Stop Using Outdated SEO Tactics. Use These 8 Methods Instead.

Richard September
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stop trying to outsmart google

If you’re new to SEO, it can be hard to know which tactics are the most effective and which ones aren’t.

With so much SEO advice on the web solicited by SEO “Experts” and “Gurus”, outdated tactics are bound to slip through the net. Combine this with conflicting advice, and it’s no surprise we’re left confused.

Hands-on SEO experience and experimentation are the best ways to learn, however.

The more you test and learn, the more confident you’ll be when it comes to recommending the best solutions for your clients or marketing team.

To set you on the right path, here are 8 SEO tactics that are best avoided. Either due to them being outdated, ineffective, or outright spoken out against by the search engines themselves.

Plus, 8 more effective tactics to use instead.

1. Buying low-quality backlinks vs. earning high-quality coverage

It’s worrying that some marketing departments are pouring thousands into link-building via strategies that have proven ineffective for years. Particularly, those with no long-term payoff.

Buying cheap links on poor quality websites, such as those that get little/no organic traffic yet boast a “high DA” (easily manipulated metric) isn’t a sustainable means of organic growth.

Not only do these links rarely demonstrate ROI, but they can have a detrimental effect on your domain if search engines identify that you’re trying to manipulate their ranking systems in such a way. Buying links goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Unless you’re in a niche where these kinds of tactics are commonplace and pretty much required to compete (e.g. iGaming, Casinos), buying backlinks from websites that will sell them to anyone is not a sustainable strategy for building authority in your niche.

Instead, focus on earning high-quality coverage in relevant publications.

Produce well-researched, newsworthy and unique content that journalists and other websites want to cover. Be strategic by putting your brand and product at the centre.

Relevance is key here, as the links you want are those that are most related to your niche. Plus, the publication’s readers are likely to be much more receptive to your story, so you may even see benefits beyond the links too like an influx of referral traffic.

The best backlinks are the ones that get clicks.

Granted, Digital PR and earning links are typically more expensive than buying cheap links. But the ROI, which I have seen first-hand from my years in digital marketing agencies, is much clearer.

It’s one of the best ways to build authority, and there are plenty of case studies out there to back this up.

2. Forcing the “right” page to rank vs. focusing on search intent

A common problem SEOs will encounter is when a different page is ranking more prominently in search engines than their desired page.

Theories of cannibalisation and duplicate content issues may spring to mind. Which could potentially be the case.

But it’s important to understand why search engines have chosen another page over your desired page before taking hard action.

Instead, take some time to understand the search intent behind the target keyword and the other results that are ranking in the SERPs.

Is your desired page aligned with the search intent? Does it answer the user’s question faster or fulfil their query better than the page that’s already ranking? Has it been held that position for years and acquired significant backlinks?

How is the content structured? Does the desired page use a different template or feature more/less content than the ranking page? Are there any technical issues impacting the desired page?

These are all paths to investigate before taking hard action like redirecting, noindexing or deleting the ranking page.

It could be a straightforward case of updating the current ranking page with the new content instead to improve visibility.

Never try to force the “right” page to rank.

Be strategic – use data and insight to inform your decision-making. Also, if you’re working with a client, communicate the strategy with them and set expectations.

3. Keyword stuffing vs. writing for humans

Even in 2023, SEOs are using outdated tactics like keyword stuffing to trick search engines into believing that their content is the most relevant result for their keyword.

The blame isn’t totally on SEOs, however.

Some content helper tools will suggest the number of times to mention target keywords, which leads marketers to believe that if they’re mentioned X number of times, they’ll have a better chance of ranking.

Of course, your target keywords should be mentioned in key areas like page titles, H1 tags and the URL slug. This gives search engines confidence that your content is aligned with the query and offers a greater chance of ranking.

But dropping them in at any opportunity isn’t the way to go.

Instead, write your content in a way that’s most helpful and logical for humans to understand.

In doing so, you’ll find yourself naturally weaving in the keyword in the body copy – mentioning it when it’s most needed for the reader to remind them that they’re in the right place.

Over-engineered content can sound artificial from a user’s perspective, and cause them to lose interest. Write naturally with the reader in mind.

It’s the best way to see results in Search.

4. Tweaking publish dates vs. adding new value to old content

There’s an age-old trick that webmasters and SEOs have been using on their blog sites which involves updating the publish date despite the content not changing.

Not only does this mislead users, but search engines like Google have highlighted in their Creating Helpful Content guidance that this is a tactic they aren’t too impressed by.

It may make your content seem fresh on the face of it, but it’s very unlikely to bring any tangible results. In fact, given that Google themselves have advised against it, it could suggest a potential negative impact on the websites that do this.

Instead, assess your content to identify how it could be made more relevant and helpful if it is to be updated.

Only after updating the content substantially should you amend the publish date. Or even better, mark both the original publish date and the updated date on the article.

This demonstrates that the article has been longer established and that it’s kept up to date with any changes to the topic.

5. Abusing review schema vs. building genuine social proof

When used correctly, Review schema can be a powerful enhancement to the appearance of your site in Search.

Having your reviews featured next to your result in the SERP makes it stand out amongst the competition. Plus, it can improve CTR by signalling trust to users before they’ve even landed on your site.

Especially if your reviews are good and you’ve got plenty of them.

However, the problem with Review schema is that it can be easily manipulated.

Any website can add fake reviews into the structured data of a page, which may then lead them to be published alongside the result in the SERP as Google does not verify reviews.

For this reason, adding Review schema won’t have a direct impact on your organic performance.

But if Google detects that you may be manipulating it, for example, by simply faking the reviews or using it on pages where no reviews are shown on-page, then you may be at risk.

Focus on building genuine social proof, either via a 3rd party like TrustPilot or by collecting reviews on your platform for your products and/or services.

Genuine reviews will make a difference, both in terms of user trust but also for search engines. If you’re being spoken about positively online, it can have a knock-on effect.

Plus, you can include the “sameAs” field in your Review schema and link back to where your genuine reviews are held (e.g. your TrustPilot page). This can help search engines make the link between where your reviews are coming from.

Only once you’ve gathered genuine reviews should you think about adding Review schema to your pages.

6. Linking every “important” page from the footer vs focusing on UX

An arguably outdated yet common SEO tactic involves linking all your “important” pages from the website footer.

The logic behind it is that search engines will take these pages more seriously due to their prominent position in the website architecture. Therefore, their performance in search will improve as a result.

By no means am I implying that click depth isn’t important. Pages that are most valuable for your users should be accessible in as few clicks as possible.

The problem occurs when every page becomes an “important” page. And therefore, gets added to the footer unnaturally.

Instead, focus on UX and the user journey. What links will be most valuable to them when they reach the bottom of your website?

The footer is also an opportunity to convert your customer or prospect. Include your contact details, a form or an email list they can subscribe to.

If they’ve made it to the bottom of your site, there’s a good chance they like what they see.

Make sure your footer links are helpful and logical to the user journey.

7. Aiming for the "right" word count vs providing the most helpful answer

There’s no right or wrong word count to aim for when producing content that is aimed at driving organic traffic.

Content recommendation tools and some prominent figures spreading SEO myths over the years have driven the idea that content needs to be X length in order to rank.

Content tools in particular may scrape the top 10 results to produce an average number that you should aim for to be competitive.

But the problem with these numbers is that firstly, it’s an average. And secondly, it’s likely that they’re pulling irrelevant content from these pages which won’t help you understand how substantial your content needs to be anyway.

In their Producing Helpful Content Guidance, Google asks:

Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t.)

Forget word counts and instead make sure you’re covering the topic in-depth and providing the most helpful answer to the searcher.

For example, if the title of your article answers a question, the answer should be close to the top to satisfy the query as soon as possible.

After answering, it then makes sense to delve deeper into the topic and answer other questions users might have.

Do not take word count recommendations at face value.

Do your own research, understand the intent of the query, understand what’s appearing in the SERP and work from there.

8. Disavowing “toxic links” vs. identifying penalties

“Toxic links”, as flagged by some SEO tools and spoken about in the SEO community, relate to links pointing to your site from a “toxic” domain.

The idea is that, due to the low-quality, spammy nature of the referring domain, your website may suffer as search engines are associating your website with the toxic domain.

Some may see submitting a disavow file, which indicates to search engines like Google that you want them to ignore links, as a solution to improving the health of their website.

However, Google has become increasingly smarter at detecting spammy links pointing to a domain – the kind of links that most websites “naturally” accumulate.

Similarly, disavowing links can be risky, as you might disavow beneficial links and see a drop in performance. Just because an SEO tool says the link is “toxic”, do not take it at face value.

Instead, if you believe your website has backlinks that are potentially impacting performance, the best start is to understand your website history.

  • Have you paid for backlinks in the past in a way that goes against Google’s policy?
  • Do the websites that host these links get little to no traffic? Have they had a sudden drop which may suggest a penalty?
  • Do you have a penalty from Google visible in your Google Search Console?

Before you submit a disavow file, it’s important to identify with confidence that you believe the links pointing to your domain are causing the issues.

If you’re confident that you’ve been penalised (it’s a good idea to call in an SEO professional to help), only then should you consider disavowing.

Do not trust the “toxic link” audit from your favourite SEO tool. Disavowing may do more harm than good.


The outdated tactics I’ve outlined in the piece are all strategies I’ve seen (and admittedly used) over my five years in SEO.

There’s no doubt more outdated/ineffective tactics being used out there to trick search engines. And if I encounter any others, I’ll update this article with alternatives.

This piece aims to educate those who are perhaps newer in their SEO careers to ensure they’re using the most effective tactics on their client or in-house websites.

To summarise:

  • Focus on earning high-quality coverage to build authority instead of buying cheap, ineffective links.
  • Focusing on search intent instead of forcing the “right” page to rank for your target keyword.
  • Writing for humans instead of keyword stuffing to manipulate search engines.
  • Update old content to make it more helpful and relevant instead of updating publish dates to make it appear fresh.
  • Build genuine social proof online instead of manipulating Review schema.
  • Focus on creating the best user experience within your website footer instead of stuffing the links to every “important” page.
  • Provide the most helpful answer and ensure the user can find it in your content quickly instead of aiming for a certain word count.
  • Identify strong evidence for a penalty for low-quality links instead of disavowing links based on an SEO tool’s “toxic link” audit.

If you found this article useful at all, drop a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Author: Richard September
I'm a London-based SEO Consultant with over 5 years of SEO experience at award-winning marketing agencies. I’ve worked with family-run businesses through to FTSE 100 enterprises to achieve business growth with strategic SEO.

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