It’s 2015. So why are we still seeing keyword stuffing? Why haven’t digital marketers grasped the fact that “stop words” no longer have any relevance? Why are they still producing spun content and aggressively developing shady backlink channels? Why any of this, when we already know that these strategies are ineffective at best and harmful at worst?

drone-674238_1280The Problem of Inertia

Amazon recently slammed the FAA for taking so long to approve its drones that the drones in question are now obsolete. Of course, the fact is that we probably don’t even want to make it easy for companies to jettison things into the sky, but it’s also a question of inertia. FAA regulations are incredibly dense, so dense as to almost be intractable. It takes quite a bit of effort to make any changes at all, let alone free-flying corporate drones.

Search engine optimization is similar. It is not governed by any unifying whole; it is a morass of strategies and tactics, some worthwhile and some misleading. Once the industry built a sort of universal consensus on the techniques that did work, it became embedded within the marketing zeitgeist. And it’s almost impossible to change all those minds at once.

privacy-policy-510731_640If It Ain’t Broke…

Part of the problem is that marketers are beholden to the customers — and to most customers, SEO appears to be some kind of digital voodoo. Customers that are already experiencing high returns on their digital marketing campaigns thanks to now outdated techniques aren’t going to see anything worthwhile about changing it. In fact, the idea of changing what appears to be a successful marketing campaign may be outright loathsome to them.

Though they may not yet be feeling the effects (because they already had built a substantial web presence), they will eventually be lapped by companies that are using more modern techniques. And it’s only at that point that they may begin to wonder where they went wrong. It’s a marketer’s job to educate their clients, but a marketer has no power to make decisions for them.

The Sunk-Cost Fallacy

But what happens when it is broken? Sometime they still don’t want to adjust. Many companies sunk huge amounts of time and money into building up a content inventory that is now essentially worthless. Digital marketers may have seeded the web with thousands upon thousands of spun, keyword-saturated articles for the purposes of now useless backlinks.

At that point, it can be difficult for a company to admit that their investment has been wasted. They may, instead, be inclined to double down and assume that they can salvage their strategy if they only invest more.

sleepy-443606_1280Laziness Reigns Supreme

Of course, there’s also another, more obvious, reason — it’s easy to use outdated search engine optimization techniques. Stuffing an article full of keywords is far easier than having to create an interesting, compelling and unique piece. Quite a few of the more affordable digital marketing companies can’t create reliable content marketing; they simply don’t have writers. But what they can do is spin content and stuff that content full of keywords. These are often hit-and-run digital marketers; marketers who create campaigns with no real goal of building a lasting relationship with their customers.

structure-620304_1280A Self-Reinforcing Conundrum

People generally tend to go with the herd, more often than not. The more marketers use these outdated techniques, the more these techniques start appearing to be viable. It can be very easy to fall into the idea of: well, it can’t hurt, so why not do it? But it can hurt, when the emphasis becomes less on creating content that is search engine optimized and more on creating content that appears to be search engine optimized.

SEO is already a confusing field. There are few black-and-white answers in the world of SEO; like quantum physics, it’s mostly based on theories and rumors that seem correct. This makes retaining outdated techniques even more problematic because it adds an additional layer of non-essential complexity that most marketers simply don’t need. It’s better for marketers to focus primarily on the newer techniques that they know work and shed the outdated techniques as they go.

Jenna Inouye
Jenna I. is a freelance writer, programmer and web developer, focusing on the areas of digital marketing, technology, gaming and finance. Hire Jenna through WriterAccess or contact her directly.

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