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What NOT to Do: Lessons from Google's Data Leak

What NOT to Do: Lessons From Google’s Data Leak

Written by
Chris Tatum

Google’s recent data leak revealed the intricacies behind its ranking algorithms, providing marketers with a rare opportunity to refine their SEO strategies based on detailed information from the search engine itself. Our latest blog post shared our SEO team’s analysis of this leaked information and offered guidance on how to optimize your content for better search results. In this follow-up, we’ll explore what practices you should stop doing based on this information.


WITIHN’s Tips on What NOT to Do:

1. STOP Disavowing Links:

Disavowing links — a tool that lets website owners specify which links should be considered for their site’s ranking — has minimal impact on SEO and can actually harm your site. 

Why: Google’s algorithms have become sophisticated enough to identify and ignore spammy or low-quality links on their own. Overuse of the disavow tool can signal to Google that your site is associated with many bad links, potentially lowering your site’s credibility.

Instead: Focus on building high-quality backlinks naturally through valuable content,  such as blog posts, infographics, lists, and genuine outreach efforts.


2. STOP Using Meta Keywords:

Meta keywords (not to be confused with title tags) have long been devalued in Google’s algorithms. Focusing on them is an unnecessary use of time and resources.

Why: Google stopped considering meta keywords as a ranking factor years ago because they were often abused by spammers.

Instead: Concentrate on crafting compelling title tags and meta descriptions that improve click-through rates (CTRs) and accurately reflect your content.


3. STOP Keyword Stuffing:

Avoid requiring “minimum” mentions of keywords on site pages. Google’s algorithm favors high-quality, unique content over keyword density.

Why: Keyword stuffing makes content read unnaturally and can degrade the user experience. Google’s algorithm penalizes sites that use this tactic.

Instead: Write content that addresses the needs and interests of your audience. Use keywords naturally within the context.


4. STOP Creating Low-Quality Guest Posts:

These are posts written for other sites with the primary intention of obtaining backlinks to your site. If done poorly, they can damage your site’s reputation and rankings.

Why: Low-quality guest posts often provide little value and can be seen as an attempt to manipulate search rankings.

Instead: Focus on contributing high-quality guest posts to reputable sites, ensuring the content is relevant, informative, and valuable to readers.


5. STOP Using Exact Match Anchor Text:

This refers to the clickable text in a hyperlink that matches the exact keyword or phrase a page wants to rank for in search results. It looks manipulative and can hurt your rankings. 

Why: Exact match anchor text can look unnatural and spammy to search engines, which can lead to penalties.

Instead: Use natural, varied anchor text that fits the context of your content.


  • Exact Match Anchor: “For the best running shoes, visit our website today!” 
  • Natural Varied Anchor Text: “We offer shoes designed for various activities, including running.”


6. STOP Ignoring UI/UX:

Google’s ranking algorithm values user engagement metrics such as quality clicks and time spent on a page. To boost your site’s ranking, avoid poorly designed landing pages that lack clear call-to-actions, slow load times, or intrusive ads, and ensure your website offers a positive user experience.

Why: Poor user experience can lead to high bounce rates and low engagement, which sends negative signals to search engines.

Instead: Invest in user-friendly, intuitive designs, fast loading times, mobile optimization, and clear site navigation to enhance the user experience.


7. STOP Ignoring Structured Data:

Neglecting structured data can severely limit your visibility in search results and rich snippets. Structured data, also known as Schema markup, is microdata that you can add to your website’s HTML to improve the way search engines read and represent your page in search results. Rich snippets are enhanced search results that provide users with additional information.

Why: Structured data helps search engines understand your content better and can enhance your search listings with rich snippets, increasing CTRs.

Instead: Implement structured data to improve how search engines interpret and display your content. 


8. STOP Over-Relying on Automated Tools:

While tools that provide comprehensive keyword analysis or insights into search performance can be helpful, over-relying on them without understanding the context and nuances of SEO can lead to poor decisions. 

Why: Automated tools can miss context, nuances, and the unique aspects of your site that require human judgment and expertise.

Instead: Use SEO tools to gather data and insights, but always combine tool insights with human expertise. You should review and interpret findings with a critical eye, and adjust strategies based on human analysis and understanding. 


While some of the above tactics are commonly used by websites hoping to quickly boost their search rankings, Google has made it clear that these approaches can actually harm them. To improve your standing with Google, your site should consistently prioritize providing a high-quality user experience and high-quality content. If you’re looking to refine your SEO strategy to align with these principles, WITHIN can help your brand create original content for your target audience while optimizing user experience.

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Written by
Chris Tatum


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