Most often best SEO practices focus on the good practices to prevent you from penalties like Penguin or Panda or whatever, but many people forget another big (and maybe worst) SEO problem, the bunch of insignificant SEO Maluses that a website can collect.
SEO Maluses: Often worst than penalties
An SEO Malus is a bad point you get when you send a negative signal (whatever if is significant or insignificant). Sending one, two, three of these signals will maybe never hurt your website at all, especially if at the same time you’re spreading a lot of good vibes. But if you start to send more and more bad signals and at the same time you’re not showing enough good signals, this can become a serious problem
The reason why SEO Maluses can be even more sneaky than a penalty is because you don’t understand what’s wrong. You’re seeing your website not performing without having any idea on how to fix this issue. Believe me, I m seeing this happen every day, and most often it happens to people that are too much SEO Centric. This list isn’t exhaustive of course but shows some common examples of actions (or inactions) that for my opinion can trigger bad SEO Signals.
#1 SEO Malus: The “no reason” backlink pattern
I m seeing this a lot. Websites not updated for a while and suddenly, getting new backlinks.This sounds like a miracle right? Whatever if these backlinks look organic or not, if they come from authority websites or not, if they are contextual or not, if the anchor text is keyword rich or not, isn’t it strange that a website on which nothing is happening, is getting new backlinks?
#2 SEO Malus: The “perfectly on-topic” backlinks
The main idea behind this practice is that best links are those that comes from pages on the same topic. So, on-topic backlinks sound good while off-topic backlinks are evil.Think about it for a second and just try to imagine how could the web graph looks like if links were targeting only documents that discuss the same topic: Disconnected topical clusters (search engines spiders couldn’t crawl the entire web starting from only a single link).
Now let’s get a simple example. What could we think about a sneakers e-commerce that gets links only from other sneakers retailers, or even only from fashion bloggers? While this sounds good to get the max topic sensitive Pagerank, can we think that these links are really organic? At this point why not adding my competitor phone number directly on my header’s website? 🙂
Yes, links must be contextual and relevant, but that doesn’t mean referrals should only discuss the same topic. It doesn’t make sense. That said if my website discusses “heart disease” of course that getting links from highly reputable health websites is very important…
But what if I’m selling sneakers guys? What looks more organic? Getting links from someone else that sells sneakers or getting links from my satisfied customers. Men and women that could be fashion bloggers, or why not SEO Experts (time ago if I remember well Rand Fishkin was loving yellow shoes, right?).
#3 SEO Malus: Full Keyword Distribution
By “full keyword distribution”, I mean all these websites where every single page targets a well-chosen keyword. This is another obvious pattern for my opinion. A lot of people does the things approximately in that way, they look for broad and long tails keywords, they select the ones that fit better their business needs, they group those keywords in clusters and then they build a whole website around these clusters. They call it “a content strategy”.
#4 SEO Malus: The 500 words Symptom
This is one of my favorites. The 500 words article myth is something terrible not only for SEOs but for humanity. Try to imagine your reaction when you only need to know what’s the name of the currency in turkey and land on a 500 words monster. It’s in these moments that you say to yourself “Yeah, the knowledge graph is a pretty good feature”. A few years ago people were talking about the 300 words threshold, now it’s 500, and probably next year it will be 666. What a pattern! Can you only imagine a website where 80% of articles are all around 500 words length. Yes, there is a real magic threshold for words count, but you need to continue reading to discovering later.
#5 SEO Malus: Always the perfect image alt attribute
Do you remember the Full Keyword Distribution we discussed before? Now imagine the same website having on every page, the targeted keyword in the first alt image attribute. Chapeau! That said if you are optimizing the image of your product page for Nike Air Fax, of course, you need to use the keywords in the alt attribute, but just because it perfectly describes the content of the image.
#6 SEO Malus: The unidentified flying title
Show me your title and I’ll tell you who you are. We all already know that the title is one of the most important tags where we need to add our keyword. We also know that the title must be short the main keyword on the left, bla bla bla.
And your brand name dude? What can we think about you if you use your “brand name” only on your homepage title tag? What can we expect from Google in that case? I m not telling you that you can get a penalty for that, I m just showing you how we can get an idea about people using little and insignificant details.
SEO Best practices to avoid these issues
#1 SEO Best practice:
Revive your site or make sure something is really happening on it before making any link building effort.
#2 SEO Best practice:
Before going on with link building ask yourself if on your niche, linking between competitors seems natural. In internet marketing, for example, professionals tend to link to each other because content curation is important, they all share knowledge and often links to interesting stuff. But that’s not necessary the case in your industry, and if so, it’s better that you take your time before going on with link building, and really think about WHO may organically link to you, WHERE (Blog?Forum?Whatever) and WHEN (promotion?). Last but not least, if you sell shoes online, for example, think about all these topics that can be connected, sports, trekking, back pain…
#3 SEO Best practice:
Define your keywords and find them the right place on your content strategy, do not build your content strategy only around your keywords. Use SEO Hero topic explorer and find related topics that could be interesting for your users. Make sure to cover your topic and not only targeted queries.
#4 SEO Best practice:
The right article length is the minimum length you need to answer to the need. An image sometimes is better than a long text. And if your subject needs to be treated with and in-depth article, make an in-depth article and do not focus on the length. Sometimes the perfect length is 500 words, why not. If you use to buy content on platforms where you need to specify a length, ask for a range and make it large.
#5 SEO Best practice:
Do the thing that they tell you from at least 15 years, use the alt attribute to describe what there is in this f…ing image. If the image represents a black Labrador that is running, the alt attribute must be “black Labrador running” not “dog training Chicago”, is that so hard to understand?
#6 SEO Best practice:
Always add your brand name in your titles, but not only. A common title tag optimization best practice is to add the brand name at the beginning of the title if you have an important brand awareness or at the end of your titles if nobody knows you. You can follow this best practice but you can also ask yourself this question: Are my keywords more important than my brand? How to build brand awareness if I m not making efforts to make it more visible? How much topical relevancy am I really going to lose if my brand appears before my main keyword? And last, is Google no able to recognize which part of my title tag is about my brand and which about the targeted web page?