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Pat Marcello

SEO Is Spam!

Pat Marcello

Have you ever heard someone say that before? I sure have. It came from the mouth of someone very close to me, and really ticked me off. Being the lady that I am, I didn’t show the true extent of my ire, of course, but I did have to re-educate that person on what SEO is all about. I’m guessing that not knowing much about the topic, she remains skeptical to this day.  What.ever.

But you know, some SEO is spam, or at least what people think is SEO and really isn’t.  SEO isn’t something you can learn overnight or in a single article. Most newbies don’t want to think about it because there’s just so very much else to consider and to this day think it’s rocket science, which it’s not.

To make things worse, some of the things we were taught, even a couple of years ago, are now considered to be spamming by Google. And people just don’t keep up with the changes, unless their site is destroyed by an update.

Things change in SEO at the speed of sound, and since the first Panda iteration in 2011, we’ve been hit from several different angles. What was acceptable in the past is no longer OK.

Turn and Face the Strain

For example, it used to be that you should have a domain that matched topic of your website. Around 2007, I figured this was a good idea, and moved one of my domains to theSEONewsBlog.com.  Wasn’t such a hot idea, knowing what I know now, but that was a BIG deal in the past. If you didn’t have an EMD (exact match domain), you had some trouble ranking.  Of course, there were other considerations, too, but having an EMD was better than not having one.

Then, BAM!


Google decides that  EMDs are spammy.  It’s more about your brand than your product today. What I mean is that it’s not a great idea to have a domain name like “TrainingGermanShepherdDogs.com” if you’re in the dog training business.  Using your brand for your site is now what Google is looking for, so KennelKare.com would just work better.

That said, having an EMD didn’t hurt at all if you had an authority site, meaning one with lots of pages, traffic, and social interaction. It was the little guys, whose sites weren’t so special, that paid for doing something they’d been taught to do over and over again for years.

Guess what else is going away?


I predict that keywords used in the title and description of your content pieces that are also sprinkled throughout the piece and put into header tags and such will be a thing of the past one day, too.

No, today’s not the day, but you need to start preparing yourselves for that eventuality.

The search engines have been perfecting their LSI (latent semantic indexing) over the past six+ years or so, and those searchbots are getting really smart. Spiders can tell what your page is about, not just by the keywords you use, but also by the words you use that are indicative of your topic.  What I mean is this:

If you’re writing an article about golfing and you use words like golf clubs, green, country club, golf shoes, etc. in the same content piece, spiders will intuitively know that you’re writing about the golf.  They’re able to surmise what your page/article/blog post or comment/social media piece is about without your need to employ “used Titleist golf balls green dot.”

In fact, if you have enough SEO clout built up with backlinks and social interactions, you will rank for golfing terms that you may not even have considered. Plus, the very long-tail is a no-no now, too. Keep those to three- to five-word phrases.

Return to Natural

What search engines, especially Google, want is for you to behave naturally. I realize that for some of us, that’s impossible, but they do. And they want you to write naturally without stuffing keywords in where they don’t belong. We’ve known that for a long while now, but what people are overlooking is that content pieces -- be they page, article, or post -- shouldn’t be SEO perfect anymore.

Having a keyword in your title, in your description and sprinkled throughout our text is still OK, but remember what happened with paid linking and duplicate content?

When the proverbial boom was lowered, even sites like Ezine Articles, Wikihow, and Hub Pages paid a heavy toll.  Don’t allow that to happen to you! Your keyword density (the ratio of how many keywords you use when compared to the total amount of text) should be 2% or less in my mind. I know other SEOs will disagree, but one day, you will thank me. No kidding.

Write with a natural voice, as I’m doing in this article. In it, you’ve seen terms like spider, SEO, Google, search engines, EMDs, and such, but I’m not trying to be perfect. (Well, that’s easy to see, but…) What I’m trying to get across to you is that you need to stop writing for search engines and write for readers.

Not only that, but you must bone up on your grammar, your punctuation, and your writing style, no matter what language you’re writing in. Search bots ARE paying attention to that stuff now. The old 250-word barely readable content piece, stuffed to the gills with keywords days are long gone.

I hesitate to speak for the Big Dog, but it seems to me that what Google wants is to make the Internet a more polished and business-like place. They don’t want to show junky results to searchers anymore at all, and that’s what all these changes are about. They would rather have CNN, Fox, Reuters, or Huffington Post on a “politics” SERPs page than “mypoliticsblog.com” – a badly written running commentary from an unknown who writes poorly about issues that he or she doesn’t really understand.   Get my drift?

Get the Correct 4-1-1

Another thing that lots of folks are too lazy to do is a bit of research. If you’re writing about something and you’re not quite sure of the facts – find out about them before writing vague and boring crap.

When I wrote for magazines, editors loved seeing a statistic or a quirky factoid in the very first paragraph of my query letter.  (A query is your audition for the job, where you pitch an editor on the topic angle you want to write about.) So, I always came up with something very few people knew and wowed them with that. Editors totally loved it, and I got the job more often than not.

The very same tactic works well for Web writing, too. Keep your readers engaged by coming up with statistics, with anecdotal information (storytelling), and cool facts that very few people know.

For example, did you know that in old rural Tibet (now part of China), people added yak dung to their yak butter tea, just to keep the tea leaves together and out of their mouths? I’m guessing you didn’t and that you’d prefer the tea leaves, but how’s that for an interesting tidbit? I found it for my book about the Dalai Lama and my editor absolutely loved it! I got that job and today, that book is published in four languages.

So, there you go. Remember that things change in SEO and people want to be entertained along with the helpful information you give them. Plus, if you're not paying attention to SEO changes, you’re gonna get whiplash.  I’m preparing you. Start to forget about keywords – not entirely just yet, but start thinking more about the content of what you write, and about your reader.

That’s NOT spammy. It’s just common sense.

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Pat Marcello is President and SEO Manager at MagnaSites.com, a full-service digital marketing company that serves small- to medium-sized businesses. Follow her on FacebookTwitter or Google+. Pat’s last article for SEMrush was "Google's Fetch and Render: Why It's Important."

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