13 Mar 6 Ways Bad SEO Will Hurt You
Search Engine Optimization
Bad SEO Can Hurt You – Do Not Make These 6 Mistakes
As a business owner, manager, or sole proprietor; the decision to select the right digital marketing agency should be as important as choosing the right accountant. Look at the graph above and see what happens when you tempt fate, otherwise known as Google in our case. As Google continues to evolve and refine the algorithm that manages the largest business in the world – the cream will rise to the top and black hat seo will fall.
The decision to hire cheap solutions for SEO and digital marketing may be the decision that kills your business, and I don’t say that lightly – this is not a pitch. Avoid the mistakes below, have patience with the process of a good optimization consultant, and good things will happen.
The graph above shows a client who enjoyed a tremendous amount of success from 2010 to 2013 and had a thriving business. But that business was built upon bad links bought from places all around the world, keyword stuffing, duplicate content and false links. You can easily see where Google took action. In 2012 as they were testing their impending penalties, and most greatly in 2013, when the Google Penguin Penalty was released.
The Penguin Penalty assesses the quality of links that are directed to a site and the properties of those links. The “Penguin” is a filter. If your site has a ratio of “Bad Links” above the filter, then google inflicts a site-wide trust penalty on your site and will not rank your site highly.
When the Penguin hit the site above and the site was deemed to be guilty of fraudulent SEO, they plummeted in the rankings and quickly lost all of their traffic. The decision this group made, rather than hiring us, was to select a cheaper alternative with a smooth sales pitch. Instead of recognizing what was happening, they went “all-in” on their old ways and saw a temporary spike. That was until Google ran the Penguin again, and as you can see – Google was not as forgiving the second time around, this company was de-indexed, meaning their site was completely removed from Google’s search results and a company with huge potential was diminished to nothing.
The Mystery known as Google
Google is evolving. All the time.
Google is made up of some of the most gifted minds that exist throughout the world. Every day, they tweak their algorithms to create the best user experience possibly. As long as Google provides the best user experience, they will continue to be one of the largest, most profitable organizations this world has ever seen.
What that means is that they are constantly working to find ways to remove spam and present the best information for their users.
What works today may not work tomorrow. More significantly, it may even hurt you.
In today’s world of the internet, those who are looking to succeed online and rank at the top of search results must earn their rankings with quality content and invested websites.
Websites that are optimized properly, operating at a high performance level, socially engaging, and clear of penalties. For those who take short cuts, sooner or later Google will take action. Even if your mistakes are not big enough to get yourself blacklisted or de-indexed, you can still see your search engine results drop overnight if you do something wrong, and the road back is long.
So, what exactly, do they punish you for?
The list is long, but here are six things Google directly says to avoid:
Outsourcing hundreds or thousands of links is perhaps the fastest way to burn down a website. This is what cheap SEO services thrive on. If a digital marketing agency pitches you first page rankings in a competitive market for $500/ month, they’re likely selling out.
Almost without fail, the links are from known link farms of spammy, disreputable sites and social networking accounts. Google knows who they are, and knows the game much better than your cut rate SEO – getting links of this sort will hurt you. Imagine if someone asks you for a job with a letter of recommendation from a well-known crack dealer. Are you going to hire them and put them in front of customers?
And don’t fall for false assurances. Many companies will claim that their strategies are safe, that they’ll never be found out by Google… They’ll tell you they’re “two steps away” and safe because their spammy links are pointing to an intermediary page called a “tier 2”, or have created a powerful “link wheel” or “link pyramid” that somehow channels all the good without any trace of the bad.
Because innocent business owners don’t know better, they often believe the “expert” knows what they’re talking about.
It might even work… for a while. The problem is, many business owners are not in business for the short term. This is their life, and remember that Google is always evolving? Even if they don’t catch you today, they will catch on at some point in the future. They always have.
Then you’re at the mercy of Google with your business and the livelihood of many hanging in the balance.
The best policy? Don’t buy (or sell) links. Period. Create professional, jaw dropping content and make quality connections with editors and influencers to feature your content on reputable sources.
Joining bad Networks
We all want to acquire quality links, and naturally – we’re going to receive links to our site that are out of our control; so some links may even be of a lower quality. But when establishing a backlink profile, be careful about accumulating too many “low quality” links on your own accord.
It is important to build as many good links through quality content as you can, so that your site is prepared to deal with any lower quality links without risking Google’s trust.
One of the easiest ways people can get into trouble is with link directories.
People see a place where they can get a link and they quickly submit their site without thinking twice about it.
Does the directory accept everyone? Is my site going to be associated with other high quality sites or everyone? And does that matter?
You better believe it matters, in a small town where you’re part of a Chamber of Commerce – you’re among reputable sources, a random local directory in a big city that’s just one long list of URLs… probably not someone you want to be associated with.
Why is there a fee? Or, why is this one free? For a high-quality directory, the fee is primarily for the time/effort of a human verification and evaluation of a url.
There was a time when you could submit your blog to a few industry-specific link directories and get a quick boost in your search rankings.
But the problem is that if these are the only links that you have, then you have quantity without quality. You have a store full of things that no one wants to buy.
Google looks at the web as consisting of “neighborhoods.” If your blog is frequently mentioned next to trusted, authority sites, you’re part of a “good neighborhood.” If all your links come from pages linking to thousands of junky sites, on the other hand, you’re part of a “bad neighborhood.”
Which means you have to be diligent, and smart. There are directories that are good. Many large cities have sites such as Local First AZ where they feature city’s most reputable and quality resources, they also charge a fee to research and vet out the companies who want to be a part of their network. While some may say they are just trying to make a buck, they’re also weeding out the crowd so that only companies who are serious about their business apply.
If you submit your site to a directory, you want to submit it to a highly targeted directory that’s reviewed by an actual human being who verifies that the sites listed are legitimate, quality sites. This way, you’re still being associated with quality, local sites and receiving a link from a local authority.
Google is a big popularity contest, and as in life, you are who you hang out with.
Ever heard of article marketing?
Ten years ago the internet was flooding with it. The strategy was to write an article, then make several versions of it by changing a few of the words or “spinning it”, and then submit those versions to different websites to try and get a bunch of links back to your site.
It worked too, for a while.
What happens now is that people will grab a bunch of articles from around the internet and “spin” them, then post them as their own. Harder to track because there’s only one version and it’s “different enough” that people think it’s ok. But that too, is a dying technique. Here’s why:
Remember how I said Google is always getting smarter?
It used to work because Google would see the different variations as totally unique articles, meaning no duplicate content penalty. That was until Google started raising its filter on content and connecting related articles to the originals and began penalizing those articles for what they are, spam. Today, people will spin the article multiple times and then add their own editing to it for what appears to be a seemingly original piece of content. It may work for now, but if Facebook can track you for ads, soon Google will be able to track you for content.
Guest blogging, on the other hand, is one of the most effective ways of building relevance. You’re creating value and sharing it with the internet, that’s quality content, that’s what Google and other search engines want. Write unique content for a trusted site, surrounded by dozens of other authorities.
One of the most common words associated with SEO is “keywords”, and they have their place. However, their purpose is to be used in the right way that catches Google’s attention. What’s actually going to make you rank for the terms you want are more important factors like domain authority and trusted links.
In case you aren’t familiar with the term, “keyword stuffing”, it means using the same word over and over again in your content so that Google associates that term with your site and ranks you for it. For example, if you want to rank for “men’s underwear.” This is what keyword stuffing would look like:
Men’s Underwear – The Men’s Underwear Store – Buy Men’s Underwear
These men’s underwear are the best! These are the only brand of men’s underwear I will ever buy because men’s underwear shouldn’t feel this good.
Followed by an article that continues with nothing but “men’s underwear” in nearly every sentence. Sometimes it gets so bad that the article doesn’t even make sense.
This is unnatural, and also creates poor user experience. Google will end you for this faster than anything else. It doesn’t work, if you don’t know what you’re doing with keywords, don’t mess with it. Just be original and say what you want to say.
Once you build up some relevance and authority within your site, then go back and tweak the keywords in your most popular posts without making them sound even the slightest bit unnatural.
Yes, you might lose some opportunities, but your chances of building an authority site are much, much higher.
Unnatural Anchor Text
Anchor Text is another one of those things that when done right is very helpful to your site, but people manage to take a good thing and ruin themselves with it.
If you’re not familiar with the term “anchor text,” it refers to the text inside of a link. If i were to have a link that looks like: anchor text in the word “anchor text” is the anchor text.
When Google is building the profile, or database, for which terms to rank your pages for, the anchor text is one of the places it looks for clues. If a bunch of people are linking to one of your posts with “best beach ever” as the anchor text, for example, there’s a good chance the post is about some beach, some where.
So, of course, people try to game the system. They build links using some of the disreputable techniques above, and they use the terms they want to rank for as the anchor text, hoping it’ll increase their chances of getting ranked.
But if that’s all you have, it’s obvious to see that your anchor text is unnatural.
However, if done in the right way, this is still very powerful. If you publish a great piece of content about a beach in French Polynesia with a link that says: book tickets to french polynesia, and it’s published on fodors.com. Google is going to give you a kudos for that and add a little relevance and value to your site for “booking tickets to French Polynesia”.
But getting back to the point of this lesson: not every person who links to your page or your post is going to use the exact same anchor text when they link to you. Some of the links you get might have a shorter anchor text like “yes, please” or “french polynesia,” related phrases like “omg this is beautiful,” or even just a plain URL with no anchor text at all.
And last but not least, the sneakiest of them all: broken links.
Over time, links will break. Sites die, move, and restructure all the time, making the page you originally linked to disappear.
The purpose of this is not as much about the links, as it is about the care given to the site.
If you have a site with broken links and some pages that have tables or buttons that no longer work – chances are the site isn’t regularly maintained or looked at by the editor.
Which page is likely more up-to-date: one with five broken links or one with zero? And, which page provides a better user experience?
The one with zero, of course. So, all other factors being equal, a page with no broken links is likely to outrank a page with broken links.
This is another small variable, but it is something to think about. There are plenty of link checker tools out there that will monitor this for you. So, keep your site current.
Still Considering SEO?
Are you thoroughly scared that Google is rigged to keep you down and stop you from making money? Good, I hope this gives you pause. You probably never knew SEO could be so dangerous.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. For the most part, the people who get in trouble with Google are either SEO pros intentionally testing the limits or sadly, the innocent person who gets advice from the wrong person.
The internet is, and always will be, a huge opportunity for anyone who wants to build and create.
But you must do so in the right way, and seek out help from the right places. If you’re going to optimize your website, invest in it with quality work and professional people that are not going to get your site penalized.
Where you’ll get in trouble is by trying to pinch pennies with people who are trying to make as much money as they can. They’ll try to manipulate Google with bad SEO that costs less so they can pocket more, and sooner or later it will likely cost you.
Create content that deserves to be on the first page, structure your HTML and code the right way, promote the hell out of it in the right ways, and Google will eventually catch on. Be patient, Google wants to create the best user experience that features the best content at the top of their search results.
In that respect, the real secret for getting your page ranked on the first page of Google doesn’t have anything to do with thousands of links orchestrated in link pyramids, or keyword density, or any of the rest of that complicated nonsense. It’s just four simple steps:
- Optimize a good site with clean HTML and Meta Tags
- Create engaging, valuable content
- Promote your content and get influencers talking about it
- Wait for Google to recognize your value
Oversimplified? Maybe. But it’s exactly what Google wants you to do.
So why not just do the most important things better than anyone else?
If you have any further questions about SEO, or would like to speak with a Firmly Rooted Marketing Manager, please send us a message and we will get back with you quickly.