30+ Bad and Outdated SEO Tactics

Anastasia Sidko

Nov 23, 202011 min read
30+ Bad and Outdated SEO Tactics

Sometimes we continue following certain habits or tactics because they used to work for us before. We grew used to them so much that we don't notice that the world has changed and the old practices don't work anymore.

We decided to host a meetup with experts Peter Mead, Sha Menz, and Tim Capper to reveal the most detrimental habits that can ruin your SEO efforts. Dive in to see what they have to say!

Peter Mead

There are so many bad habits that can be very detrimental to your SEO, but now I’d like to focus on things that are related to WordPress SEO.

SEO mistakes that anyone can make

  • Ticking a noindex box.

A lot of people get into this situation: you launch your website, and nothing appears in Google, and you don't know why. The explanation can be simple: WordPress has a setting option with tick "Discourage search engines from indexing your site." If you tick it and forget to untick later, your site won’t index.

  • Not installing an SEO plugin

You don’t necessarily have to have an SEO plugin. But it just makes things happen quicker, especially if you deal with a website where you're publishing a lot. So install Yoast SEO or All-in-One SEO Pack.

  • Not connecting with Google or Bing

It's worth setting up your Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager or Bing Webmaster Tools. It's not that hard, really. It's a little bit of a learning curve at first, but it makes your work easier in the long run.

  • Not submitting sitemap XML

There's a lot of reasons why it's good to have an XML sitemap. And not the least of them is that is helps Google prioritize which pages to crawl and when. So create an XML sitemap and submit it through Yoast or All-in-One SEO plugin.

  • Blocking .js and .css file in robots.txt

You can use it to block certain resources that you just don't want Google to crawl. But if you block important areas, where your JavaScript or your CSS is located, Google just may not be able to crawl your site properly and effectively.

  • Poor internal link strategy

Even not having any internal link strategy at all is better than having a spammy one. Make sure you don’t have too many internal links, links with inappropriate or misleading anchor texts, as well as broken links.

  • Ignoring Google Webmaster Guidelines

You may not think Google Webmaster Guidelines are important, but consider two factors: what’s your appetite for risk, and how much do you stand to lose if your site tanks?

Spammy practices or cheap services

  • Homepage title keyword stuffing.

Basically, the home page title is your best chance to put your brand name and slogan forward. But do not do it by repeating a set of variations of keywords, or it will look like keyword stuffing:



  • Meta description keyword stuffing

Some people think that this is the place where they need to our all the important keywords. But this just looks spammy. It is better to use meta description as an opportunity to put your marketing message out there, including some of your important keywords but written in a readable way.

  • Lazy naming of images

You upload a picture from your camera, and it is named D-20423.JPG. The name means nothing and if you also do not write any ALT text, how one can tell what the picture is about? Name it descriptively, for example, “blue-widget-posing.jpg” and add appropriate ALT text.

  • Errors in HTML code Theme or Plugin

In this case, Google won’t be able to crawl your site properly or index your site in the way that it should. Check your website with the W3C Validator.

  • Using spammy links tactics.

Spend time developing a quality content marketing and targeted outreach campaign, rather than buying cheap advertised links or participating in reciprocal link schemes.

Technical issues and errors

  • Persisting with slow website speed

If you have a slow website, caching plugins and server caching can help to some extend. But if you want real improvements, you need to consider moving to some quality hosting. You can check your website speed with Google PageSpeed Insights.

  • Ignoring permalink structure

It is crucial to have good permalink structure with friendly readable URLs. Here you can know how to do that.

  • Not addressing taxonomies

Let’s take an example: you’ve created a blog post called “My Next Blue Widget”. You put it in the “Blue Widget” category, and tag it with “Blue Widget”. Now you have a URL of an article and you also have a category URL, which is showing the same article and a tag URL which is showing the same article. This can cause a duplicate or cannibalizing effect.

For small sites, you can just noindex taxonomies, and for large websites, you need to optimize them effectively.

  • Putting your blog on a subdomain

Another bad habit is putting your blog on a subdomain like blog.widgetbrand.com. Thus you’re really weakening your blog, as now you need to build authority and trust for this subdomain separately, and you’re sort of competing yourself. It is better to use a subfolder: widgetbrand.com/blog.

Lack of strategy and planning

  • Creating page for every keyword

Thanks to Hummingbird and RankBrain, what matters now is search intent. So think topics rather than keyword variations. For example: “blue widget length” and “blue widget size” have the same search intent, and you don’t need to create separate pages for those.

  • Not doing proper keyword research

A lot of people just don't spend enough time on proper keyword research, including CPC, competition level, keyword difficulty, synonyms and variations, search intent and so on. There are a lot of tools, like SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool that can help with this task.

  • Having poor content marketing strategy

Links are crucial for your website, as Google sees links as a form of endorsement. And with your content, you need to give people compelling reasons to link to your website. So you need to pay special attention to developing a powerful content strategy.

  • Having poor content promotion strategy

It is often forgotten that besides content creation one needs to care about content promotion. To become visible you have to get your content in front of people. A strong promotional strategy includes email lists, targeted PPC, social media, viral content, content syndication, targeted outreach etc.

Sha Menz

Things you can’t ignore with Penguin 4.0

Penguin 4.0 Update was formally announced on the 23rd of September. A lot of people thought that it was the light at the end of the tunnel for them and that their sites would suddenly bounce back to the visibility that they had before Penguin arrived on the scene. For some people that have happened, for others perhaps not. Let’s take a look at what that actually means and some of the things that we know about Penguin.

  • Penguin is now a part of the core algorithm.

It means that Penguin now makes an assessment of the backlink profile and adjustments to rankings in real time. What does the term “real-time” mean? When we talk about real-time in means of the algorithm, of course, it may not be instantaneous. There are some things that have to happen: crawling, processing, assessment and then the response. So, if you do something that you think is going to change your situation with regard to Penguin, you shouldn't expect twenty minutes later that everything will have changed for your website.

  • Penalties no longer apply

Basically what that means is it's not a punitive algorithm anymore. However, that doesn't mean that you can't lose visibility, as loss of link value from newly tagged spam will have a negative effect on your rankings.

  • The effects of the algorithm are more granular

As Penguin 4.0 is granular, the adjustments and assessments will be made against those individual pages or sections rather than just across the entire site as it was before.

  • The effects of the algorithm may also be more granular in other ways.

It may happen, that you would see a partial recovery for specific keywords that you're interested in. For example, you don't bounce back up to page one by your keywords, but you might have gone from page ten to page three perhaps for those particular keywords. That is an indication for you that you're on the right track, but there's more work to be done.

  • Disavow files are recognized and applied in real time

The interesting part about this is that this applies to both additions and deletions from your disallowed files. So it is important to audit your disallowed file and make sure that you haven’t accidentally disallowed entire domains instead of just a specific page.

Disallow files are not dead - they are now the only reliable way to clean up a fishy mess and that is the only way to keep angry Penguins from your door.

Also, don't forget about manual actions, those still do exist. We are seeing quite a flood of manual action that people seem to have acquired since Penguin 4.0 rolled out. So keep checking your manual actions checker in Search Console and make sure that you don't have a manual action that is giving you trouble as well.

People often ask “Is the recovery possible?” It is only possible if you change your bad habits. You need to stop doing some things you’re actually doing:

1) Quit manipulating anchor text

Your anchors should encourage people to click on link and convert, they are created not just for sake of using your keywords. If you make the effort to write anchors that will encourage conversion you'll find that most of the time they are not short tail or even medium tail keyword queries.

2) Quit manufacturing links

If you are taking action to make that link be created - paying for it, doing deals with other people and so one - that's what is called manufacturing links. It is not about good or bad links, it is about natural and unnatural links, or earned or artificially created links.

3) Quit paying for followed links

There's nothing wrong with paying for links as long as you get qualified traffic from them and apply the nofollow tag. This tag created with the purpose of telling search engines, that you don't want them to count the link equity to that link, because it has been created in an artificial way.

4) Quit redirecting for link juice

There are a lot of people who have bought a domain for exact match keyword effect and after some time redirected those domains to a current website in the hope that that would push link through to that site. Thus you're just making a big red flag that tells search engines that you're trying to carve link equity through using those domains.

5) Quit using directory sites

Some directory sites exist that are okay to use: if they bring referral benefit for you, if this is a niche you need to be in, or where your competitors already appear. But do not forget to put nofollow tag to these links as well.

6) Quit making links via WordPress themes, badges, widgets etc.

Perhaps the most egregious thing is coding links into a WordPress theme, where it can’t be seen. Some people do it, then they put the theme out for other people to use for free. And when someone downloads and installs that theme, they create a new link. Just stop doing this.

7) Quit trying to “beat Google”

People always try to get ahead of Google, getting themselves into trouble and then having to get out. The more you try and move from one trick or tactic to another, the more you find yourself in this never ending cycle of always having to worry whether you're going to get caught, getting caught and then having to deal with the consequences.

Tim Capper

Bad Habits in Local SEO

Let's take a look at basic bad habits in local SEO, splitting this down into two sections: on-site SEO and Google My Business page - which is not part of your website, but provides so much visibility, that it certainly should be taken into account.

On Site

Location, location, location

For local SEO your location is the key. If you don't reinforce your location Google will have no idea what the heck you're on about. For a local site the fastest, quickest way to actually reinforce this is actually having your business name, address, telephone number, and email address in your footer.

Connect the signals

The largest location signal for any local business is your Google Business Page, yet people tend to ignore it. Make sure you’ve added the G+ icon next to other social icons.

It is not enough just to grab roughly some coordinates out of Google maps and embed them to your site. Ensure you’ve embedded the map that is actually connected to your Business Page. This will also let you add aggregated reviews.

Also, make sure your business name on your website matches the Google Business page.

Page titles and H tags

By including your location in your page title you will be letting both search engines and people know where your business serves and is located.

For your main page, your H1 should include the name and your overall services, and the H2 would include town and country.

On a product-specific page, the H1 would be the actual product or service, and the H2 would ideally contain the location.

Structured data markup

After you’ve included your location details in your website footer and title and H1 tags, you can use JSON-LD schema markup to annotate the business information.

You should also check if Schema.org supports your type of business. It does support quite a lot things like dentists, clothes shops, art galleries etc. If it doesn’t support your type, use the default of LocalBusiness.


Use Events structured data to have your business events (including SalesEvents) displayed direct in the knowledge panel. Your event needs to have a date, a start time and an end time.

Local content

You need to provide information that your users or your customers find useful. We're all focused on our business and we know what we do, but we have a problem conveying it to a new customer. The idea is to go back and think, "What do my customers want to know about this?" Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What do consumers want to learn about your category, products or services? Do you have snackable content on mobile that answers their questions?

  • Do consumers want to visit your business? Are you helping them find nearby locations and highlighting in-stock inventory on your mobile site/app and in mobile search results?

  • What are consumers doing with your product or service? Do you have how-to video content to support their efforts?

  • Where are consumers buying your products? How can you support consumers who are buying from your in-store or while on the go?

Google Business Page

Unfortunately, all too often people tend to set up their page, they get it verified and that's it, game over. They never go back to it. And this is a big mistake, that’s why: things that you post on your Business page are read, understood and indexed by Googlebot. As a result, Google gets a better understanding of who you are and what you offer.

A couple of things to make your Google Business Page look livable:

  • Add logo and header image in the Dashboard

  • Add a tagline and a story in About Me section

  • Provide images about your business, products and services

  • Encourage customer reviews. Reviews for a business or product have shown to increase conversions by 28, not to mention their impact on a local business.

  • Check Google Business Insights regularly to understand

    • How customers find your listings

    • Where customers find you on Google

    • Customer actions

    • Driving directions requests

    • Phone calls
Author Photo
Anastasia Sidko, Content Manager at Semrush. I have four years of experience in content creation and public relations. My areas of interest include SEO, digital marketing and content marketing.