Every digital marketer understands the importance of search engine optimization. However, not all SEO habits are the same, and some might actually do more harm than good. For example, have you ever taken a look at where all the backlinks from your site are from? If so, did you see how many were created by you, bots, automated sites or even your competition?

In short, not all links are created equal, nor are how they created.

With over a billion active sites on the internet today all creating new content and trying to get ranked in Google, these sites will do anything to rank higher. Most legitimate sites and brands know what types of SEO works best, while new bloggers and local sites might have no idea. It’s these smaller players and non-marketers that are likely in the most danger when it comes to bad SEO and link building practices.

With so many opportunities to buy hundreds of links, blog post mentions and social media likes all over the place, you can only imagine how many site owners are still jumping at the chances to rank their sites higher daily… but at what risk?

Bad SEO Habits and Methods to Stay Away From

Right off the bat, you can probably name a few bad SEO methods that will likely not work at all, or may even get your site penalized. However, you probably aren’t familiar with all of the methods out there, or you may even be surprised at some that are now frowned upon today.

If you want to get the most out of your SEO efforts, you’ll want to develop best practices and steer clear of unhelpful tactics. To find out more, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following:

What is one SEO habit that marketers should steer clear of? Why is it so unhelpful or damaging?

Here’s what they had to say.

1. Obsessively Checking Search Rankings

As far as SEO goes, one of the most unhealthy habits you can have is checking your search rankings daily. Google positions fluctuate all the time as the algorithm is constantly readjusting itself and A/B testing multiple times per day. Trying to make sense of these fluctuations will not only waste time, but it will drive you insane. Instead, check rankings weekly or bi-weekly.

Matt Diggity, Diggity Marketing

2. Keyword Stuffing

Believe it or not, there are some websites still keyword stuffing in 2020. Most folks stopped this practice after Google’s algorithm started punishing website owners who overuse keywords. However, some people have found a way around this change and are trying to use a clever new approach to rank while spamming their pages with keywords. If anyone ever suggests this tactic, steer clear.

Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

3. Solely Focusing on Link Building

Building links is still a vital part of SEO, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. Of course, your team should try to get as many high-quality links as possible, but don’t go overboard. If you don’t properly vet your link traffic, you could create poor link directories, which can harm your SEO ranking.

John Turner, SeedProd LLC

4. Creating Content for the Sake of It

The most common issue I see is companies creating content because “you should.” They simply put out a mediocre blog post every week to stay “fresh and relevant.” Not only does this not get them any results and waste precious resources, but it also lowers the average page quality of the site and dilutes your authority in the eyes of Google. Everything you put on your site should be best in class.

Karl Kangur, Above House

5. Not Planning Your Content

Your content plays a large role in boosting SEO on your site. Too many businesses create content without doing keyword research, making pillar articles and structuring their content well. You should avoid creating content without having a clear plan in place for optimizing keywords. It’s important to do research on what users are looking for so that you make content that matches their intent.

Blair Williams, MemberPress

6. Not Optimizing Images

It’s important to use appropriate alt text for images on your website. You also need to ensure that the images you use aren’t too large and slow down your site. Get into the habit of optimizing your images to boost your site’s SEO.

Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

7. Chasing Trends

When it comes to SEO, content is still king. It’s vital to create consistent quality content within your niche so that you will be seen as an expert. Publishing articles on a trending topic may have some temporary pay off, but if it’s outside of your wheelhouse it will be confusing for readers and ultimately damaging for SEO.

Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP

8. Not Considering Customer Intent

Many marketers fail to consider customer intent when planning their keyword strategy. You have to think about what the user is looking for when they type in certain queries into Google. Are they looking for more information or are they looking to make a purchase? Considering customer intent will help you create content that leads users through the buyer’s journey effectively.

Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

9. Buying Links

It is difficult to kickstart a good backlink profile, so it’s tempting to take a shortcut and pay someone to do it for you. That’s usually a mistake. Shady link-building agencies use tactics like comment spamming, SEO malware and low-quality content placements. They do more harm than good. If you want good quality links, publish something worth linking to and invest your budget in promoting it.

Chris Madden, Matchnode

10. Creating Overlapping Content

It’s important not to stuff your website with overlapping, similar content. This confuses search engines and shows you don’t know how to organize your content. Make sure you create a content calendar to manage your upcoming content schedule and ensure you don’t create similar pieces.

Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

11. Lagging Web Pages

Google cares about how fast or slow your website loads, and you should too. If it fails to load in less than three seconds, you’ll see more than half of your traffic bounce. Make sure you use SEO best practices to get rid of time lags on your web pages.

Jared Atchison, WPForms

12. Only Focusing on the Top of the Funnel

A laser-focused approach to creating top-of-the-funnel content may look good on paper but it has no real business benefits. Focusing on bottom-of-the-funnel content may have lower search volume but the audience it targets is further along the buyer journey and thus much more likely to convert. Instead of focusing on vanity metrics like traffic, businesses should focus on conversion optimization.

Rahul Varshneya, CurveBreak

13. Buying Spammy Links for Low DA/PA PBN Sites

When site owners and bloggers hear that ‘more backlinks result in better rankings’, many of them will jump at the opportunity to order a bunch of links from other low end sites at cheap prices. Unfortunately, sites like Fiverr and Konker make these options extremely appealing and cheap, but all too often they are for dead and spammy PBN sites that don’t offer much value. Instead, focus your efforts on real content creation and outreach methods that have been proven to work time and time again.

Zac Johnson, Blogging.org

14. Quantity Over Quality

Don’t focus more on the number of links rather than quality. Generating too many links in a short period of time can damage your business, and the results could be worse if the site linking to you is penalized in some way. Quality always trumps quantity when it comes to link building.

Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Legitimate SEO and Link Building Wins Time and Time Again

After reading through each of the bad SEO habits and methods, you’ve probably seen a few that you might already be doing or have even considered. Should this be the case, we definitely recommend staying away from these methods and only sticking with legitimate ones that work best.

For example, creating infographic and focusing on outreach and guest blogging on high-end sites are still some of the best ways to build backlinks. By creating original content and a brand for yourself, you can open up new opportunities as well.

At the end of the day, the world of SEO and link building is nothing new. Sites know other freelancers and brands want links to their sites, so stop trying to cheat the system. Go legit and make the process easier for all sides.