Worst SEO Practices – Top 10 SEO Tactics to Avoid in 2024

Written by Kyle Fellows / September 23, 2020 / 5 Minute Read
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Bad SEO practices can damage your domain authority and credibility. From the early days of deceptive black hat tactics to modern misconceptions, it’s crucial to understand what not to do. This post delves into the worst SEO practices, their implications, and offers insights on building a sustainable and effective SEO strategy.


Bad SEO practice harms your domain authority and damages your credibility with users and search engines. The goal of all digital marketing is to attract your ideal audience and provide solutions for their problems. Tricks and shortcuts may damage your online presence. At Valve+Meter Performance Marketing, our SEO services include audits and analysis of our client’s existing content. In this article, we consider some of the worst SEO practices and how to fix lousy SEO.

A black hat with a metal buckle.

What Are the Worst Practices in Search Engine Optimization?

Bad SEO practices may be due to a lack of knowledge or a misunderstanding of how search engines operate. Decades ago, when Google and other search algorithms were first emerging, bad actors invented black hat tactics to trick and deceive crawlers. Google, Bing, and others quickly adapted recognizing keyword stuff, deceptive title tags, link farms and other ploys. There are remnants of black hat SEO used across the internet but largely these strategies have been discredited by Google and SEO experts.

The Goal of SEO

Organic search results rankings can greatly improve how consumers discover your products and services. Unlike black hat tricks and ploys, the best SEO strategy defines the goal is to attract high quality leads to your website with relevant and engaging content. There are specific on-page SEO techniques as well as off-page methods to build long term success for your business.

What is Bad SEO?

Defining bad SEO is difficult but any strategy that does not work toward the long term goal could be categorized as poor SEO. For instance, adding keywords across your website may increase your website’s visibility and traffic but if you do not use relevant terms to your audience your conversion rate will be low. This variation of bad SEO may not damage your domain authority and credibility but wasting effort on irrelevant content is bad practice.

Certain strategies act as signals to search engine crawlers. When very bad SEO practice is discovered, you risk losing visibility in search engines and in extreme cases being de-indexed.

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Bad SEO Practices Harm Your Website

The better-optimized content a website has, the more search traffic it will receive and the higher it will rank on search engines. Optimizing includes adding relevant keywords and keyword phrases to content. When looking to optimize your website, most businesses look on the internet for tips on how to rank faster.

There is no shortcut for quicker jumps in traffic, and following the wrong advice leads to some bad SEO practices. The following ploys are based on trying to cut corners, deceive algorithms, and thus are SEO worst practices. When creating content including writing, video, images, infographics, always consider your consumer first. To rank well with Google’s algorithm, you need to appease search engine crawlers to make sure you have a good site structure, keyword density, and quality content throughout your website, not just one blog post or web page.

Search engine optimization should constantly change and grow throughout the evolution of your digital marketing strategy.  Search engines update their algorithms all the time, and what might have ranked high in the search results one day, might not the next. Instead of trying to game the system, you should continue working on your SEO strategy to help people and more than likely you stay competitive with Google and Bing.

1. Keyword Stuffing

You want to use rich and original content across your website. Keyword stuffing refers to filling websites with content that is not relevant or valuable to visitors. Keyword stuffing is one of the oldest ploys to trick search engines. Not only does this tactic not work but search engines are likely to flag your site as spammy.
Instead use the same keywords across multiple pages that add value to your target audience. Represent keywords accurately and naturally throughout your website. Repeating the same phrase and writing content just to rank for keywords will hurt the user experience and likely harm your overall domain authority. Focusing on long tail keywords that target your specific audience will earn the traffic you need to grow your website.

2. Spam or Duplicate Content

Using someone else’s content is a major red flag in any content creation. Repetitive content on your own site is also a bad SEO practice. Multiple pages with the same content, structure, page title, anchor text, and featured image are all common bad SEO practices.

3. No Links or Deceptive Links

Low quality or deceptive internal links are a poor SEO tactic. Your web pages should include strong and relevant links pointing between related content. Internal linking helps web crawlers understand how your website is structured. Unnatural links reduce the user experience and do not positively impact SEO. Keyword rich anchor text is best practice. If visitors have a clear expectation of where a link leads, then page sessions, page views, time on site, and other analytics will be positively impacted.

4. Ignoring Titles and Meta Descriptions

Like keyword rich anchor text, titles and meta descriptions provide a preview of what users expect. Both elements should be optimized to include the exact keyword phrase the page focuses on. Using duplicate titles, metas, or leaving these blank is one of the worst SEO practices. It signals crawlers that you do not maintain your website. Competitors with strong structure are more likely to win organic search results.

5. Thin Content

When it comes to content, many people think it’s better to have thin content on a subject, rather than no content at all. However, having thin content can actually do more harm than good in the long run.
Thin content refers to content that lacks depth, detail, and value to the reader. It may be short, repetitive, or generic, and usually fails to help the reader in any way or provide them with any meaningful insights. Essentially, a page with thin content exists just as an effort to rank for a key term, rather than to provide a searcher with any real value. In recent years, Google has been cracking down on thin content and penalizing websites that use it heavily. This means that if your website has a lot of thin content, it could be pushed down in the search engine rankings, making it harder for potential visitors to find you.

6. Too Many Keywords

While it may seem like a good idea to counter thin content with dense pages filled with a comprehensive long form blog post or news article, too many keywords lose focus. Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving and updating in order to provide users with the most relevant and high-quality content.
You need to choose targeted keywords for each page. Create content that thoroughly addresses the content and uses related keywords sparingly. If a subject is complex, consider creating a number of pages that link to a central or hub page. The internally linked pages help search crawlers and users discover all the targeted keywords for each individual page and also interact with the whole subject.

7. Duplicate Content

Be careful to not create a number of similar pages. Duplicate content is the bad SEO tactic of publishing content that is identical or very similar to content that is already published on your website or somewhere else on the internet. This bad SEO practice can result in serious Google penalties, including a refusal to index that page and even others on your website.
To avoid issues of duplicate content, ensure any content you’re publishing is completely yours and won’t be found anywhere else, including your own content on other pages throughout the website.
Instead of using duplicate content, focus on creating valuable pages that provide readers with real value. In order for content to be valuable, it must be unique, informative, engaging, and relevant to your audience’s interests and needs. By creating valuable content, you can establish your website as a credible source of information, build a loyal readership, and improve your search engine rankings over time.
Regular content audits can be valuable to avoid duplicate content. Instead of writing numerous pages on the same subject, improve the quality of older content within your ongoing SEO strategies.

8. Link Farms

Link building is challenging because it requires networking and outreach. Earning inbound links from high authority websites can be highly beneficial to your SEO. This leads some to use one of the worst SEO practices to deceive algorithms. Link farms sell backlinks that are irrelevant. Links in a blog comment section, sites filled with unnatural links, and other deceitful practices may exaggerate your domain authority but nearly all link farms are eventually flagged. Bad SEO tactics like thin content and meta descriptions can be repaired internally. Disavowing websites from link farms requires a lot of effort and often relies on third party intervention.

9. Black Hat SEO

Other practices that are considered unethical or manipulative techniques may temporarily improve your rankings, such as buying links, using misleading headlines, stuffing and misusing keywords, leaving spam comments, and adding hidden text. Google’s spiders crawl websites to find relevant content, but they can also discover when website owners engage in such manipulative tactics.
Black hat techniques can get you penalized by Google, leading to drops in performance and decreases in SERP rankings. Additionally, black hat SEO can harm the overall user experience by directing visitors to irrelevant or low-quality content. You can even do serious and irrecoverable damage to the reputation of your brand or website, leading to a loss of trust among your audience.
White hat SEO techniques, on the other hand, focus on creating high-quality, informative content that your target audience is searching for. Other efforts, like building genuine, authoritative links and clearing up any technical errors on your website, can help you see improvements. While using white hat techniques may take longer to see results, they can improve your search rankings over time, help you build a loyal audience, and eliminate the risks of using black hat strategies.

10. Ignoring Changes in the Industry

SEO is often described as a moving target. Algorithms are constantly updating, so it’s important to keep up with the latest changes to make sure you’re not using outdated or ineffective techniques.
You can keep up with any changes by paying close attention to industry news and trends, monitoring your SEO campaigns, and communicating with others regarding organic performance.
When you notice any changes, adapting is crucial. It’s unlikely that you’ll achieve long-term success with SEO if you don’t stay current with the latest trends and algorithm updates. This means that you’ll need to continuously refine your SEO strategies, analyze your website’s data, and make adjustments to ensure that you’re maximizing your online visibility and traffic.
Because SEO is such a long-term process, many professionals fall into the trap of “setting it and forgetting it”. Meanwhile, a website’s performance can fluctuate depending on various factors such as changes in user behavior, updates to search engine algorithms, and advancements in technology. Updating your content and other SEO efforts as necessary can help your website win against the competition.

What are the Best SEO Practices?

While there’s no shortage of poor SEO practices, there is also an abundance of good SEO practices that can increase your website’s visibility and help it get found by your target audience. Some best SEO practices include:

  • Create high-quality content that is relevant to your target audience. Relevant, informative, and engaging content is crucial to the success of any website. Your content should be well-written and relevant to the keywords that you are targeting.
  • Optimize your website’s structure and code. This includes using the correct keywords in your website’s title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags. It also includes making sure that your website is accessible for search engines to crawl and index.
  • Build high-quality backlinks to your website. Backlinks are incoming links from other websites to your website. They are a valuable ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, as Google associates backlinks with trust and equity from one website to another. You can build backlinks by guest blogging, reaching out to other websites in similar industries, creating high-quality content that others want to link to, and submitting your website to directories. Make sure you do not engage in any black hat link-building techniques as you add links.
  • Optimize your website for mobile devices. More and more people are using their mobile devices to search the web. Make sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices so this growing audience can easily access and navigate around your website.
  • Track your SEO progress and make adjustments as needed. Use Google Analytics and other SEO tools to track your website’s traffic and see how your SEO efforts are affecting your rankings. Make adjustments to your SEO strategy as needed to improve your results.

Contact Valve+Meter About Search Engine Optimization

Google and other search engines are always changing their best practices for ranking content. Bad SEO tactics can decrease user experience, and cause your website to be penalized or even banned from search engines altogether.

Your SEO and content strategy should always be changing and evolving to make sure that you maintain your ranking and authority. Using the right SEO tactics and avoiding common bad SEO practices should be at the forefront of your digital marketing strategy. It can be a lot of work to run a business and take on search engine optimization on your own. That’s where Valve+Meter can help. Our team of digital marketing experts is here to create unique and original content specific to your business while following best-practice SEO tactics.

If you want to appear higher on the search engine results page, talk to Valve+Meter Performance Marketing today to see how we can help.

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