SEO is forever changing.

With search engines updating their algorithms too frequently, it’s obvious that SEO techniques must be updated. SEO is a volatile market so what was working a few months back might not work today.

You must follow modern techniques that are working and must stop using the ones that don’t work or are likely to harm your website.

Here’s a list of 10 SEO mistakes you should stop doing.


Link Exchanges

Link exchange programs or reciprocal links are one of the worst types of links. A link exchange makes your website prone to penalty.

Though you’ll get links easily by participating in a link exchange program, but it’s considered blackhat.

Continuum of link exchange riskiness
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Because it’s a manipulative technique. You’re getting a link to improve ranking without delivering any real value to the end-users. How sad?

Search engines can trace such activity resulting in a sure devaluation or even penalty.


Generate Thin Content

Thin content refers to content that doesn’t offer any value to the readers. Casey Markee explained it better.

Google targeted websites having thin content with its Panda update. All the websites that were using low-quality content received a penalty from Google that looked something like this.

manual action

According to Google, thin content is:

  • Little or no original content
  • Content with many words but no authentic content
  • Pages that don’t add value
  • Doorway pages
  • Auto-generated pages
  • Scraped content
  • Thin affiliate websites

Google Panda was first released in February 2011. This was the time when the thin content was put to an end forever.
Anyone who is still using thin content for ranking is wasting resources. Consequently, you’ll most likely receive a penalty from Google.

If you don’t, you’ll not see any improvement in rankings. Your website will rank on 100th position. Tell me, how do you intend to acquire new leads when search users can’t find you?

The earlier you stop using thin content as an SEO technique, the better for you.


Settle for Poor Website Design

How your website looks and how easy it is to navigate helps a lot with SEO. Google recommends responsive website design.

responsive-website design image
Image source: responsive design

Not giving due importance to your website’s design will negatively impact your website’s SEO. While you may not get any penalty, but you’ll not rank as well as some great websites that use a better design.

A website that’s not easy-to-navigate doesn’t offer much value to the users. Similarly, poor internal linking will make your website a challenge to crawl for search engine spiders.

Making your website design better, user-friendly, and search engine friendly won’t just make readers and search engines happy but it will improve brand image.

So what should you do?

Hire a professional designer to create a unique website design with proper layout. It will cost more but the ROI is surprisingly high.

good bad and ugly design
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Stop ignoring your website design and its layout. Refrain from using free website templates (and themes), instead focus on unique website design.


Focusing on Backlinks Quantity

One of the most common old SEO techniques that you should never use is getting a lot of backlinks without analyzing relevance. Stop focusing on link quantity.

Yes, the number of backlinks pointing to your website is still one of the major ranking factors, but relevance and quality of the backlinks are equally important (if not more).

Relevant inbound links matter more than anything else.
Search engines now value a single authoritative link more than 100 low-quality links.
According to Mark Walters, a quality backlink:

  • Is relevant and comes from a relevant website
  • Sends traffic to your website
  • Is from a trusted authority website
  • Is contextual
  • Is from a different domain — than all the existing domains that are already linking to your website
  • Is unpaid
  • Is not a reciprocal link

Seems like a lot of work, right?

Apparently not.

You only need a few high-quality backlinks. For instance, Court Tuttle ranked a website with only 13 high quality and relevant backlinks in as low as 53 days.

It’s pretty much possible so stop building tons of backlinks that will do more harm than good to your web pages.


Heavy Use of Anchor Text on Internal Links

Are you still using keyword stuffing for ranking? Well, it doesn’t work anymore. Not at all.
It’s an SEO technique used in the past to rank a web page by simply adding lots of keywords on that page.

Google example of keyword stuffing
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Google clearly says that heavy use of anchor texts harm a website’s ranking because it doesn’t deliver any real value rather results in a negative user experience.

Google uses latent semantic indexing (LSI) which was implemented back in 2004.

Now search engines don’t rank websites on the basis of keywords instead crawlers pick the most common words and phrases from a web page which are identified as keywords. LSI also uses synonym so you don’t have to use exact match keywords anymore.

For instance, if you have a web page about smartphones, you’ll rank for phones, cell phones, mobile phones, and other synonyms naturally even if you don’t target these keywords on your page.

Stop wasting time and resources on the unnecessary use of anchor texts.


Article/Directory Submissions

Getting listed on hundreds and hundreds of directories for the sole purpose of getting backlinks is a poor SEO tactic. When Google released Penguin in 2012, websites that were listed on hundreds of irrelevant directories were penalized.

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It’s not a recommended SEO approach because you’re getting hundreds of irrelevant backlinks possibly from low-quality websites.

Don’t get me wrong, submitting your website and business to relevant directories isn’t bad. You should list your website on directories but don’t get overboard with it.

Handpick relevant and niche-specific directories and get listed on them. Get listed on high authority business directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages. Add relevant information about your business such as phone number, address, URL, description etc. More importantly, links from directories should be a small percentage of your overall backlink profile.

Google and Matt Cutts are fairly clear on article directories.

“Over time article directories have gotten a little bit of a worse name. So just refresh everybody’s memory, an article directory is basically where you write 3-, 4-, 500 words of content and then you’ll include a little bio or some information about you at the bottom of the article, and you might have three links with keyword rich anchor text at the bottom of that article. And then you’d submit that to a bunch of what are known as article directories, and then anyone can download them or perhaps pay to download them, and they’ll use them on their own website.” 


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Here’s a Tweet where Matt Cutts clearly said that you should never build links using article directories even if it’s relevant.

matt cutts tweet

The fact is, these articles and article directories don’t deliver any value or even new information. Anything that doesn’t add value to the existing body of knowledge isn’t much appreciated by search engines.

Article syndication and curation are much better techniques to use instead. You’ll build connections with other webmasters and at the same time, you might get quality links.


Buy Exact Keyword Match Domain Names

What direction do you see SEO heading? Even though Google frowns at low-quality exact keyword domain names (EMDs), most people still do it.

You’re at an advantage if you understand that Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the user with a rich, valuable, and comprehensive answer.

Yes, in the past (i.e., before the EMD update) you could register an exact match domain name, such as and quickly rank in the top 10 positions — but that time is long gone.

The fact that these types of domain names and keyword-rich and can still rank in Google top pages doesn’t give you the license to do it. Any effective SEO strategy designed to build brands — and not to manipulate search engines.

So, if you want a sustainable search ranking and organic traffic, then stop using exact match keywords in your domain names.


Use Automation

Automation kills SEO.

Whether it’s a link building tool, content curation plugin, article spinning software, content rewriting tool, or something else.

Link building tools are your worst enemies because they generate low-quality backlinks without any relevancy.
Automation seems handy but it is sure to flag your website whether you use it for content, link building, or for something else.


Ignoring Social Signals

Social signals are a ranking factor, don’t ignore them.

Ignoring social signals is a bad for search engine optimization because all the major search engines take into account social signals when ranking web pages.

Brian Dean also listed social signals from Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other top social sites as important Google ranking factors.

If you’ve been ignoring social signals, it’s time to respect them because every social share and every post will impact your website’s ranking. Though the effect might be too low but trust me it’s there.



To scale your SEO effort and get sustainable results, stop using these old-fashioned techniques. If you’ll continue to stick around, you’ll either lose your rankings or not see any organic visibility at all.

If it hurts your ranking, stop it. If it doesn’t impact, stop wasting resources. In both cases, you should embrace new and whitehat SEO techniques.

Asher Elran
Co-founder at Ignitur