Five SEO “Best Practices” That Don’t Work Anymore

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Search engine optimization has changed a lot in the last 12 years. Things like writing great content will always be a best practice, but there are a number of things still being recommended online and by some search marketers that no longer work. Some can even actively hurt you.

Keywords tag – The keywords tags found in web page source code were so misused that search engines quit looking at them over 12 years ago. The only thing such tags are now good for is telling your competition what words you think are important. Do all your keyword research, document the words you think are important, but don’t use the “keywords” tag in your source code unless you have a very specific reason to do it. But do continue to use your researched keywords in your copy.


Keyword density – Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page. Historically, you wanted to have your keywords be between 4 & 7% of the total words on the page. This made for pages that were hard to read, but ranked well in the search engines. Search engines have since removed density checks as part of the algorithm. Write great content and use your keywords where they make sense. Don’t shoot for a specific density target. Here’s an example of how to calculate keyword density:


Exact match domains – This is a fairly new change (September 29, 2012). Prior to this update, Google would give a ranking boost to sites that had a domain name that exactly matched a searcher’s query. If someone was searching for “BMI calculator male” they would have seen in the #4 result. After the update, this domain doesn’t show up in the first 100 results. You should have a domain name that is easily identifiable and represents who you are. Use your name, your company name, etc.

Buying links – This has always been a bad idea, but it worked until the Google Penguin update. Links are supposed to be a vote for content from one web page to another. A page owner is suggesting their readers visit another page because it is relevant and the page author believes the reader will find the link page valuable. If a page owner won’t link to you unless you pay them, they don’t think your content is an inherently good fit for their audience. Focus on creating great content that people will want to naturally link to and share with their readers.

Content spinning – Another SEO practice that has always been a bad idea, usually only practiced by fringe “black hat” SEOs. With content spinning, a marketer would take an article, run the keywords through a thesaurus or spinning tool, and republish a “spun” article with the new words. It was possible to publish hundreds or even thousands of versions of an article that were different enough that they weren’t considered duplicates. Search engines would see a site publishing a ton of “unique” content around a specific topic and think the site was an authority. This still goes on to some extent, but the Panda update put a stop to a lot of it.


At the end of the day…the week…the year…the decade…it’s really up to your content to draw readers. Please your readers, and you’ll please the search engines.

Please review our series of SEO 101 posts for SEO basic good practices: