With each algorithm update, Google reinforces its stand that high-quality content, appropriately optimized for search, will succeed while underhanded tricks of the SEO trade will be penalized.
As a business person, you want to see your website rank high on the search engines and it can be tempting to fall for the seductive guarantees of SEO firms promising you'll be number one in ten days or less.
But you need to ask yourself, “what are they going to do to accomplish that?”
There are "black hat SEO" techniques out there that some marketing firms are using to artificially boost their clients' site ranking, and unless you want to be crying, “Google banned my site!” you need to be aware of these poor SEO practices and avoid them like the plague.
Cloaking refers to arranging the code behind the scenes so that the content search engine spiders see is different from the content your audience sees on the site. For instance, loading up the spider's view of the site with hot trending keywords and phrases that have little if anything to do with your content so that searchers stumble on your site inadvertently.
Unless you're technically savvy enough to delve into the code, you may not even realize your SEO firm has done this. But Google will find out.
While having duplicate content on your site is unlikely to get your whole site banned, it will cause the affected pages to be dropped from Google's index. Any time you're tempted to copy and paste content into a web page, think again.
The biggest offenders in this case are e-commerce sites who copy and paste the manufacturer's product description onto their own site's product page and leave it at that. Google already has the manufacturer's site indexed. It doesn't need your identical page.
Buying or Exchanging Links
Although some SEO practitioners swear by purchasing links to boost search ranking, it's just a bad idea. Some feel that Google has no way of tracking down purchased links, but that's not true, and it can result in your site being banned.
One of my colleagues used to be a staunch supporter of buying links for SEO purposes, but he has recently altered course because he's found that Google's new algorithm makes ranking improvements take far longer to take effect than focusing on organic optimization techniques and earning links.
Bad Website Code
If your SEO firm leaves your code a mess, with duplicate meta tags, content this is unnaturally stuffed with keywords, or invisible text cluttering up the page, it makes you look bad and will harm your rankings.
Bad Website Hosting
If your site is hosted on shared servers (of the $10 per month variety, for instance), it's far more vulnerable to attacks from hackers and infiltration by malware and spam.
While your SEO firm is probably not responsible for this side of your web presence, if Google red flags your site as an unsafe location due to spam or malware threats, they will move fast to penalize or even remove your site from the index, which destroys your rankings. We've even seen Google warn people not to visit websites that are plagued with malware or have been hacked.
SEO Best Practices
The best way to avoid these potentially devastating SEO snafus is to ensure your SEO firm is practicing quality "white hat" SEO, which involves:
- Producing great content on a regular basis
- Writing for your prospects, not for Google
- Focusing on one keyword per page, and working it into the copy naturally
- Promoting your best content via social media, building links organically
If that describes your current SEO strategy, you're never going to have to worry about Google banning your site or chasing the latest and greatest shifts in Google's search algorithm. These four tactics have worked for years, and will for years to come.