increase its SEO and conversions. This is because choosing to write or pay for fake reviews breaches certain regulations, which in this case included violating the U.K.’s Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
In Australia, things aren’t so different. You’re likely to face a number of bodies if you do decide to tread these waters. And, of course, Google’s against this. If you think you can outsmart their systems to know whether your review is genuine or not, trust me, they know.
5. Leaving Images Unoptimized
Often overlooked, this is an easy task, and it shouldn’t be thrown into the “another day” basket. You should take every chance to show up in rankings, and this includes image searches.
When you’re in the process of adding images to your site, don’t forget to include the image file name and alt attribute. Word of warning: Don’t overstuff these with keywords. Instead, use a description of the image. For example: “A modern coffee table featuring a sleek finish.”
There are many do’s and don’ts on this topic, which I can cover another time. All in all, I wish you to have entered 2020 with a solid set of tactics you know to use, and those that you should throw away with your old resolutions. It’s time for positive brand outcomes, and with the New Year comes refreshed thinking, better strategies and clarity around how to achieve your goals.