SEO expert Neil Patel on the 5 mistakes penalizing your website

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Google has made a number of changes to its search algorithm over recent years that have fundamentally changed the nature of SEO.

Perhaps no one is better able to tell us how to navigate this altered landscape than Neil Patel, a digital marketing consultant who has helped many major publishers such as Gawker and TechCrunch grow their revenue by increasing their reach and conversion rates. He is also the founder of KISSmetrics.

We took some time to talk with Patel about the mistakes companies make with their websites, and how to avoid those SEO blunders that can penalize penalties to your search ranking. Here are his tips.

Use “rel=canonical” When Syndicating Content

If you have some great content, and you want to publish it on many other sites that are more reputable than your own, it can actually harm your search ranking rather than help it. Avoid this misstep by adding “rel=canonical” to the coding in the content. This HTML tag tells the search engine that your site is where the content originates from, and therefore gives you the search ranking for the posts rather than the other sites that also publish them.

“What happens is the content is published on your site, but search engines are also seeing it on other sites that are more authoritative,” says Patel. “Because they are more authoritative it ranks them above yours. That causes a penalty. Your content won’t just not rank, because Google, as you start getting more and more of this, will start penalizing your whole site and you’ll notice that the overall reach and traffic to your sites drops dramatically.”

Don’t Use Too Many Meta Tags

Patel also cautions against using too many metatags. Websites that use these tags over and over in a lot of posts can make them appear as duplicate content. This will cause another penalty if it happens, and you will have to fix the problem to maintain your search ranking. Be more moderate withmeta titles and meta description tag usage to avoid this SEO penalty.

Know When To Use NoFollow Links

There are certain times when you want links to have the HTML tag “rel=nofollow”, especially for things like reciprocal linking and affiliate links.

“What you’re telling the search engine is, don’t count this link towards my ranking,” says Patel. “So by using no-follow you are not manipulating the search engine to use reciprocal links to drive business from other people, because not everyone is your competitor.”

The advice is also important if you are using an affiliate ad campaign. Since the ads are paid for, you should not be using them for SEO ranking purposes.

You will also want to use nofollow if links to your site are on less authoritative sites, or sites that are under penalty themselves. It will save you from incurring a penalty from being connected to those sites.

Use Guest Blogging For Marketing Not SEO

Guest blogging is a powerful marketing technique that can greatly increase your reach. But earlier this year Google’s Matt Cutts wrote on his blog that guest blogging is kaput as a link building tactic.

Patel agrees, tell us: “For guest blogging what I recommend doing is don’t use it to build links. Use a guest blog because it can get your content in a different blog, in a different space, and it can help drive business.”

Be careful where you choose to make your guest blogging appearances. Choosing reputable, high-traffic sites in your market niche will be important in drawing business with this strategy.

Additional Advice for Affiliate Programs

Affiliate links are still a great way to boost traffic to your site, but Patel does have some quick tips for safely using them without incurring a penalty.

Always go with a trusted provider to roll out your affiliate program, rather than relying on your own development team. You can also design a landing page specifically for people who click affiliate links. Lastly, you should take the time to check links every so often just to ensure the integrity of your site. If any of the links are broken, set up a redirect link to the proper URL.

SEO is not what it once was, but it has never stopped being relevant. Patel says that to continue making effective use of SEO we have to adapt to changes, and employ new techniques that ensure high rankings, high reach, and, ultimately, high revenue.

Photo courtesy Neil Patel

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