If anyone in life offers you something for nothing, or makes an offer that’s too good to resist, then there’s no doubting that it’s not all it seems to be.
It’s no different with SEO. If a company guarantees to make your website rank number on page one of Google, then they’re being disingenuous at best, and more likely, dishonest. Any offer that appears to be too good to be true, is too good – end of story.
The only way these SEO companies could even begin to deliver these highly-inflated and exaggerated promises would be by indulging in underhand and dubious SEO techniques. These strategies are known in the industry as black hat techniques, and are treated with distain by search engines like Google and Bing. If you mistakenly hire an SEO adviser who uses these practices, then your website will either find its search engine ranking plummet, or you’ll drop out of the rankings altogether like J.C.Penny. But, if you’re website is new to all of this business, how do you spot the genuine SEO adviser from the black hat practitioner?
How do you recognise the good guys who play the system with straight bats?
Well, hopefully this article might give you a few ideas.
Everybody who knows the first thing about search engines understands that they work by giving the users information about keywords and phrases searched for. It might seem like a simple task, after all, all users are asking for is information about a specific product or service in a particular locality. The problem is some SEO practitioners have taken this basic principle to extremes and focus on these keywords exclusively. What they’ll do is stuff the search page with countless references to that particular keyword or phrase in the forlorn hope that this action will make it stand out, and therefore rank higher on Google. The problem is it doesn’t work. Keyword stuffing is a practice that died a death several years ago. The search engines soon got wise to it, and changed their algorithms to filter out the spammers, yet some SEO practitioners still persist with this crazy practice.
Now, there’s a caveat of course to all of this: some businesses will have to use keywords repetitively simply because of the nature of their business. A good example would be accountants who deal with financial matters involving taxation. It’s likely that the word tax would be used many times on their websites: think of services that include tax planning, inheritance tax, income tax, tax penalties, business taxation, excise tax and estate tax planning, and you’ll appreciate the problem. The good news is the search engine algorithms are clever enough to understand this. Search engines understand that this ‘excessive’ keyword use is done for a genuine business reason, and not as a way to beat the system using spamming techniques. If the nature of your business means that you’ll need to use essential keywords repetitively for legitimate reasons, then you should be ok and not find yourself penalised unfairly.
Search engines dislike hidden content. But what exactly is this ‘hidden’ content? Well, it’s the kind of stuff that can be seen in the crawler code, but doesn’t show in the browser window. You could almost say it’s a kind of hidden bonus, or bung, offered by the website to search engines in the hope that this might win it a few extra brownie points. It might seem clever, but the truth is it isn’t: it will be penalised by search engines. Some webmasters will try to hide large sections of text using ‘clever’ coding, or make the text too small to read or the same colour as the background text so it can’t be seen. Such techniques will be seen as manipulative and malicious. Hidden content will not boost search engine rankings, as Google and Bing only award indexing points for material that actually shows on the browser page. Not all use of coding or hidden coding is suspicious of course: what’s important is the question of intent. If an SEO adviser deliberately tries to fool the search engines, then they’re asking for trouble and should be avoided.
Providing different content for different users or cloaking.
Some spammers are so crafty that they’ll serve up different pages for different purposes. These cloaking practices have become increasingly more commonplace over the last couple of years, and have undoubtedly had an impact on search engine ranking. Using cloaking some websites are able to show the search engines a nicely optimised page whilst users only get a spam page full of advertisements, or they’ll give users a normal page, but throw up a keyword-stuffed page for the search engine browsers. Why do they do this? Well, because it allows these websites to show content that would not otherwise rank for that query. The good news is search engines have not cracked down on this malicious practice and will penalise those companies heavily. Of course mobile browsing has meant that many websites show abbreviated or custom-formatted home pages, but search engines understand this. It all comes down to a question of intent again. If the search engine optimisation adviser is trying to play the system, then they’ll face penalties. Filtering agents used for mobile applications with content taken from the main website, is relevant to the search query and, therefore, useful to the user.