Many small businesses are beginning to notice the marketing power of search engine optimization (SEO). At the same time, however, there are certain SEO practices that can damage a business that relies on or is attempting to establish a credible online presence.
A relatively young field of online marketing, SEO is the practice of increasing a website’s visibility in search engine results through a variety of organic techniques (unpaid), including the incorporation of keywords into a website’s content or obtaining links to the website from other locations across the web. In fact, SEO has become so popular, many leading marketing agencies now have designated departments that specialize in the practice.
With all the hype about the benefits of pursuing SEO, many small businesses recruit employees and contractors that claim to provide top results with a quick turnaround. Though, there are numerous SEO companies that offer legitimate services, small business owners should remember that if the sales pitch sounds too good to be true; well, you get the picture.
Search engines, such as Google and Bing, are becoming better at detecting underhanded SEO techniques, known as black hat SEO. Though, these tricks can potentially speed up the process of moving up through the search query ranks, upon detection of their use, search engine companies may penalize your websites by significantly demoting its ranking, or in the worst case scenario, completely removing the website from the search engine.
If your business’s website is utilizing SEO practices, you might want to ensure that the employee or contractor is not using black hat techniques. Here is a list of the most common black hat SEO tricks to be aware of:
Link Abuse – Other websites linking to yours will boost its credibility. However, if too many links originate from less-than-reliable or completely unrelated sources, or there is a sudden jump in the number of inbound links to your website, the search engines may become disgruntled, as a recent case involving J. C. Penney shows.
Keyword Stuffing – Loading pages with masses of keywords or hidden text, to rank high in a search query, is considered spam, and search engines will not hesitate to stomp it out. Ultimately, this method also creates a negative experience for visitors, persuading them to never return.
Doorway Pages - This method involves the use of pages that are optimized for a specific keyword. However, when the user clicks on the link to the page, they are intentionally redirected to a different website. In 2006, BMW’s German website was blacklisted by Google for this misleading practice.
If you are considering the use of SEO for your business’s website, review Google’s SEO Guidelines and avoid the strategies that can work against your long-term goals.