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7 Experts Give Their Best SEO Advice
Which SEO tactics no longer work? Which underrated techniques are worth using? What's the best advice for SEO newbies? Here's what the pros say.

By: Masha Maksimava
April 4th, 2017

I know, SEO's never been quick or easy. But the entire thing can seem particularly daunting as the search industry evolves. Which of the once effective tactics no longer work? Which of the less popular ones are actually worth it? And what is the best SEO advice for those who can't afford to do 10 years' worth of reading up?

For today's post, I asked Bill Slawski, Barry Schwartz, Eric Enge, and other SEO experts (that I personally respect and admire) these questions. Here are the answers from the best in the industry.

Bill Slawski
Director of Search at Go Fish Digital; President and Founder at SEO by the Sea
Which SEO tactics or metrics do you think people should just leave in the past (but they won't)?
Google never used Keyword Density, LSI Keywords, Age of Domain Registration, Site Uptime, CCTLDs, Use of Google Analytics, Facebook likes and shares, # of Employees listed in LinkedIn as ranking signals. I've seen these referred to in linkbait posts on Google Ranking Signals, and referring people to articles like those misleads and misinforms many people.
Which underrated SEO tactic do you wish people would focus on instead?
People aren't using Structured Data markup as described at schema.org and on the Google Developers pages to earn information on rich Knowledge panels and rich snippets. These are sources of information about how search works and where it will be growing in the future that are worth paying a lot more attention to.
If you could give a newbie version of yourself who's just starting out in SEO one piece of SEO advice, what would it be?
Take the time to learn Python to build tools, and to experience first hand how something such as Tensorflow and machine learning works, because the future of Search and SEO probably involves more coding than it does now.
Eric Enge
Founder and CEO at Stone Temple Consulting; Author at Search Engine Land, Forbes, and Moz
Which SEO tactics or metrics do you think people should just leave in the past (but they won't)?
Overdoing pursuit of the long tail of search. We end up working with many companies every year that have published way too many pages, because they think that this will bring them more traffic. And, every year, we create new case studies where we reduce a site's page count by 50% of more, and see traffic grow from 40% to 100% or more. Create too many pages, and you end up creating thin content, and it hurts your overall traffic.
Which underrated SEO tactic do you wish people would focus on instead?
Improving content quality. Instead of adding pages, many of these sites should focus on improving the quality of the pages they have. This also happens many times per year — we'll work on the top category pages of a web site, and add new content, or replace existing content, and traffic soars, often more than doubling the traffic to the pages we work on. It all starts by having a user focused view of what should be on the page.
If you could give a newbie version of yourself who's just starting out in SEO one piece of SEO advice, what would it be?

Be prepared for continuous learning. SEO is a highly dynamic field that is always changing. In 2 years, one of the hottest topic areas may be building conversational interfaces to plug into Google Assistant, Cortana, Amazon Echo, Siri, and other personal assistants. For most people, that's not even on the roadmap today.

But, hopefully, if you're entering this field you're already passionate about learning. If you are, you should be in great shape to have a great career!

Aleh Barysevich
Co-founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite; Founder and CMO at Awario
Which SEO tactics or metrics do you think people should just leave in the past (but they won't)?

It really gets to me how in the SEO space, certain concepts and tactics are proclaimed "dead" every now and again. With Google Hummingbird for example, a lot of the headlines we saw said something like "Keywords are dead; your entire SEO strategy needs to change". I can understand why the media are doing that, but I also feel it's causing a lot of bogus controversy in SEO (which already is controversial enough).

In reality, there's rarely been a single update where Google would completely leave a factor out of its ranking algorithm. Instead, they tend to tweak the way they evaluate certain things to make the system more objective and harder to game. So when you hear about another big SEO game-changer, do some in-depth reading up at expert resources like Search Engine Land, SEO by the Sea, and Search Engine Roundtable before you change anything in your strategy. More often than not, you won't need to change a thing.

Which underrated SEO tactic do you wish people would focus on instead?
I think user experience in the SEO context doesn't get the attention it deserves. Improving the user satisfaction metrics on your site and focusing on increasing your SERP click rate should be your primary concerns if you're looking to improve traffic and conversions. Additionally, our in-house tests (along with dozens of public experiments you can find online) prove these factors strongly correlate with rankings as well. Google's always said that what they are after is providing the search results people want, and it's sort of a no-brainer that those are the results that people click and dwell on.
If you could give a newbie version of yourself who's just starting out in SEO one piece of SEO advice, what would it be?

Try to really understand how the tools you use work, and how the metrics you rely on are calculated. Even a process as simple as rank tracking or site auditing is very different depending on the tools you use, so it's always a good idea to cross-check your data in several tools. You might be surprised to learn that on average, WebSite Auditor finds many more pages than the more popular Screaming Frog when it crawls a site. But there are also exceptions — that's why we also do cross-checks in other tools when we do our own SEO. Ahrefs is generally believed to be the best backlink checker, and our tests do show that they win in ~42% of cases. But Majestic beats them in 34% of cases, and our own backlink index beats 'em both for 17.5% of sites.

When it comes to complex metrics — Keyword Difficulty, PageRank alternatives (Page Authority, URL Rating, Trust Flow, InLink Rank), TF-IDF, etc. — it's crucial to understand that each tool calculates these in its own way. A lot of the time, two metrics under the same name aren't even supposed to correlate with or mirror each other — because they are based off different factors. So before you use any piece of data to drive strategic decisions, take the time to research where it's coming from. You'll often be able to find the information on the tool's website; if not, email support and try to get the most specific answer you can.

Barry Schwartz
Founder at Search Engine Roundtable; CEO at RustyBrick; News Editor at Search Engine Land
Which SEO tactics or metrics do you think people should just leave in the past (but they won't)?
Keyword density and PageRank.
Which underrated SEO tactic do you wish people would focus on instead?
Creating really good and unique content.
If you could give a newbie version of yourself who's just starting out in SEO one piece of SEO advice, what would it be?
Find something you love and that you are good at and help those in the industry do better at that topic.
Tim Soulo
Head of Marketing at Ahrefs
Which SEO tactics or metrics do you think people should just leave in the past (but they won't)?

Without a doubt that would be "publishing a lot of content." Back in the days, when Google wasn't too smart, by sheer quantity of pages (content) on your website you could attract tons of traffic. This is how content farms like EzineArticles flourished.

These days quality beats quantity. More and more people focus on having fewer content on their sites, but making sure these few pieces are the best of their kind. And this is exactly what you need to do to win at SEO today.

Which underrated SEO tactic do you wish people would focus on instead?
Apart from keeping all content on your website fresh and awesome, one other underrated tactic is spreading the word about it. The good old "if you publish, they will come" notion. That never happens. Even the best content needs a ton of promotion to thrive.
If you could give a newbie version of yourself who's just starting out in SEO one piece of SEO advice, what would it be?
Instead of focusing on some trendy (or secretive) individual SEO strategies, put all your effort in being the best search result that people could wish for. And let the world know that you exist, by promoting the hell of it.
Marie Haynes
Which SEO tactics or metrics do you think people should just leave in the past (but they won't)?
I think that too many people are relying too heavily on guest posts for links. Not all guest posting is bad, but if you are using this as your primary method of getting links, I think it's a little risky. This is a tactic that still works quite well sometimes. But, I am betting that in the future Google will find ways to devalue these links.
Which underrated SEO tactic do you wish people would focus on instead?

Link earning is so much harder than outright link building, but it really is the way of the future. The problem is that there are no guarantees. I could build an awesome piece of content, reach out to journalists and bloggers and get very few links. Or, I could build another piece of content and perhaps that one takes off. As an agency, or link builder, it can be frustrating to work like this because you can never be sure of getting links. But, when you DO get links, they are ones that really should be valuable and comply with Google's Guidelines.

My favorite way of building content that gets links is to publish some kind of research. It doesn't have to be done on a massive scale. While I love the posts where big companies review millions of websites and report on their findings, even better are the small experiments. For example, I wrote about a few examples of sites that saw Penguin recoveries, and this attracted lots of links without me even asking.

If you could give a newbie version of yourself who's just starting out in SEO one piece of SEO advice, what would it be?
Focus on quality all of the time. As a newbie learning SEO, I spent a lot of time learning about things that I saw others talking about that could bring big results such as using expired domains to build a private network, or finding places to buy sponsorship links. That might seem silly now because we know that those are things that go against Google's Quality Guidelines. But, the lure of finding a quick way to rank was strong. I think that a lot of people are still going after the quick wins. But, if we could all put that time towards building good stuff that is helpful to people and figuring out how to spread the word about that stuff, this type of thing has lasting benefit. So my advice to newbie me would be to work hard on figuring out what you can do to rank websites that isn't a trick or a loophole.
Paul Shapiro
Director of Strategy & Innovation at Catalyst; Founder at Search Wilderness
Which SEO tactics or metrics do you think people should just leave in the past (but they won't)?
It's unbelievable how much bad SEO is happening still today. This recent thread on reddit's webdev community is a testament to that fact. I still get emails asking to link exchanges. Don't do that. I still see people nofollowing internal links to try and sculpt PageRank. Don't do that. Infographics can still technically be used for link building, but are sort of passé. You're much better off presenting complex data in an interactive data visualization, in the way that you see publishers like NYTimes doing. They're more fuctional, more interesting, and the good ones really attract links. In general, there's a lot of creative, impacful work that can be done improve your organic search presence. So stop focusing on stuff that people were doing 5 years ago.
Which underrated SEO tactic do you wish people would focus on instead?
If you aren't optimizing for organic CTR, then you're leaving a lot of traffic on the table. This can be approached more than one way. The best way to accomplish this of course is to do some A/B testing of your title tags and meta descriptions, which can be challenging in Google's organic SERPs. For a good methodology, I recommend taking a look at how Etsy goes about A/B testing their title tags in this post.
If you could give a newbie version of yourself who's just starting out in SEO one piece of SEO advice, what would it be?
Take the time to work on personal projects. Build an affiliate site, blog, or business. There's no learning experience quite like the learning experience you get from working on something that is your own from the ground up. You'll learn twice as much in half the amount of time this way, and that helps everyone around you, your boss, your clients, and yourself.

By: Masha Maksimava

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