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Domain ranking factors: SEO shortcuts you should not take

Breaking SEO rules could put your page rank in jeopardy

5 min read

Marketing Strategy



Today, there are over 3 billion people online, from which around 75% won’t click on the second page of the SERP. Add the fact that approximately 93% of all online experiences begin with a search query and you’ll begin to understand the value of SEO.

It happens a lot that people reach out to the black hat SEO tactics in hope that Google won’t catch them breaking the guidelines. It might be tempting to try and find the easy way out: minimum investment, maximum gain – that’s the dream. But shortcuts are not the way to go.

Shady Link Building Practices vs. Guest Posting

Google does not discourage the practice of guest posting as long as the content provides valuable information. Google’s Webspam Team even reminded the webmasters of this fact back in March this year.

However, what Google does not appreciate are the attempts at manipulating the algorithm for the sake of earning a better ranking. In addition to poor quality content that doesn’t satisfy user’s intent and is produced only for the sake of link building, there are three main scams practiced: paying for links, exchanging links, and building link farms.

Although there is a whole market for it, coughing up money for links is a direct violation of Google’s guidelines. Exchanging links with one of your website owner buddies that point to each other’s website is also not advisable. And building link farms by putting online websites that will be used only as link sources in order to increase a certain website’s popularity is also a big SEO no-no.

Link building is a two-way street, so to avoid getting your own domain marked as spam, check the links that are pointing to your website and remove low-quality ones.

The sole purpose of PageRank is to enable users to filter what’s relevant by linking to the content they find useful. Always turn to meaningful guest posting and work slowly towards the top instead of turning to quick solutions that are likely to backfire.

Duplicate Content vs. Repurposing

Duplicate content is one of those discussions in the SEO world that’s been majorly fueled by ignorance and misleading information. Former Google employee Matt Cutts said back in 2013 that around 25% of web content is duplicative and this practice is usually not malicious by nature, so there are no penalizations. In rare cases, Google will adjust the rankings, but it’s more likely the worst thing that can happen is the search engine will display the version of the text you didn’t prefer. So, unless you’re intentionally trying to deceive the search engine with spammy content or keyword stuffing, you’ll be ok.

However, you should always focus on providing original and valuable content. One way to do this is repurposing your existing content in order to reach new audiences. Once you optimize the newly created content, or change its format (e.g. from text to infographic), you can focus on doing a better promotion and eventually, earn credibility and climb up the SERP ladder. It’s a longer path, but it’s a smarter one that, with time, can raise your domain authority. And there’s no shortcut for that.

Keywords in EMDs vs. Keywords in Subdomains

Gone are the times when you could buy an exact-match domain and then sit back and relax while your website rankings increase as people continue searching for that specific keyword phrase.

In 2012, Google’s algorithm was updated and all the lazy bugs with low-quality websites who took this shortcut to get better rankings were put back in their place. Since then, EMDs have remained typically associated with spammy websites.

However, using an exact-match domain won’t catapult your website to the end of the SERP. You’ll be in Google’s good graces as long as you provide quality content to users. If you do want to choose an EMD, keep in mind you should stick with reputable top-level domains, avoid hyphens and stick to two to three words in the domain name.

And what about subdomains? Squeezing a keyword or two in the subdomain URL can’t hurt, especially because the main URL usually isn’t suitable for this practice. This can help you build domain authority and make users’ web surfing experience more pleasant. In addition, it can boost your local SEO as subdomains can be replaced with locations so you can increase your site’s relevance for a specific area.

Of course, just like all these other quick-fix SEO hacks, putting keywords in your domain or subdomain won’t do anything for your rankings if they lead back to a site that’s not providing value.

Like this read? Download The Secrets of Better Rankings: SEO and Domains and learn more about online safety and domain ranking factors from this comprehensive eBook.

An economist by education, Natasa Djukanovic is the sales and marketing director of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” She’s spent her entire career at the intersection of banking, social media, leadership and technology, and is constantly trying to figure out the secret to being in three different places at the same time.