One of the worst things that could ever happen to an eCommerce website is a fall in ranks. Usually, bad SEO practices are the usual suspect behind. And that is mild if you compare it to what can happen when you’re penalized by Google. But what could ever cause Google to penalize you?
A lot, actually. You’d be surprised by the number of black hat tricks or bad SEO practices employed by webmasters in order to appear on Google’s page one. However, for the purpose of this article, we are only going to list the top 10 of the worst SEO practices that make Google penalize you.
1. Keyword Stuffing
There was a time when site owners actually got away with this bad SEO practice. But I am getting ahead of myself. You’re not sure what I’m talking about because this is such an old practice–perhaps before your time. What is keyword stuffing? Let me let Google tell you:
“Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.
In other words, Keyword stuffing is when you place your keywords too many times in your web content. You’ve probably seen it, because unfortunately, it is still being used today, but didn’t know what it was. Have you ever been to a website after your search term produced some favourable looking results, but when you try to read the article it doesn’t really make sense? I like WebFX’s example (The keyword, in this case, is “yellow rubber duckie.”):
“Get a yellow rubber duckie for your children”. A yellow rubber duckie is a charming toy, so buy a yellow rubber duckie today. With a yellow rubber duckie, you can have tons of yellow rubber duckie fun. It’s easy to make bath time great with a yellow rubber duckie, and a yellow rubber duckie from our company guarantees yellow rubber duckie enjoyment.
According to Google, don’t do that. Not only will it damage your brand, but you will lose credibility with your clients. Your website falling in Google rankings is also a negative outcome.
2. Duplicate Content (Whether Yours Or Others)
What is duplicate content? Let’s hear from Google: Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or are appreciably similar.”
In other words, either you or someone working for you decided that the content on another website matches info you would like to share with your audience. However, instead of using the content as reference, you instead chose to copy word for word that content on your website.
If that is you, stop it! It’s not worth it. We know content is king. That’s why the Best SEO in Canada offers evergreen content at affordable prices. We guarantee that every article written will pass plagiarisma.
We know that by and large, people are honest, so sometimes mistakes happen. You didn’t deliberately set out to duplicate content, however you recently updated content on your website, accounting for the duplication. If this is you, don’t panic. All you have to do is use 301 redirectswhen you create new pages so that the old pages are no longer accessible.
You can also use the tag: rel=canonical for pages with similar content, in order that Google, or any other search engine for that matter, will know which content is the original; while the “no index” tagshould be used for those pages you do not want Google to search.
Let’s take this article for example: You’re reading this article, Top 10 of the Worst SEO practices That make Google Penalize You, and we noticed that it was getting traction and moving up the ranks, we could not use this content on any other page or website that we own (even though we are the original owners of the content). We would be penalized by Google if we were to “duplicate” this content.
3. Scraped Content
Further to #2 is scraped content. What’s the difference, you ask? It’s like apples and oranges. They are both fruits, but not all fruits are apples or oranges. So scraping does result in duplicate content, however, the act of scraping is deliberately copying and pasting content and publishing it as your own.
While Google will overlook duplicate content if they recognise that identical content which (often unintentionally) appears in more than one place on your site, they will penalize websites with scraped content–and you can bet they know the difference.
4. You’re linking to low-quality sites
According to Google, “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”
So, if you have links pointing to low quality websites, Google will penalize you.
5. You’re buying links
Further to #3 above, is the practice by link builders and some webmasters of purchasing links. Whether you choose to pay for a slot on a blog post so you can add links, or you are directly purchasing links in a directory, buying links is one of the fastest ways for you to get penalized by Google.
According to Google, exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links is considered a violation of their guidelines.
“Cloaking refers to the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engines. Cloaking is considered a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines because it provides our users with different results than they expected”. (Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
It is a very bad SEO practice to show one content to the web crawlers in order to rank higher, while showing a different content to your site visitors. If you do this, you will be penalized by Google.
BTW, Google is aware that hackers use cloaking to hide their activities, so the only instance you will not be penalized by Google is if your website gets hacked.
7. Auto-generated content
Interestingly, this makes the top 10 list because Google does take action against websites where content is automatically generated (also called “auto-generated”—content). Believe it or not, filling pages with auto-generated contents is a sign of bad SEO practices.
If your content is “translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing”, “generated from scraping Atom/RSS feeds or search results” and “generated through automated processes”, among others, they are all considered auto-generated content and will be penalized by Google.
This is sometimes done to save time and money, but you could end up being penny wise and pound foolish. If you must have these types of content on your site, Google has some best practices you can implement to prevent them from showing up in Search.
8. Doorway Pages
This is an interesting one, because there was a time when doorway pages were considered good SEO practice. To use BrightEdge’s example, “…a nail salon with two branches that wants to bring in traffic for two cities may have pages targeted for each city that have the same or similar content and describe the same nail salon”.
Six years ago, this would have been an okay SEO practice. However, the good must now suffer for the bad, as search engines realize unscrupulous black hat technicians have manipulated the system to create doorway pages that lead searchers to intermediate pages (as final pages) that are not useful.
So have you guessed what are doorway pages? Indeed, it’s having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page. But in the case of Bad SEO practice they are sites or pages created to rank for specific, similar search queries.
According to Google, “They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination”.
9. Hidden Text
While hiding text in and of itself is no longer considered them as bad SEO practices, Google may consider it a violation of their webmaster guidelines and penalize you.
What Google penalizes is the deliberate attempt to manipulate the system in order to trick search crawlers.
For example, making your keyword text the same colour as the background of your website or locating text being an image. Because search crawlers are robots, or bots, they don’t see the Internet the same way we do. They can see your “invisible” keywords. And they are smart enough to know the difference, especially in cases where keyword stuffing is present.
10. Sneaky Redirects
According to Google,
“Redirecting is the act of sending a visitor to a different URL than the one they initially requested. There are many good reasons to redirect one URL to another, such as when moving your site to a new address, or consolidating several pages into one.
However, some redirects deceive search engines or display content to human users that is different than that made available to crawlers. It’s a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines to redirect a user to a different page with the intent to display content other than what was made available to the search engine crawler”
So there you have it: Straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. Need we say more?
We at Best SEO in Canada know you would never wittingly use any of these top 10 worst SEO practices that make Google penalize you. But just in case you unwittingly did and now your website has lost its ranking. Don’t panic. It’s reversible. Let us help you.
If you have questions about avoiding bad SEO practices or can suggest a few more, send them to us in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!