When it comes to SEO (search engine optimization) there are hundreds of things that you should do and that you shouldn’t do. And the tricky part about this is that most of these things keep changing over a period of time, as and when Google rolls out important algorithmic updates to their search.

When I started building my content sites, I used to Google a lot about SEO and other things and read lots of content regarding best seo practices, black hat techniques one should avoid to gain quick results. Unfortunately, since my knowledge was less, I implemented a lot of bad techniques and ended up losing rankings, some of the sites even got penalized and got de-listed from search engines.

I have compiled this list based on my knowledge of the Do’s and Don’ts of Search engine optimization.

Don’t Do These Things

  1. SEO takes time. Don’t do anything which promises you instant results. Do not buy any service or pay someone who promises to change things within a month or so. You will most likely lose your hard earned money and do further damage to your website.
  2. Don’t do something which is not good for the user experience of your website. If something is not good for the user, avoid it. Something should not be done because it is good for search engines and not for the user. In fact, it is the other way around. What is good for the user is also good for search engines.
  3. Do not link to spam sites, adult content, pornography or any other website that doesn’t add value to your readers.
  4. Do not link to a website because the owner of that site is your friend. You never know what type of content he will publish tomorrow.
  5. Do not buy paid links from other sites, thinking that it will improve rankings. Worst, it may and will hurt your rankings.
  6. Do not participate in link exchange programs and reciprocal link schemes, thinking that these things will help to elevate your website’s rankings. They may help in the short term but in the longer haul, it won’t help but has the possibility of hurting you back. So, keep your backlink portfolio clean.
  7. Don’t use websites that provide an SEO calculator and tells you an SEO score of your website or blog. These tools will often mislead you to buy their product or services, so avoid them. Learn the best techniques and do it yourself or hire a legitimate seo company to fix your site if you think there are problems.
  8. Do not spam forums and comment form of other blogs with signature links. It won’t help much.
  9. There is no need to cold email bloggers, website owners and spam everyone to link to your website’s pages. If your content is good, links will come in time.
  10. Don’t join link networks and cheap link schemes.
  11. Stop guest blogging on different sites with the intention of winning back links which “looks” legitimate. A guest post on an authority site is good once in a while but don’t overdo it by doing guest posts where ever you can.
  12. Do not write shallow or thin content. Take the time out to write a well crafted post which conveys all the necessary information that the reader wants.
  13. Don’t write content with the pure intention of optimizing for Keyword research. Content creation should be natural with a focus on keyword research, not the other way around.
  14. Do not plagiarize from other sources or copy paste content from other blogs, websites or forums. You can take hints from other sources but you must write the content in your own words.
  15. Don’t implement keyword stuffing or overuse keywords in your content.
  16. Avoid duplicate content at all costs. You must not use duplicate content from external as well as internal sources.
  17. Do not trust the so called SEO experts who promise to give you rankings on first page of Google. These are mostly spammers who want your money. Noone can promise a first page rank in Google, so don’t fall for these people.
  18. Don’t take an action based on the spam emails you get that offer to fix your website’s seo and rankings. Avoid these people and services.
  19. Do not sell “Dofollow” or “Natural” links to other websites, advertisers, link networks or other bloggers.
  20. Do not try to “Optimize” anchor text of external links thinking that it will have an effect on your website’s SEO. It may have but if you try to optimize it, it may hurt you. Keep the anchor texts natural and leave it like that. Don’t tinker with it every other day.
  21. Avoid using Hidden text in your website’s pages. This is a surefire way to get penalized in search engines.
  22. Avoid Cloaking. You must serve the same content to search engines and users and do not even think of serving different content to search engines and different content to users.
  23. Do not use doorway pages to get traffic and then re-direct the visitor to another page on your site.
  24. Do not use too many pop-ups, interstitial or overlay windows to improve your conversion rates. This will affect the user experience on your website which will have some effect in how you rank. If you must use a pop-up, use that on a specific page where it makes sense and not through out your website.
  25. Don’t overdo internal linking with different anchor texts thinking that this will affect rankings. No, it won’t. Internal linking should be done where it makes sense and not to inflate rankings.
  26. Don’t stuff too many keywords in Alt tags of images all over your website. The Alt tag of the image is supposed to describe what the image is all about. That is it – do not stuff it with all the keywords. That’s spam.
  27. Stop obsessing about keyword density of phrases and search terms across all the pages. Yes, the  important keywords should be there in the title, meta description, slug and the first paragraph but there is no need to over do your analysis and start tweaking each and every page of your website so that they rank for desired keywords.
  28. Stop optimizing your pages to rank for very generic keywords e.g lawyers, technology, productivity and so on. It’s close to impossible to rank your site for very generic keywords, hence stop obsessing about them and focus on targeted keywords and the long tail of search.
  29. Don’t use a free web hosting provider or a free blogging platform. It’s okay to start out with a free blogging platform but overtime, you should make the move to WordPress and have your own domain name. If possible, start with your own domain name and get your own web hosting provider from day one.
  30. Remember, not everything is under your control. You can try to do things perfectly at your end but it is upto Google and other search engines to decide the rankings. Nobody know how a search engine works, so just do the right things from your end and stop obsessing about why you are not getting the results. It is possible that other websites have better content than yours and hence they are ranking better.

Do These Things

  1. Link only to authority sites and sites whom you trust
  2. Write great content which attracts links naturally. Write compelling content which forces the user to attribute your content.
  3. The goal is not that the backlinks look natural, the goal is that the links are natural.
  4. Add your website in Google Search console and keep an eye on it for important messages, errors, warnings and actions Google wants you to take to keep your website healthy.
  5. Install an XML Sitemap in your site and add it in Google webmaster console, this will help Google crawl and index your website’s pages faster.
  6. Install an  HTML sitemap in your website and add it to your website’s footer. The HTML sitemap should contain links to all the pages and blog posts of your site. If your site has a lot of content, you can structure the HTML sitemap to show only the relevant sections.
  7. A Bad HTML sitemap is better than using No HTML Sitemap at all. Many people don’t advise you to put up an HTML sitemap but I will still urge you keep one alongside an XML Sitemap. It helps.
  8. Learn to write good Titles which are lesser than 70 characters and conveys what a webpage is all about.
  9. Learn to write concise meta descriptions which clearly explains the content of the webpage to the user.
  10. Avoid using a software which auto generates titles and meta description for your website or blog. You must write the title and meta description yourself – hand crafted titles and meta descriptions are the way to go.
  11. Use WordPress as the content management system for your blogs or websites. A static website won’t hurt but it is better if you use a content management system.
  12. If your website does not have a blog, start writing one. Google and other search engines love fresh content and pages full of information around relevant topics. The more text your website has, the more the spider can chew upon.
  13. Ensure that your website loads faster, usually within 3 seconds.
  14. Ensure that all the internal pages of your website loads faster as well, not just the home page.
  15. Ensure that some part of the content is accessible in the above the fold section of your website.
  16. Test above the fold content for both desktops, mobiles and tablets.
  17. Ensure that your website’s design is responsive, so that it can adapt to the screen where it is viewed upon.
  18. Check your website’s theme for hidden text and footer links. Sometimes, you may be using a free theme or HTML template which may have footer links to the author’s website. Remove those links.
  19. Write exclusive content before other sources, so that your content attracts links naturally. This also helps in establishing authority in your niche.
  20. Write in depth tutorials, analysis and how to articles which solves common problems of your audience.
  21. Update old content once in a while and ensure freshness. It is necessary to keep the content on the site as “Fresh” as possible, so if an old post needs some update, do it. It helps, since Google and other search engines will notice that the content on an old page has changed and they will re-index the changes, which is good for your site.
  22. Have some exclusivity in your content. What is that one thing which is in demand and you can do better than others? Do that thing and keep doing it better than everyone else, over a period of time. This is the only way to stand out and create a unique presence among your audience. This also improves your content portfolio.

There are lots of other things which are best seo practices but if you keep the above in place and keep focusing on the content, your website or blog should be in good shape. Overtime, as you walk the path, you will be able to know what works and what doesn’t work. The finer details of SEO will be clear once you start doing but in the initial days, stick to the above knowledge and keep developing useful and engaging content.

And last of all — don’t try to cheat the system. You won’t get too far and you will likely get caught, be depressed and quit. Don’t cheat. Play it fair and results shall come.