Trying to game search engines makes the Internet a worse place. Customers, companies, and the common good of the Internet itself all suffer when you generate content pollution. While there are plenty of legitimate ways to make your content more findable, none of them should take priority over content authenticity and effectiveness. Publish good content, written and structured well, focused on the needs of your intended audience, and you’ll get all the results you need as far as traffic and conversions. Publish crap, and you Screw Everyone Over. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated that that.
Here are eight ways that I have seen content go off track when you fall into a “Screw Everyone Over” SEO approach.
- Keyword salad: Content that awkwardly repeats keywords turns users off. It also prevents you from communicating what you want your visitors to know, do, or decide.
- Nonsense content: Putting content on your site just to capture traffic from common search queries wastes everyone’s time. Even if you place high in search engine rankings, it doesn’t matter if the visitors you’ve baited into your site find nothing else of value.
- Garbage traffic: If you bring visitors to your site by manipulating keywords or using broad-brush demographic or geographic segments, you are wasting their time and yours. Much better to focus on behavioral of psychographic segmentation, and write rigorously with the needs of those segments in mind.
- Unshareability: Content written or meta-tagged to game the search engines may get you clicks, but it won’t get you likes, either in the figurative sense of positive brand impressions or the literal sense of users sharing it on social media or liking your social media posts. You lose out on the opportunity for further amplification.
- Loyalty abuse: Trickery with awkward or irrelevant content betrays the loyalty of existing customers or promoters of your brand. Think of your best customers first. If they are likely to wonder “what is this doing here?” you should reconsider what it’s doing there, too.
- Brand erosion: People tend to remember sites that feel cheap or spammy. Even if they aren’t in one of your target segments today, they may be in the future. If you turned them off with trickery in the past, they will be that more likely to choose a competitor if the need arises in the future.
- Noisy numbers: All of that irrelevant traffic creates a false picture of the value of your site for your marketing strategy. You generate higher raw numbers, misleading bounce rates and exits, all leading to flawed inferences and decisions about your site’s performance.
- Misplaced priorities: The money and effort you spend on Screw Everyone Over SEO could actually be spent on targeted, focused, and authentic ways to engage your real prospects and customers, through better content and targeted promotions.
In summary, quality matters, above all else. While content quality does include coherent structuring and appropriate use of metatags, your content strategy should not devolve into just feeding search algorithms. You may enjoy the quick fix of extra clicks for a while, but you, and your users, will wake up with a nasty headache the next day.