Welcome to May, everybody! As we’re closing in on the halfway mark to 2013 (where does the time go?), we thought it’s a good time for a little 2013 SEO-strategy refresher. Why? Well, because if your 2013 has gotten off to a lackluster start—or even if you’ve been rocking it so far this year—there’s still time to kick it up a notch.

To do so, you need to maximize your time. And that means ditching those old strategies that just aren’t worth it anymore. So in the spirit of freeing yourself from those worn out, no longer valuable tactics, here’s a look at 13 SEO strategies you should ditch in 2013.

  1. Stop Begging for Links. 

    No, we’re serious. The old standby of compiling a list of high PageRank sites and shooting them a “please link to me” email is dead. As a doornail. We’re sure there are some of you who can say you’ve used this tactic with some level of success, but believe us when we say there’s a better way to do it. How? WIIFM. You know, What’s-In-It-For-Me. Give ‘em something they can’t resist, like incredibly compelling content that they’re dying to link to because it makes them look cool.

  2. No More Reciprocal Links.  

    Here’s the thing about reciprocal links: It used to be a super easy, quid-pro-quo type of thing, and Google didn’t seem to mind. But as with anything in life, there can be too much of a good thing. Because everyone was doing it, Google started frowning on it. Reciprocal links in this day and age are essentially pointless. They’re easy for Google to detect, and they’ll be de-emphasized in terms of link juice anyway.

  3. Don’t Be a Blog Comment Spammer.

    Honestly, I shake my head in disbelief at the number of people out there who still believe this can actually work. And I base that utter disbelief on the hundreds of comments I delete that say something along the lines of, “Awesome blog, dude. I totally had to add you to my RSS. My brother’s been looking for this very information and I’m so pumped that I found this blog.” The props are nice and all, but they’d be a little more authentic if there weren’t half a dozen saying the same exact thing. In fact, spammy blog commenting is a surefire way to get your IP blocked. And that means when you wise up and actually have something useful to say someday, you can’t say it. By all means, engage across the web. Comment on blogs and in forums, but have real conversations.

  4. Ditch the Article Directory Submissions.

    Believe it or not, there was a time when submitting the same article to dozens of article directories around the web was actually useful for SEO. But not anymore. Now you have duplicate content penalties and all kinds of crazy stuff associated with article submissions—not to mention, it just looks spammy anymore. That’s not to say that syndication isn’t a viable tactic or that (some) article directories are completely useless. There are select sites, such as SelfGrowth.com and EZineArticles.com, that have earned their klout and might still deserve a spot in your tool kit, but only for original content and in the right context. Syndication these days is a whole different ballgame.

  5. Lose the Single-Minded Focus: Rankings Aren’t the Only Thing That Matters.

    For a long time, SEO’s primary focus was to rank high in the search engines. And that’s still a goal, but it shouldn’t be your only focus. There are so many ancillary tactics that can drive traffic to your site, honing in on rankings as your only metric will only lead to you missing out on other traffic sources because you’re not nurturing them enough. All those other strategies, such as social media, help boost your rankings anyway. So focus on a wholesome inbound marketing campaign—stop worrying so much about getting from #2 to #1 in the SERPs.

  6. Please, Please Stop Writing for the Search Engines.

    It used to be that you could write an article just for the search engines. That’s where the term “SEO copywriter” was born. And that’s not to dis SEO copywriters—great writers with SEO knowledge are valuable to your marketing campaign. But you cannot produce content designed strictly for search engines. How many times have you come across an article with a promising headline, only to be disappointed at your seeming inability to comprehend the content because it’s so poorly written with a bunch of keywords jammed in really uncomfortable places? Most websites employing this tactic were hit pretty hard by Google’s Panda update. That kind of content isn’t hard to spot, so please avoid using it. Write authentically for your audience. That’s what the search engines like.

  7. Stop Cramming Anchor Text in the Page Footer.

    You’ve seen the endless variations of anchor text packed in the footer of a page, so light in color that they’re barely distinguishable from the page background—all linking to the same page. That’s a big no-no in the world of search engine optimization nowadays. You should absolutely include useful links in the footer of your page, but make sure it’s legit. Don’t overuse it as a way to get a bunch of anchor text links to a certain page. Doing so is a quick and easy way to earn yourself a Google penalty if you get caught.

  8. Avoid Focusing Solely on On-Page SEO.

    On-page SEO is important, but it will only take you so far. In fact, your off-site tactics have much bigger potential for enhancing your visibility online. Think beyond the headings, Meta tags and titles, and start thinking about engaging your audience across the web. That means social media, building relationships with other publishers in your niche through guest blogging and (legitimate) commenting and conversations.

  9. Don’t Issue a Press Release without News.

    Online press releases, at one point, became a quick and dirty way to get some links. But press releases are supposed to be about news—not a substitute for article submissions. Those major news outlets you’re targeting aren’t going to publish your story if it isn’t newsworthy. Here’s a tip: Actually do something newsworthy. Then issue a press release.

  10. Stop Mindlessly Wandering through Your SEO Plan.

    Analytics. Analytics. Analytics. Whatever tactics you’re employing, monitor them. We can talk all day about the best SEO tactics, but the only way you’ll know whether they’re working for you is by keeping tabs on your metrics. Every business is different. What works for one may not work for all. So start tracking your analytics to figure out where you should be spending most of your time. And do more of that. Google Analytics is free. So is our SEO report card. There’s no excuse for not analyzing your data.

  11. What’s That You Say? You Don’t Have an SEO Plan?

    If you found yourself thinking that thought upon reading tactic-to-ditch #9 above, it’s time to get with the program—and get a plan. Meandering through your plan without analysis is bad enough, but working without a plan at all will surely get you lost in the vast realms of SEO.

  12. Don’t Spin Articles.

    Spinning articles is the practice of using the same content over and over with a few slight changes so it’s not “identical.” Yeah, that’s just not gonna work anymore. Google cracked down on duplicate content in a major way with the Panda update. Basically, anything other than the first instance of an article won’t be counted or indexed—so spinning articles is a big waste of your time.

  13. Bid Automation Adieu.

    Automation was the big thing in SEO for quite some time. Everyone wants a quick and efficient way to complete all those tasks that were necessary for SEO, so tools like automatic article directory submissions were big time-savers. Automation, in today’s SEO world, is strongly associated with spam. The key today is to be authentic in everything that you do, especially in your content and your conversations. Don’t try to automate processes just to get them crossed off your list—do find more efficient ways to work, but keep it real.

You’ve probably noticed a clear trend in this list of now-shoddy SEO tactics: Many of these aren’t necessarily total goners, they’ve just evolved. They’ve become more sophisticated, and less tacky. That paints a pretty clear picture of what SEO is about today: Not gaming the system, being authentic, and engaging real users through value. Yes, doing SEO right is time-consuming, but it’s so intertwined with the rest of your inbound marketing tactics that you can reap many benefits from a single effort. What are your favorite “new” SEO strategies? And what tactics have you tossed in the trash this year? Share your feedback in the comments below!