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As the world of digital marketing has matured this last decade or so, some of the techniques used to try and climb your way up the rankings on Google search have become not just less important, but have become guaranteed ways to see your ranking penalised.

Putting a bunch of keywords in white text

Just last week I was in a conversation with a client who had previously been advised by another local marketer that the way to increase your Google rank was to write a whole lot of keywords at the bottom of your page, but make them white so that no one can see them except Google and other search engines. The frightening thing is that this particular marketer claims all kinds of wild results for his customers on Google, but he himself is nowhere to be found on Google’s search results apart from a whole bunch of fake map pins around the suburbs that Google have actually just started to take down in a recent sweep of fake business locations.

In case you didn’t pick it up in my tone, this particular practice was very common back in the late 90s before Google was established, and was out-smarted by Google’s various algorithms as early as 2003 when human-unreadable text was completely ignored by the growing search engine at the time.

Keyword Stuffing

Another long-gone trend was to “stuff” keywords into your articles and page text to the point that it was almost comical what was written on some websites.

An example would be an air conditioning installer featuring a paragraph at the top of his page that says something like:

“If you’re after an air conditioning installer in Bendigo Victoria, then Bendigo residents after an air conditioning installer can’t go past the best air conditioning installer in Bendigo, John’s Air Conditioning Installers Bendigo Victoria. Just ask your friends in Bendigo Victoria and they will recommend the best Bendigo Victoria air conditioning installer, John’s Air Conditioning Installers Bendigo.”

Even just read that aloud yourself and you’ll see what I mean. It’s horrific. But that was the way to do SEO around 10 to 12 years ago. Keyword Stuffing, as it’s called, was a great way to make sure that you ranked for words that you stuffed into almost every sentence.

Naturally in 2020, Google has learned that this was all just a trick by marketers to cheat their way up the rankings. And while it did work back then, and can have a very quick and sometimes positive effect on your rankings at first, once traffic does start going to your page, it very quickly sees what a joke that page is, realises that it’s something of a scam, and “bounces” back out again. What might have given you a fast way into the top few spots for a day or two suddenly becomes the very reason why you are now very hard to find on search engines. Google doesn’t just rank on the words in your website – it ranks on relevance even more so – and on the quality and usefulness of your content to real people. Spammy pages annoy people. Annoyed people don’t stay on your pages. And if they are bouncing straight back out, Google takes that as a signal to re-look at your page, see that it’s spammy, and re-ranks you down, down, all the way down the list.

The myth of content duplication

Another assumption by some out of date digital marketers is that it’s bad to publish the same content at various places around the internet. While that may have been true in the days of AltaVista, Lycos and a VERY early Google, it’s mostly an irrelevant factor now. When the internet was only a few million pages, content was like finding a pile of gold when you came across it. And everyone was rewarding unique content as an even better pile of gold. The more unique and custom your writing was, the more traffic that was directed to you.

In an internet of billions of pages, hundreds of millions of blog posts and many more millions of articles, content is as common as grains of sand on a beach. Even this particular article does better for me as a podcast than a blog post simply because SEO is so heavily written-about and so commonly referenced as a title and topic that I will probably never rank well internationally for it. But I do rank well in my region, and that’s what is most important to me. Especially in my hometown of Darwin where most of my client base is.

The fact is that, by publishing your content on multiple platforms and in multiple places, you are creating additional “authority” for your work. With it appearing in multiple websites and blogs, all referencing you as the source and linking back to your original post, you are creating a web of credibility in places like LinkedIn, Medium, Tumblr (though that might be a bit of stretch!) and wherever you manage to get your stuff published. So duplicate away all you like – just make sure that you’re not duplicating your blog posts on your own website. That is something that Google definitely doesn’t like!

When you do go looking for a local search engine optimisation expert, see how they rank for the things that they say they do. If you find them quite easy when looking for an SEO specialist in your area, but not on the map in Google, then they’re worth looking for. Then look at their site and make sure that they are pretty up to date around the things I’ve mentioned here.