The Definitive Guide to Abysmal SEO

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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is essential to any online business. Without optimising your site, it’s improbable you will appear anywhere noticeable in the search engine results or have much of an online presence. With the benefit of free Google traffic, your only other options for online success are to pay for visitors with PPC campaigns or spend hours on social media trying to get your services or products noticed.

Like most digital elements, SEO is continuously evolving. You need to be up to date with the latest practices to make sure you aren’t using methods that could ultimately get your site penalised. Since 2011, Google has rolled out major algorithm changes with code names like Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, and Fred, to name just a few. With so many major and minor changes, it’s clear to see how difficult it is to keep up-to-date and follow the best practices.

Back in the good old Wild West days, “black hat” SEO practitioners would discover creative techniques to game Google and get spammy pages ranking high. Here we look at some of the dubious SEO practices that in the past were often profitable. However, Google is an intelligent beast and quickly caught on to the sneaky methods online marketers used to get their sites to the top of the pile.

In 2021, remembering these methods is good entertainment, but you should NEVER USE THEM unless you want your site to disappear from Google altogether!

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is when you publish keyword-stuffed content that stuffs the same keywords into keyword-stuffed text to fool the search engines into thinking the keyword-stuffed page is relevant to the searched-for keyword. Keyword stuffing makes an article difficult to read and creates a poor user experience.

Software Generated Content

An obvious black hat tactic often used until Google wised up was content clearly written by software. You’ve probably come across articles spat out by a content generator, or a “spun” article. The text will make little or zero sense at all but will be loaded with keywords and phrases.

Exact-Match Domains (EMDs)

An exact-match domain is when an exact key phrase you want to rank for is your domain name. For example:


This was a widely used method to rank in the SERPs as it was easier than with a branded domain. Internet marketers would create a network of microsites with EMDs and link them to one another.

In 2012, Google declared an algorithm change to penalise and demote these sites in the rankings.

Overuse of internal links anchor text

This was a method that could have a positive influence on rankings. But in the last few years, Google has largely disregarded spammy internal links or demoted sites that use them manipulatively.

If an internal link is in the navigation or inside content that is relevant and flows well, and offers value to the user to help them find more information, it’s considered legitimate. But if it isn’t useful, doesn’t fit in well with the sentence, or is in a tiny font to hide it from users but to be seen by search engines, it is no longer a smart practice.

A page for every keyword variant

This is an old SEO tactic that some businesses are still unwisely using today. It was an effective method for a long time but ceased producing positive results around five years ago. The idea was if you were selling dog beds, you would have a page called “dog beds,” another called “cheap dogs beds” one called “dog beds for sale”, and yet another titled “buy dog beds”,

This does not provide a positive user experience because on landing on the site, it’s challenging to decide where to go because essentially, they are mostly saying the same thing. This shouldn’t be confused with providing pages such as “beds for small dogs”, “Beds for medium dogs”, “Beds for big dogs” etc., because these are variations a visitor would find useful.

Paid links

If the algorithm finds you out, paid links, link building, and link acquisition practices could get your site deindexed altogether. Nowadays, link building is a dangerous area, and unless you know what you are doing you are wise to stay away.

Old black hat link-building methods that used to work well were mass software-produced directory submissions, posting boring content of no value to article directories, mass press release submissions, and spammy unrelated to the post blog comments.

Reciprocal link pages, link farms, and obvious Private Blog Networks (PBNs) like were deindexed, penalised or no longer counted many years ago. Fiverr or forum link sellers could make a decent living selling backlinks at one time, but these days, such links will either do nothing or get your site punished.

White Hat SEO Today

“White hat” SEO is the right type of optimisation that plays by Google’s quality guidelines. Following the guidelines means that the site’s content is high quality, preferably produced by an authoritative person in the field, and useful and relevant to the key phrase typed in. So, if you are looking for information about diet, the top results are like to be written by medical professionals, nutritionists, or government sites like the NHS. Your friend Sue’s personal weight loss journey blog may be found on page 20 thereabouts, but even that is perhaps being a little enthusiastic.

You don’t have to practise black hat SEO or break any rules to have a low rank. A slow-loading page or a site that isn’t mobile responsive may feature low in the rankings even if the content is excellent. White hat SEO is all about an overall positive user experience.

Examples of white hat practices include:

  • Top-quality content provides value for the user
  • Offering how-to videos and articles that will satisfy a search query
  • Use of keywords that are relevant to the page and used in a rational manner
  • An optically attractive, easy-to-navigate website
  • Fast-loading and mobile-friendly pages

Do You Need help?

If you are struggling with SEO, don’t have the time or the inclination to learn, or have no idea what it is, we can help. We have helped small and medium business owners with all their SEO needs for almost 20 years in a wide range of business sectors.

Contact us, and we will talk about your aspirations and projects, and we’ll explain how we can help you get ample free traffic from the major search engines at an affordable monthly cost.



  • Mac McCarthy

    Mac McCarthy has been involved in the digital marketing field for over 20 years, having worked with the Jeeves, Alta Vista and Yahoo search engines in the early 90s through to the modern current day Google and Bing platforms.

    A keen follower of search engine algorithm updates and trends, he works and advises on digital strategies for a variety on SME’s and more recently the World Wildlife Fund, the single largest animal welfare charity in the world.

    Qualifications include Google Advanced Analytics, Google Ads, Google Search and the Google Partnership Program.

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