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3 SEO terms that should be left to die

Posted by Ian McKee on 22nd July 2013

Marketing, especially where digital is concerned, is like any other technical discipline in that a certain amount of, shall we say, vernacular is required. You need a few specific terms to describe activity, processes, and you know, stuff, or you’d be forever saying ‘yeah, we’ll do some stuff and then some things’.

A lot of these terms are required in order to articulate activity and a strategy. However, as much as industry jargon is a necessity to a point, sometimes these terms become meaningless even for those who use them regularly. And sometimes, technology moves on so that even the activity itself is meaningless, and the term left redundant.

Here are a few of the terms that I think have reached that point in SEO.

Link building

While not difficult for industry outsiders to understand, ‘link building’ is a term that has come to have negative connotations. It smacks of the poor SEO practices of old, using splog networks and low-grade aggregator sites to grow the number of links to a site.

With modern SEO’s emphasis on quality and relevance of links as opposed to just upping the numbers, the term is edging towards redundancy. While Google does not view the practice as ‘illegal’ as such, they are essentially expecting links to be organic – the best way to get links is by making something great, so people will want to link to it.

If you don’t agree with my reasoning, a MOZ post this week gave us seven great reasons to ditch the term. It also deals with the issue of what to replace it with, as it’s not a practice that is going away so much as evolving. You still want links, just fewer, better ones. The conclusion seems to be just to stop discussing it as a process, which I can kind of agree with, but am all too aware that if people are doing it, they’re going to need a term for it.

‘White Hat’ and ‘Black Hat’

How these terms manage to gain common currency in the first place is beyond me, but I suppose there had to be a way of articulating the difference between the goody two shoes SEOs and the maverick ‘we don’t play by no search engine’s rules’ SEOs.

It’s been argued many times that as SEO is utterly at the behest of Google, to ignore your master’s rules is biting the hand that feeds. A hand that is very clever, employs the best engineers in the world, and that if you were cunning enough to fool you’d be able to go and work for yourself. It was never going to end well, and now that end has come.

So that’s it. Black Hat’s lost, and we may as well chuck the White Hat out too. No black, no white, no grey, no flipping Roger Red, Billy Blue or Jenifer Yellow Hats. Let’s just please stop talking about hats.

Keyword Density 

The term used to define how frequently a certain keyword is used on a page is now so irrelevant it’s laughable, yet it still seems to get used. Search engines long figured out more sophisticated ways of determining whether your content is relevant to a certain term than how many times you’ve used it. In short, keyword stuffing can get stuffed.

The only time it might be acceptable is when talking about it as something to avoid, e.g. ‘we want to avoid the keyword density being too high so we don’t look like giant spammers.’ But even in this case, you could just say ‘don’t use the keyword too much’.

Or, you know, you could just forget about it altogether and just get on with creating some decent content.

Ian McKee

Ian started out his career working in travel PR, working for tourist boards, airlines and hotel groups. Whilst there he carved out a position as a digital communications expert, managing social media, SEO and email marketing campaigns for clients.