Want to stand out online and attract the ideal prospective client straight to your site?
One way to do it: get a website page or blog post you own to land somewhere on the first few pages of a search result. This, of course, is easier said than done when you consider that Google will fetch you millions and millions of results when you type in a search query.
But someone’s gotta rank on the first page of search engine results. The question is, how do you manage it so your own site comes up first?
The answer is SEO.
SEO stands for search engine optimization, or the process of getting a particular page to rank higher in the results a search engine delivers in response to a query.
Creating content and building sites using SEO best practices will help you rank better in a search engine result. That’s the focus of my newest course for advisors, Using SEO: The Comprehensive But Not Complicated Guide to Get More Organic Traffic to Your Site.
(Want to learn what to do to benefit from SEO? Click here to enroll in the course!)
Most of the time, we focus on understanding what we need to do to make the most of search engine optimization.
But sometimes, knowing what not to do can be just as critical to SEO success.
The SEO Practices That Will Get You into Trouble
Let’s talk about the flip side to all the things that you should do to get a benefit from SEO. This is what you need to avoid doing.
In my course on SEO for financial advisors, we talk about all the organic, free, easy-to-implement SEO tactics to use to get found in search results.
All of the tactics we cover are above-board — but there are other tactics out there and available to you if you dig deeper into SEO, some of which are pretty shady.
In fact, they could land you in a lot of trouble with the powers that be (which in this case, means Google).
Let’s cover the innocuous stuff first. These are things that may not get your site blacklisted, but they WILL leave your visitors feeling annoyed and may earn you a slap on the wrist from search engines who want to direct users to the most relevant, most valuable content on the web.
SEO No-No #1: Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is when you intentionally fill a post or page full of a word you want to rank for in an attempt to manipulate search engines into ranking you higher in their results.
You’ve probably seen pages on the web that attempt to do this — and they look and feel spammy.
They’re the ones that say “XYZ Financial can give you a financial planner for all your financial planner needs for living in Seattle when you need a financial planner in Washington State.”
It just sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Even if search engines rewarded this kind of content, the actual human visitors to your site will hate it.
Search engines don’t really use keyword density as a metric to determine relevance. (Google is pretty dang smart and can use other factors to determine the relevance and value of online content.)
Instead of stuffing your content full of the keyword you want to rank for, create your content in a way that allows that keyword to appear naturally and intelligently.
We don’t use the same word over and over and over again when we speak. Don’t do it when you write, even if you’re writing content that you hope helps you rank for a specific phrase or term.
SEO No-No #2: Copying Content (or Duplicating It Without the Right Tags)
We already know plagiarism is wrong and will get you into trouble beyond just the fact that you’ll get zero SEO benefit from doing it.
But let’s say you’re not actually copying anyone. Maybe you want to take content that you wrote on your site and republish it elsewhere on the web.
Republishing and syndication are actually great content marketing strategies that can help you expand your reach and get in front of new audiences.
Just be careful in how you do this. Search engines tend to frown on duplicate content because they struggle to understand which version should be indexed and provided to users looking for the best results.
Search engines don’t like to show the same content that appears in two different places on the web when they deliver results, so they’ll try to pick one that seems the most relevant.
That’s usually the content the search engine deems is the original piece of content… but search engines also favor what’s most relevant, which often comes from high-authority sites.
This is where duplicate content can get problematic for you. If you republish content from your website to another — and that other site has more authority and popularity — the page with your content on the other site will likely outrank your own website in search results (even though you published the content to your site first).
The SEO problem doesn’t come from the fact that Google punishes you for sharing or syndicating your content. The problem is that you have to compete with websites that you likely won’t outrank.
In other words, Google will provide a link to the other site if it comes up in a search and won’t show your site at all.
To help you avoid that issue, you can use something called a canonical tag in pieces of content that are duplicates of your original posts.
Let’s say you have a great post that you published to your blog and Business Insider wants to syndicate it to their site. You can ask them to place a canonical tag into the post they publish on their site.
This tells Google that the post on Business Insider is a duplicate, and points the search engine back to where the original post lives.
Not all sites syndicating or republishing content will allow you to place a canonical link onto their copy of your content, however (because they want to SEO benefit themselves!). If this is the case, you need to decide what your goal is in publishing your content to other sites:
- If your goal is to have your site rank well for a particular keyword, you probably don’t want to publish that specific content on a site that won’t include a canonical tag that points Google (or any search engine) back to your own site.
- If your goal is to expand your reach and get in front of wider audiences, prioritize republishing and syndication. Spread your content far and wide, even if the higher-authority sites won’t provide you with a canonical tag. Include links back to your site in your bio or byline and throughout the post (as appropriate) instead.
SEO No-No #3: Highly Intrusive Popups (and Popups on Mobile)
If you have an opt-in form that pops up and covers the entire screen of your site, it’s intrusive and disrupts your visitor’s experience.
And Google does not like that.
This could include things like plain popups, welcome mats, banners, or slide-in forms that you’re using to capture leads.
Now, this being said, yes these are useful tools and I recommend using them. I use opt-in forms myself (look to the sidebar and the footer of this post for examples. You might have already seen the slide-in form and guess what? You’ll probably get hit with an exit intent popup before you leave here today. Sorry.)
These forms can get great conversion rates on desktops and laptops. Just make sure they’re set to “off” for mobile devices.
No matter what, a good best practice is to avoid pop-ups that cover your entire screen and obstruct the view of your website.
While we want to make sure people see our great offers, we don’t want to hold them hostage to get them to opt in. Your popups should serve as more of a suggestion, not a demand.
The SEO Tactics That Can Get Your Site Blacklisted
So far, we’ve touched on 3 SEO no-nos: keyword stuffing, doing duplicate content the wrong way, and really annoying pop-ups that disrupt a user’s experience.
These things are bad, but they’ll likely just earn you a slap on the wrist from Google in the form of poor performance in search engine results. In other words, Google is not gonna give you a first-page ranking if your content is this poorly optimized.
There are some other tactics out there, though, that will get you into far worse trouble. In fact, you could even be blacklisted by search engines if you do these things. These are the cardinal sins of SEO.
The absolute worst thing you can do? It’s probably buying links. If someone emails you promising to get you ranking on the first page in Google in exchange for a small fee, proceed with caution.
While there are legit SEO experts out there, most often when you receive emails like this they’re from scammy companies that buy links on your behalf… but you’re the one who gets burned when Google blacklists your site for this practice.
Another SEO sin is excessive keyword stuffing. Using a keyword a little too often may prevent you from ranking well in results.
But really going to town and stuffing a post full of long-tail keywords, like “fee only financial planner San Diego millennials” (and writing that out 25 times in a 500-word post) may earn you a serious penalty.
This goes from being kind of annoying and weird to being deliberate and spammy. Avoid it.
One last tactic to avoid is hidden text. This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: trying to hide text on your website so human visitors can’t see it, but search engine crawlers still index it.
Say the background of your website is white. You could then hide a block of text full of keywords you wanted your site to rank for by making that text white.
A visitor is unlikely to find it if they’re just reading your page, but a crawler will still find it and index it for a search engine.
As stupid as this sounds, I’ve actually seen advisor websites that do this. And the sad thing was, they did it because the SEO firm they hired to help them told them to do it.
You’ll want to be really careful when it comes to spending money on SEO. Most good SEO tactics are also organic, meaning something you can do for free (or something you can hire a virtual assistant or content marketer to do for you).
Using organic SEO will put you ahead of the person who went out and hired someone schilling out bad SEO tactics; someone who tried to take short cuts along the way.
If you focus first on creating great, relevant content that actually helps your audience, you are going to be miles ahead of someone who refuses to take the time to do content marketing and SEO the right way.
Improve Your SEO: Learn Everything You Need to Succeed with CAM School
We cover these no-nos — along with everything you need to do to benefit from organic SEO tactics — in CAM School’s course, Using SEO: The Comprehensive But Not Complicated Guide to Get More Organic Traffic to Your Site.
You might be uncertain about how to successfully use SEO right now. But after you take this course, you’ll confidently optimize all the content on your website in a way that improves your rankings in search engine results.
You’ll learn simple, easy ways to get a big result from organic efforts through videos, resources, checklists and worksheets, and lots of guidance and support along the way.
Here’s some of what we’ll cover together over 12 video modules that also come with transcripts, worksheets, checklists, and other resources to use:
- How to organize your content around SEO
- Where to start with keyword research
- Why you must deeply understand your audience’s intentions (and how to do it)
- What to do to validate your keyword ideas
- When you need to rely on SEO… and when you need to just write for humans, not search engines
- How to optimize your whole site (not just your blog posts)
- What you can do offsite to improve your SEO
- Why there are some SEO tactics you just shouldn’t use (and why)
There’s even an exclusive Facebook group and community waiting for you at the very end so you can continue to build your skills even when you’re done with this course.
No prior knowledge or any kind of technical know-how required here. This is the comprehensive — but not complicated — guide that will show you how to actually use SEO as a marketing tool in a way that increases your site traffic and gives you more opportunities to convert leads into clients.