SEO continues to rapidly evolve, and with it so do bad SEO ideas. Focusing on keyword meta tags, keyword stuffing, and hoarding PageRank are some of the bad SEO oldies but goodies. Here's another golden oldie: buying links from hundreds of cheap directories.
All of these ideas may have worked at one time, but that was when the search engines were newborn babies and those who didn't cheat were at a real disadvantage. Over time, the search engines have grown up and now they do a much better job of dealing with spam techniques. These sorts of bad ideas have fallen by the wayside, except among those who know little about SEO.
Let's look at three bad ideas that are big factors in the SEO space.
1. One Size Fits All
Beware of an SEO firm that uses a single formula on all their projects. This is a formula that they have developed over time, and it may have worked for them many times. However, a formula that worked on some other Web sites may not work on yours.
Each Web site is its own animal in the eyes of the search engines. Part of this is the complexity of their algorithms and the subtleties that can result in differing ways of interpreting what they find on a site, but another key part is that they look for different things on different categories sites. Their expectations for a retail flower site can be quite different than what they look for on a cancer awareness site, for example.
2. Copy What the Large, Successful Sites Did
Unfortunately, it isn't that simple! There is a first mover advantage that is natural to the Web. The first publisher to stake out a market space tends to get lots of links before new players follow their lead. This link profile provides them with a stamp of authority in the space, so they can get away with things that will be soon as poor quality SEO on a site that is less well linked.
3. My Competitor Gets Away With Cheating, so I Should Cheat Too
This is one of the more frustrating parts of SEO. Nearly every Web publisher knows of competitive Web sites that buy links, implement link spam schemes, use doorway pages, or use other spammy techniques without getting penalized.
Seeing this creates a strong desire to copy them, because it seems to work for their competitors. Unfortunately, many publishers do this and don't get the same results. They get banned or otherwise penalized.
It feels unjust, and at some level that's true, but search engine algorithms do the best they can. The result is that some people get away with things (for a while), and it costs the honest businessman a pretty penny. However, copying their spam techniques can easily cost you even more. You just need to ride this one out, and wait for the search engines to catch up with that spammy competitor.
Unfortunately, SEO is an area that remains little understood by the general populace. Want to see what I mean? Try describing what you really do to someone at a party, and watch their eyes glaze over.
Those people who begin to learn a little bit about it can become really dangerous to themselves or, if they become SEO consultants, harmful to their clients. The only defense against this is education. Publishers without sufficient knowledge will continue to be at risk of doing things that they think should work, but most of the time they don't. Sad, but true.