Entrepreneurs and business owners with a limited budget and limited patience for results can find themselves in a real pickle. If you ever priced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services then you know that the investment required runs the gamut from a few hundred bucks to thousands per month. Genuine SEO takes patience, and Google is intelligent enough to seek and destroy, so to speak, tactics like abnormal link building (thousands of links per day, for instance) and either punish you with the G-slap for it and maybe even ban your site entirely from search results.
You can’t swing a dead cat by the tail in any direction and not hit an SEO specialist in the face. Watch out! Certain SEO firms out there promise quick results for little money, and I am sure there are some of them that may even be legit. Many are as fraudulent as the Fountain of Youth was, yet Cortez fell for it. You willl be tempted by these wicked sirens to use what we call Black Hat techniques in order to rapidly, albeit temporarily, launch you to GP1 (Google page 1) for your keywords.
Don’t bite that apple. Resist the urge.
Look, every day you’ll find external things outside of your control like bad dudes ripping off your site copy that are to the most part unavoidable. This post focuses on the things you can control, the actions you take.
It begins with simple philosophy. Google seeks to serve up the best content for its users and has invested bazillions in search engine hocus pocus to ferret out those trying to game the system. They want content written completely with the reader in mind that, secondarily, gets great search engine results. They don’t want material written for search engines that has no benefit for the reader.
Look, if you don’t feel comfortable explaining your tactics to your mother, priest or psychiatrist, that’s a red flag that you’re in black hat land.
There are 4 primary things to watch out for, and they have a whole host of subset actions that you’ll find below. If you’re seeking external SEO help or going it alone, beware of these black hat practices to mitigate the risk of the dreaded Google disciplinary slap:
1) Create Unique & Valuable Content
Your page copy should be unique, meaning don’t rip off someone else’s content, don’t duplicate your pages on other domains, and for heaven’s sake don’t replicate your own pages on your site. That’s like to the criminal that holds up the bank next to the police station and uses the back of a cancelled check for his stick-up note, earning himself a Darwin award and a hail of bullets for the effort. This only leads to one or both of those pages and maybe even your site excluded from the Google index. Give value to your reader first, and only within that context determine what is good for search engines. If you blow off that philosophy, you’ll eventually step in the SEO bear trap.
2) Don’t Be a Spammer
Oh there are millions of black hat spam tactics. Try these on for size:
- Meta keywords having nothing to do with your page
- Hidden links
- Hidden doorway pages written explicitly for search engines
- Alt-image text having nothing to do with the image or page content
- Cloaking or dishonest re-directs
- Hidden text in the same color as your page background
- Keyword hijacking in meta text or on page (“Just like Madonna!”)
Avoid everything in the list above like the plague.
Web-hosting is cheaper than ever these days for the average website. Nevertheless, check out the reputation of the hosting site you chose and stay away from unreliable host sites that go down frequently. If you’re on one, get a new provider. You never know when Google is going to try to crawl your site. If it is not available, to Google you don’t exist, and that means dropping in the rankings like a piano on Yosemite Sam’s head, and maybe getting dropped all together.
Another thing to do is to ensure your site is indexable by constructing a Site Map. Many site development software tools like WordPress will automate this for you. A site map is specifically designed to make life easy on Google and other search engines that index your site.
4) Black Linkbuilding
Every link is not a good link. You can’t control every site that links to you, but you can control those you tactically go after in your backlink strategy. Links to your sites should come from relevant sites that would otherwise naturally connect to your site; sites with similar or complementary content. Avoid link farms and automated anything when it comes to submitting your content to other websites. Chances are, most sites that pick up your stuff will be automated too and irrelevant to your world. A smack across the nose with a newspaper for you. Don’t use automated blog or forum commenting that you can find cheaply online. It is oh so appealing, but usually results in your comments getting removed from the good sites (because automated comments tend to be unreadable nonsence), staying on irrelevant bad, low PR sites, getting you banned as a commentor, and if posted enough, sending a signal to Google to penalize your website.
Watch out what sites you link to as well. If your site is about IT services in Baltimore, link to the technology forum of the local business journal site and save the pop culture links for your Facebook personal page. Do not link to other sites that you know use black hat tactics, or you may be found guilty by association. It’s just not worth it.
So if you want to become a rock star online, just like on American Idol, remember that easy isn’t always best or right, and only be being patient, diligent, and wearing the white hat of SEO will ensure you climb the rankings. ‘Nuff said.