The battle between search engines and the SEO crowd is one of the most exciting events nerds can observe today because it is perhaps the first global fight between human and artificial intelligence.
Here are the players in this epic battle: on the one side the search engines, which try to serve up the most relevant, original search results; on the other side your website, which you want to see ranking as high as possible.
The algorithms which control search results are being tweaked several times a day, partly by humans, and increasingly by AI. So in essence, you are up against a machine learning algorithm that is getting smarter by the second. That means, of course, that you will lose. The SEO business will die out eventually. As the artificial intelligence behind the algorithms is getting more and more sophisticated, the only thing that will be able to game it is another AI. So all the technical little tricks we now use to improve SEO will become a thing of the past.
We are not there yet. But what was true about SEO last year, may no longer be revelant. It's a rat race, and the tactics that used to be successful may by now harm your SEO.
Here are three (of many) things often touted as highly important to SEO which you should absolutely avoid from now on.
Google's initial approach was simple: if many sites link back to site X, site X must be relevant. But it is easy to build multiple sites that link to one site. Back in mid 2013, Google realized that this feature was being manipulated on a massive scale. Websites sprung up with the sole purpose of creating backlinks; whole pyramid schemes emerged to make content look more important.
Today, the algorithm considers only relevant backlinks important, i.e. one backlink from the BBC to your site is more important than 100 backlinks from irrelevant sites. To determine what a "relevant backlink" is, Google uses thousands of factors over which you have no control. The lesson to learn here is simple: don't create backlinks, but focus on content that people actually want to link back to. Having lots of backlinks from irrelevant sites will actually lower your SEO results.
Writing keyword content
It is incredible how persistent this myth is. You still find articles around today that tell you to do your keyword research and stuff your content with a few relevant keywords. But the almighty algorithm has evolved. Google and other search engines now use advanced textual analysis to determine whether content is actually valuable information, recognizing synonyms, meaningless drivel, copies, rewrites, and even translations. Content trying to game the systems with keyword inflation are now being punished as thin content.
Guest blogging for SEO
It sounds like such a meaningful thing, getting your guest article posted on other sites. But what started as a perfectly legitimate trend was soon being abused, creating far too much spammy and irrelevant content. This is why Google now punishes it. Guest blogs should only be used if you have a good relationship with someone, if that someone's site is actually a valuable resource and has a high SEO ranking already, or on reputable websites with strict editorial processes. Don't accept guest blogs from nobodies, and don't do guest blogs on irrelevant sites. It will harm your SEO in the long term.
There is a pattern here: every tactic that tries to game the system will end up being punished by Google, because Google has a legitimate interest in blocking spammy and irrelevant content. If something is purposely manipulated to rank higher, it is by definition less valuable to google. As the AI behind it evolves, all tactics will become ineffective, leading ultimately to the demise of the entire concept of SEO. There is only one rule of SEO in the future: writing useful, relevant content.
So stop wasting your time on tactics, and focus instead on relevance and authenticity. It may take more effort and time, but it is ultimately a more rewarding way to SEO results.