There is no doubt that blog posts can give your website a boost when it comes to search engine optimization, but many business owners take SEO “best practices” too far and unintentionally end up sabotaging their website.
You’ve heard the saying “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” — the same goes for SEO.
Recently, I have noticed a disheartening trend that I like to call “SEO overload”. Business owners find out about the SEO benefits of blog posting and are looking to start their own blogs, which is great news! Unfortunately, many of these people become convinced that they are SEO experts after reading one or two SEO guides. They become convinced that SEO “best practices” must be followed to a T, which can have detrimental results.
(Note: not all SEO guides are created equal, and many people are misled by guides that have useless or outdated information. Some of my favorite, good-quality guides include this one and this one, both by Backlinko.)
Every business and every blog is different, which is why SEO “best practices” cannot be used as blanket statements. What may work for one blog may not work for another. You need to closely examine your content and target demographic to understand what SEO tactics will work for you — and which “best practices” are myths, misconceptions, or just plain outdated.
The Worst SEO “Best Practices” to Use in Blogs
These are all common and easy-to-make mistakes, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you have made them yourself. Here are some of the worst SEO “best practices” that I have seen used in blog posts:
Overly High Keyword Density or “Keyword Stuffing”
Don’t get me wrong — frequently using keywords is important, but after a point, using keywords will hurt you rather than help you.
It was generally considered “best practice” in the early 2000s to have a keyword density of 5-6% in a blog post, because Google crawlers analyze keywords in blog posts, which can lead to a higher website ranking. For this reason, many people still hold the belief that more keywords = more traffic, and will shove their chosen keyword anywhere they can in a blog. This is one of the worst examples of SEO abuse, and yet, it still manages to be the number one thing that clients ask writers to do.
This has led to some insane levels of keyword stuffing — I once had a client ask me to have 15% keyword density in a 1000 word blog. To put this in perspective, that’s roughly two paragraphs worth of just keywords. For the love of all that is good and holy, do not do this!
Keyword stuffing is problematic for a few reasons.
First of all, readers hate keyword stuffing. No matter what your blog post is about and who your target demographic is, it is important to remember that your readers and potential clients are not stupid. That’s right — your readers will absolutely know when you are keyword stuffing and they will hate it.
You can easily recognize when a writer is keyword stuffing, and it’s not pleasant to read. Compare these two passages for an imaginary blog post titled “The Best Tennis Shoes for Runners in 2021”:
- “Are you looking for the best tennis shoes for runners? Tennis shoes for runners need to be strong, comfortable, and durable. Every runner needs a good pair of tennis shoes for runners, but unfortunately, many tennis shoes for runners currently on the market simply don’t cut it.. Here is our list of the best tennis shoes for runners in 2021.”
- “Are you a runner in need of some new tennis shoes? They need to be strong, comfortable, and durable. Every runner needs a good pair, but unfortunately, many shoes currently on the market simply don’t cut it. Your shoes need to be strong, comfortable, and durable. Here is our list for the best tennis shoes for runners in 2021.”
See the difference? The first passage has clearly been keyword stuffed, and it feels clunky and just plain wrong to read. Frankly, most readers will leave the page after the first paragraph. In the second passage, the keywords are still implemented early on and where needed, but it doesn’t alienate the reader.
Seriously. Keyword stuffing is always obvious. Don’t do it.
Secondly, and even more importantly — a high keyword density will not improve your Google ranking. In fact, it does the opposite.
According to this post from Google’s AI Blog, their crawler technology practices what they call Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency, or TF-IDF. This means that while their crawlers do recognize keyword density, they compare it to regular levels of keyword density used across the rest of the internet. Google’s AI is also intelligent enough to be able to recognize variants of your keyword, such as different forms ending in “s”, “ly”, or “ing” — so you can’t trick the crawlers into ignoring keyword stuffing.
If Google’s crawlers see that your blog has a normal keyword density, you’re good to go! Your Google ranking will be fine. If crawlers identify a keyword density that is higher than normal, Google’s AI will penalize you without your knowledge and your website will drop drastically in rating.
Moral of the story: keyword stuffing is terrible for all parties involved.
Prioritizing Quantity Over Quality
At its core, SEO is a numbers game. Like with keyword stuffing, many people try to game the system by focusing on a specific number that they think will garner their website a higher search engine rating for their website. This results in websites churning out poor-quality content at alarmingly fast rates, instead of taking the time to ensure that the content that is being produced is top-tier.
These “quantity over quality” SEO blogging tactics typically manifest themselves in two ways: the length of a blog and the speed at which new blogs are posted.
1. Blog Length
For the most part, longer blog posts are better. A study conducted by Buffer concluded that the ideal length for a blog post was around 1,600 words long and takes about seven minutes to read. Statistics like these have convinced many business owners that every single blog post must reach at least this word count.
There are two important things to remember: every blog is different and your readers are not stupid.
A word count of 1,600 words works great for well-researched, informative blogs (such as how-to articles) that cover large topics. However, many topics simply do not need that many words to be effective.
In high-quality blog posts, your writing should be informative but concise. If you are working on a blog about a topic that does not need 1,600 words written about it, you will struggle to reach the word count. This results in overly flowery and meandering prose that will bore your readers.
Think of it like that essay you wrote in high school. The teacher asked for five pages, but you could only come up with three pages worth of content, so you added useless prepositions, unnecessary information, or phrases like “due to the fact that” — just to hit the word count. Your teacher knew what you were doing, and so will the people reading your blog.
If the topic of your blog doesn’t have enough content to reach a certain word count, cut your losses and make what you have clear and concise. It’s better to write a short article that is worthwhile for your readers than a longer one that will make them feel like they wasted their time by reading it.
2. Blog Post Frequency
Blogs help keep your website updated with fresh content; something that Google considers when determining rank. Because of this, many business owners have become obsessed with posting blogs as frequently as possible. Generally, the SEO “best practice” is to post blogs 2-4 times per week, but many websites post content every day.
Posting blogs every day is great, but the pressure to post often leads to poor-quality content. People get so caught up with how often they should post that they get overwhelmed and their content suffers.
It is far better to post fewer, high-quality blogs than a bunch of poor-quality blogs. In fact, some websites have even found success by posting extremely infrequently.
Your potential customers want to read high-quality, well-researched, informative content, not something that has been churned out quickly just to fit a quota.
SEO “Best Practices” are Not Always What’s Best for Your Blog
SEO writing can be overwhelming, as statistics are constantly being thrown at you and algorithms are changing every day. By carefully examining what is right for your website and target demographic, you can create high-quality content that excites readers, all while getting the better of those pesky “best practices”.