There are three lesser-known SEO problems that can hinder the success of your site: negative SEO, Google penalties, and keyword cannibalization.
An Alexa survey of 17 SEO specialists reveals the impact these issues can have on a site’s search rankings and how to overcome them.
Before looking into the SEO problems, it is crucial you have already implemented the most important SEO best practices. If you have yet to implement SEO initiatives, read this article on how to start SEO with a few quick wins.
Top SEO Factors
According to Alexa’s survey, the top 3 SEO factors to consider are:
- Inbound links
- Content quality
About 88 percent of the SEO survey respondents ranked “mobile-friendly” a 5 on a 1–5 scale, making it the most important SEO consideration. With Google’s mobile-first index, your site should be accessible from a mobile device, which you can check on Google’s test page.
The second most important factor you should consider in your SEO strategy is inbound links, which all but one of the SEOs ranked as either a 4 or 5. One innovative way to find backlinks is to be creative offline, such as setting up unique photo opportunities that will entice others to link to your site or sponsoring an industry event.
Content quality is also important, according to the respondents. Almost 77 percent ranked it a 4 or 5. In addition to creating high-value newsworthy content that attracts the attention of notable publishers – which earns you those inbound links – focus on building a library of high-quality evergreen content. This type of content will go a long way since it’s extremely relevant to your site’s core topics and doesn’t have an expiration date.
The SEO considerations that are not as important, according to the SEO experts surveyed, include directory links, image sizing, and alt tags.
Focusing on the most important SEO factors for your site is a great start, but there are three concerns you need to be aware of. First is negative SEO.
SEO Problem #1: Competitors and Hackers Using Negative SEO
Negative SEO is an often-overlooked problem that could be adversely affecting your site’s search ranking. All of the SEO respondents had heard of negative SEO – which is when third parties use tactics to sabotage a site’s rankings purposefully – and over half reported being at least somewhat concerned about it.
Forty-seven percent believe the issue is on the rise, 41 percent know somebody who it has happened to, and almost a quarter have experienced it themselves.
Eight of the SEOs said both hackers and competitors are likely culprits, while five reported being most concerned about the competition.
Red flags that indicate your site may be suffering from negative SEO include:
- A large number of spammy inbound links
- A de-indexing of the site
- A scraping of the site
- A DDoS attack
- Another type of hacking of the site
What can you do about negative SEO if it happens to you?
Unfortunately, almost 60 percent of the SEOs said it is nearly impossible or extremely time-consuming to undo the damages of negative SEO. However, there are some ways to recover.
One of the SEO specialists said they submitted the issue to Google when they noticed a flood of poor-quality backlinks. This SEO also suggests consistently monitoring your inbound links so you can rectify any issue immediately.
Another one of the respondents said their site was de-indexed due to negative SEO, but a full SEO audit and spammy link/content rectification combined with a penalty removal request helped resolve the issue.
To avoid negative SEO from occurring in the first place, one SEO has this advice: “Create the best site possible to avoid any impacts from a negative SEO campaign. Hopefully, your site is built so well that any negative campaigns will not have any impact.”
SEO Problem #2: Black Hat SEO Tactics or Algorithm Updates Causing Google Penalties
Sixteen SEOs weighed in on Google penalties, with over 81 percent of them being at least somewhat concerned by them. What causes the penalties? Poor SEO practices or new Google algorithm updates can trigger them.
Almost 19 percent said penalties from the search engine giant are on the rise, and 31 percent said it has happened to them personally. About 56 percent believe it is nearly impossible or extremely time-consuming to have the penalties removed.
Half of the SEOs have dealt with their clients’ sites receiving Google penalties: Four had sites penalized over algorithmic updates, and the other four had sites penalized manually by the Google spam team.
The most reported causes for Google penalties reported by the SEO experts are:
- Bad backlinks
- Duplicate content
- Scraped content
- Keyword stuffing
- Too much anchor linking
- Hidden links
- Irrelevant content
- Website timeouts
The best way to deal with Google penalties is to avoid them in the first place. To do this, follow white hat SEO techniques that aim to keep the searcher (not just Google) happy and build your site correctly from the start.
If you are hit with a Google penalty, here are some ways the SEO specialists managed them:
- Eliminate overuse of anchors in author’s box and make all anchors conversational.
- Disavow low-quality backlinks.
- Build more high-quality backlinks.
- Rewrite duplicate content and use a duplicate content checker.
- Conduct a full audit to be sure you are focused on the correct penalty.
- Replace the website and hosting and resubmit through Webmasters.
One SEO offered some valuable blanket SEO advice: “Follow the rules.”
SEO Problem #3: Low Ranking Due to Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization is when multiple pages of a site target the same keyword, which greatly reduces the chances of any single page ranking for that keyword. Twelve of the SEO experts were familiar with this issue, and all but two were concerned about it.
How does it happen?
About 83 percent of the SEO respondents have experienced keyword cannibalization with client sites, and the top cause cited was the client/company had used the same key phrases for every page on their site before they became their SEOs.
Other catalysts include:
- The client/company changed content to focus on the same keywords on multiple pages.
- The client/company created duplicate pages instead of redirects.
- The CMS created duplicate content.
Specific advice from the SEO specialists includes:
- Rework all pages for keyword and topic pairings.
- Remove pages, edit copy, and change keyword targeting.
- Change titles and content. Then, publicize changes by launching a social campaign.
- Leverage semantically related keywords to target keyword topics on pages as opposed to one keyword on each page. Then, map certain keyword topics to pages to ensure each page is needed from a search perspective.
Avoiding SEO Pitfalls
Most of the time, negative SEO, Google penalties, and keyword cannibalization can be prevented. Check backlinks routinely, run site audits, and perform best SEO practices for every page of your site. If SEO problems do arise, reach out to Google immediately.
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