Are These 3 Lesser-Known SEO Problems Holding You Back?


Marketers have gotten pretty good at addressing many key SEO problem areas (even as algorithms and best practices evolve). But are these three lesser-known issues hurting your SEO without you realizing it? Here’s how to know and what to do says, Kim Kosaka, Director of Marketing, Alexa 

If your business or agency is diligent in addressing ongoing (and constantly evolving) SEO requirements, you probably already have a pretty good handle on the most well-known issues. You’ve likely ensured that your site is mobile-friendly, is boosted by numerous inbound links, offers an ongoing stream of quality and relevant content, and gets all those behind-the-scenes details right such as title tags, headlines, page titles, metadata, etc. However, you may still have a blind spot for lesser-known issues that can be equally critical to your site’s SEO standing.

Here are three of the most pressing SEO challenges that you may not be aware of – along with current best practices for addressing and alleviating each:

1. Negative SEO

Negative SEO occurs when a third party purposefully attacks your site’s reputation with search engines to reduce its rankings. Competitors (or other bad actors simply motivated by mischief) can utilize several different techniques to make you look bad. Attackers can use link farms to create low-quality backlinks to your site, effectively framing you as attempting to fool search engines with spammy, illegitimate links. They might scrape content from your site and post it across link farm sites to make search engines think your original, thoughtfully-produced content is copied and associated with low-quality sites. Hackers, if they have the means, may place problematic content on your site or make subtle code changes that ding your SEO. Attackers can also post fake reviews on sites such as Google or Yelp to damage your SEO – and your reputation.

What can you do?

Proactively monitor for spammy backlinks and contact Google to disavow those connections. If you find that another site has duplicated your content, first contact the site’s webmaster to see if there’s a reasonable explanation (such as a rogue guest content provider) and the possibility of resolving the situation directly. Otherwise, use Google’s Online Copyright Infringement form to report the issue. Regularly audit your site for potential hacking-related issues, and carefully control website access to prevent incidents where unauthorized employees or former employees are able to manipulate the site. Monitor any relevant review sites germane to your business as well, and use the apparatus provided by these sites to flag fake reviews.

2. Google penalties

Unfortunately, the aforementioned problems aren’t always introduced by attackers – they can be, gulp, self-inflicted. Google’s algorithms are constantly updating and evolving, and SEO best practices adapt with them. For example, there was a time when keyword stuffing may have made sense, but it’s now a penalized practice (a good thing). Other concerns include poor quality backlinks, duplicate or scraped content, overuse of anchor linking, hidden links, cloaking, hacking, irrelevant content, and website timeouts. Of course, any truly black hat techniques are rightfully penalized.

What can you do?

Really know the rules of the latest Google algorithm updates and heed them. As above, disavow poor quality backlinks, and develop those with higher quality sites. Replace any duplicate content on your site. Avoid anchor link overuse and make anchors conversational. Ensure that the nuts and bolts of your site, from links to content to performance, all work toward convincing Google that your site is a worthy place to send visitors.

3. Keyword Cannibalization

While it may seem wise to thoroughly saturate a certain topic you’re an expert on with content piece after content piece, search engine algorithms often can’t determine which pages targeting the same keyword to direct visitors toward. Rather than building up your site’s reputation, the algorithms end up making these pages compete with each other for attention. This results in lower overall rankings and the possibility that a page without your best content on a topic will end up being most prominent in results.

What to do:

Create a mapping of each piece of content on your site and the keyword topics that they target. Then, select your single best piece of content for each keyword central to your site. For example, a high-quality whitepaper full of valuable information will allow you to put your best foot forward, versus a middling blog entry on the same subject. Finally, remove or alter other content to target different keywords. This ensures that each content page has a clear lane for SEO success and drives strategy for how you can adapt currently buried content to have its best chance to shine as well.

By investigating the effects that negative SEO, Google penalties, and keyword cannibalization have on your overall search rankings as thoroughly as you already do with better-known concerns, you can address practices that may be in need of attention and make sure no hidden snags hold back your SEO success.

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