The SEO Strategies That Are Outdated in 2020

Every industry experiences change over the years. SEO strategies are especially prone to quick evolution – which means content creators and digital marketers need to keep their heads on a swivel.

We already know that keyword stuffing and poorly formatted websites can doom a brand’s SEO, but we’ve got some other popular SEO strategies that are old news. The following tactics aren’t just outdated – they’re potentially detrimental to the online health and success of your site.

Pay attention to the following strategies. Have you been using any of them as crutches? If so, it’s time to rethink your plan of action for 2020 Google search trends.

Acting Like Paraphrasing Isn’t Duplicate Content

Ever since grade school, we’ve all envisioned the word “plagiarized” as a big fat, glowing, neon-red sign. It’s a solid way to doom any content, from that paper you submitted in eighth grade to the blog post you just whipped up for your company website.

However, what many don’t realize is that plagiarism’s less-scary twin, paraphrasing, can be just as detrimental to a website. Although paraphrasing does switch things up and might not use the exact words that the original source does, it’s still a copy of an original thought or phrase that doesn’t belong to you.

Image Source: Future Learn

There are dozens of tools out there that encourage people to paraphrase, even doing the reworking for you, but it’s a trap: Google can still view that paraphrased content as duplicate content, and that’s a major mark against your SEO strategy.

So, the question is, what counts as duplication and what counts as a summary of knowledge that anyone could find or might already know?

The key is to remember that Google is smart – it treats various kinds of duplicate content differently. For instance, it will view a straight-up copied piece of content much differently than it will view a quote or summary that’s been implemented in original content.

Therefore, it’s up to you to be extremely careful when spinning any content – paraphrased or not. Google is looking for unique text in 2020, so if it determines that your paraphrasing occurred as a method of copying or duplicating, it won’t do you any good.

You might think that duplicate content is a concern of the early 2010s, but unfortunately, it’s still a real problem for many brand’s content marketing and SEO strategies.

If you must quote something or provide a definition, make sure that you’re citing your sources in an open way that Google can recognize. Leave no room for error when it comes to duplicate content that can work against your other SEO efforts – you might even want to use a duplicate content checker to cover all of your bases.

Link Buying and Exchanging

We’ll be upfront: building good backlinks takes time. If any scheme says otherwise, it’s likely a sketchy ploy that will end up hurting your SEO strategy more than helping.

Whether it’s automating your link-building schemes with spammers or using private blog networks (both very common shortcuts) you’ll likely face thin content penalties from Google. The search engine giant wants to see you include links that have real value, and if it thinks you’re gaming the system to rank better, it’ll recognize the red flags.

Image Source: SEO Powersuite

Google clearly states that:

“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.”

At the end of the day, link buying – or exchanging them for something else isn’t a long-term – viable strategy. Sure, it might get you a boost at the beginning, but where will it take you in a few years when your site is being penalized and your links aren’t actually valuable?

Focusing on Quantity Over Quality

There was a time when more equaled better in terms of SEO strategies. The goal was to create tons of content and cram in as many keywords as possible. Now, we know better – quantity is certainly not important if the quality of your tactics is low.

When Google decides how to rank a page, there are five key factors it considers:

  • The meaning of the searcher’s query
  • The relevance of the webpages presented
  • The quality of the content
  • The usability of the webpage
  • The context and settings

Although there are technically more than 200 factors used by Google to rank websites, these are the big ones. Notice that none of these factors have anything to do with the frequency of your posting – ranking is all about presenting the best information possible to the searcher, and that’s where quality overrides quantity.

Image Source: Netgain SEO

In recent years, another finding has fueled this emphasis on quality over quantity. It was found that blog posts that are longer (over 2000 words in most cases) were ranked better in Google search results. In addition, these longer posts were also shared more on social media.

A study conducted by serpIQ (reported by Quicksprout) found that in searches for more than 20,000 different keywords, the average content length for any page in the top ten search results has at least 2,000 words.

Now, it would be faulty to assume that this just means longer is better. What all the signs seem to be pointing at is the need for helpful, engaging content that readers can really dig their hands into. It’s difficult to learn all you need to from a 300-word blog post, but a 2000-word post? Not so much.

Similarly, stuffing keywords is the way of the past – optimizing keywords that satisfy user intent is the way of the future.

Image Source: G2 Learning Hub

Keywords can be extremely effective when used deliberately. That’s why Google encourages content producers to “focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.” If the keyword isn’t helpful or relevant to the reader, then it’s probably considered stuffing.

You should also ensure that all of your keywords are 100 percent related to what you’re talking about. Going off on a separate tangent just to fit in a keyword won’t seem natural to a reader – or to Google.

This brings us to something else you should consider when it comes to better keyword usage: long-tail keywords. These keyword “phrases” may have a lower search volume, but they are more specific – meaning you are more likely to attract interested users.

Image Source: Ahrefs

Studies, like the one that generated the results above, have found that long-tail keywords are somewhat “unpopular,” and yet they often convert extremely well. Roughly 29.13 percent of the keywords that get more than 10K monthly searches are comprised of three or more words.

Don’t stick to the one-word tags you know and love – branch out to find keywords that bring even more quality to your content. Remember: you’re writing for a real audience, not just Google, and they’ll be happy to see words and phrases that are highly relevant to what they’re researching.

Purposeless Guest Blogging

Over 60 percent of blogs publish at least one to five guest posts per month, and yet, there’s one big aspect that too many writers leave out: purpose.

When you’re reaching out to another website to offer a guest post, what are you hoping to obtain? Link juice? Shares? Awareness?

In some cases, these can be valid SEO strategies – but on a grand scale, guest blogging has become a bit of a low-quality, slap-dash affair. What we’re seeing is many companies paying bottom dollar for freelancers to create low-quality content for the sole purpose of link building. As a result, the goal is simply to make the content passable so site editors publish it – adding real value is secondary.

Google has changed the way it views guest posting, yet again in a way to promote higher quality content. The Panda algorithm is excellent at reading and interpreting texts, as well as the intention behind them.

So, if you decide you want to broaden your scope or reach a wider audience with a guest post, here’s how to do it correctly:

  • Write for websites that are actually in your area of interest or industry
  • Only work with credible blogs; a link is only worthwhile if it comes from a good source
  • Show off your own knowledge and voice, even if it’s someone else’s site
  • Provide super relevant (non-promotional) backlinks to your own website and content

Guest posting can help your SEO – but only when done with a sense of purpose.

Mediocre Media Creation  

“High quality, useful information that conveys a story presented in a contextually relevant manner with the goal of soliciting an emotion or engagement. Delivered live or asynchronously, content can be expressed using a variety of formats including text, images, video, audio, and/or presentations.” – Heidi Cohen

Content can come in any media form – audio, video, text, you name it. However, if you haven’t defined what “quality” content is for your specific brand, you might be spitting out media that isn’t beneficial to you or your readers.

Image Source: MediaPost

Take a look at the information provided by MediaPost. Sure, more brands are producing “meaningful” content – but a two percent increase between 2017 and 2019 isn’t going to be enough to fuel most websites into top-ranking positions. You need more purposeful, helpful content – STAT.

Think about the queries and subjects your content team commonly addresses or hot topics within your industry. Take a peek at what ranks in position zero when you search these concepts on Google. Take note – if a link is in position zero, it’s for good reason, and you can probably see what kind of content meaning the search engine is looking for.

Image Source: Glass Bead Consulting

Although the above graphic was created to reflect what makes “work” meaningful, the same concepts can be applied to content.

Ask yourself the following questions the next time you implement content in an effort to boost your SEO:

  • Who is this content geared toward and who could it help?
  • Will this content truly touch someone or provide someone with information?
  • Does the content work toward a higher goal?
  • Will this help our brand or our consumers reflect?

Spitting out content to simply for the sake of spitting out content, whether it’s a video or a blog, won’t serve you well. Start focusing more on the deeper meaning of your media and you’ll find better SEO strategies to propel your brand forward.

In Conclusion

Although you might have a team dedicated to SEO, if they’re not keeping up with the constant changes and SEO trends in 2020, then competing with others for the best SERPs will continually be a struggle. This is a topic that’s constantly growing and changing, so it’s vital that you keep your ear to the ground.

In 2020, we’re doing away with some outdated SEO strategies that have been used for years, such as keyword stuffing, prioritizing content quantity, and leaving the purpose out of your marketing strategies. If you want to have any chance of ranking well in the next year, you’d do well to leave the above SEO tactics behind with the rest of the 2010s.

About Kevin

Kevin Svec is the Chief Content Strategiest at E2M Solutions Inc. In addition to hosting the San Diego AMA's radio show, This Week in Marketing, Kevin runs his town travel blog. Check out his post on SEO Tips for Travel Bloggers!