For all the talk about SEO being dead, or at least severely wounded, there’s no denying the simple truth that:
  1. If you want your business to flourish, you need to rank high on search engines like Google
  2. If you violate certain rules or understandings, you risk killing your local rankings and, as a result, killing your chances of converting web traffic into leads

Whether you embark on search engine optimization tactics on your own or have hired a full-fledged SEO, it’s important to know what types of things folks like Bing and Google disapprove of, so you can ensure that your brand remains relevant and easy to find for your local audiences.

Cloaking – Just about the worst thing you can do for your search engine rankings

Cloaking occurs when you show search engines a different page or content than what human sees. This is an outdated tactic that many seasoned SEOs used to do, but know better to avoid now.

But still, some SEOs either try to get away with it. Or, in many cases, an older website might feature this SEO no-no without even realizing it.

That’s a strategy Google does not appreciate, and they’ll penalize your website accordingly.

The folks at SEO Tools have created a free SEO Cloaking Checker. Use it to see if any of your web pages are guilty of this enormous faux pas.

Keyword Stuffing – Yes, it still happens

Back when SEO was new, webmasters stuffed web pages with the same word or phrase over and over again, so that the page would rank high on Google.

Google’s Penguin update squashed that concept, but that doesn’t mean folks still don’t try to get away with it.

Here’s what you need to know: keywords and key phrases still play an enormous role in how your pages rank. However, search engines have become so sophisticated that it’s far more important to use your terms in a thematic sense, rather than try to increase keyword density on your page.

For example, if you’re writing an article hoping to rank for a phrase like remove red wine stains from clothing, you shouldn’t try to fill your page with that same phrase over and over again.

Rather, use that phrase as the main idea of your article, and then naturally discuss that topic. What you’ll find is that you’ll end up using related terms and phrases, which Google will use to help assess the relevance of your post to the searcher’s query.

Content stuffing – Don’t write just because you can

There are many agencies, SEOs, and brands out there that believe that the key to SEO mecca is to produce a dizzying amount of content. That way, your website can be found by a wider audience, right?

Wrong.

Google doesn’t just provide its users with results that match a keyword query. Google wants to give its users the best possible results, each and every time.

If you flood your website with low-quality articles, Google, and your users will not think highly of your site. Few people will stay on your pages when they land there, and even fewer will link to your site as an authority.

Rather than maximizing your rankings, producing thin content just for the sake of having content will almost certainly lower your rankings and page authority.

Ignoring news from the Google camp

Every year – sometimes even every month – Google implements some type of search engine algorithm update that impacts page rankings.

Many times, these updates are common-sense-based, in that so long as you’re keeping the user in mind (and not search engine crawlers), then you’re in the clear.

However, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your SEO. It’s vital that you know what changes Google implements so you can ensure you’re not in violation and are doing everything you can to boost your rankings a little bit higher.

Stay on top of the tweets and social shares from the Google team, or sign up for an email newsletter which delivers the latest Google SEO details right to your inbox, like our newsletter, which you can sign up for below.

That way, you never miss a beat.

SEO isn’t dead. But your rankings will be if you violate any of the rules above

While SEO can be a complex topic, it really comes down to this: are you delivering a good user experience on your website?

If you are, then chances are you’re not at risk of being penalized. Follow these tips above to keep yourself off of Google’s naughty list, and closer to page one, where you belong.