Everybody that works within online marketing, especially those that specialise within SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) will tell you that they only follow “best practice”. This is hardly surprising. After all, an SEO company is not likely to tell you they are following malpractice. Whilst within many industries, it is possible to both claim (and verify) the use of best practice, within the world of SEO it is a far more difficult task to ascertain what best practice really constitutes.
Whilst creating links is extremely important in determining where your site ranks in search engines, creating as many as possible is not best practice. Creating ten million links WILL often do the job of getting your rankings up. Despite that, it’s STILL not best practice. However, you do still need to get links.
Hang on, what?
Brute-force link tactics (getting links all over the place regardless as to where they come from) bring about several problems:
1) They pollute the web
2) They trample all over Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
3) The gains aren’t permanent
Have you ever maintained a company blog? Noticed that lots of the comments are horribly written, automated, spammy nonsense? That’s some of that ‘best practice’ being splurged across the web…
So Best Practice is … ?
Google (and other search engines) produce Webmaster Guidelines. They prohibit any kind of link that you create with the sole purpose of manipulating their search rankings for targeted queries. If you break them, eventually, Google can decide they need to punish you for your indiscretion. Best practice can be defined very simply as follows:
Best Practice is: whatever gets you a meaningful increase in natural search traffic, visibility and conversions in a way that complies with the Webmaster Guidelines.
The guidelines bit is important. If you break those guidelines, it might mean a temporary dip in search rankings. It might be that they uncover all the links you built and remove them all, knocking you back to square one. They might remove your website from their search results entirely. Believe it or not, it can actually get worse than that.
“How bad” you say? Google introduced measures specifically to prevent artificial link tactics from working, one of which is known as Google Panda. If your site is filtered out by this algorithm, not only can you lose ALL your search rankings, but your domain can be used as a node for determining untrustworthiness; from that point on, it is possible that your website may never recover. You may have to just buy a new domain and start again. Yikes.
How to Spot if Your SEO Company is Burning You
1. They want you to judge their success solely on search rankings (no traffic or revenue)
Rankings shmankings. What use is a ranking improvement if you don’t get any traffic? Conversely, what use is traffic if it doesn’t convert?
2. They don’t want access to your analytics packages or webmaster tools accounts
Immediate red flag. How do they know what google thinks of the site or the quality of the traffic they are driving?
3. They create a Google Analytics account for your site but you don’t get access
When you leave, they’ll hold on to it or charge a ransom for the login details.
4. They won’t show you where links are coming from
Another immediate red flag. If they are earning you links, they should be brilliant, to the point where they want to boast about them. If they want to hide them, something is wrong.
5. They don’t make any changes to your website or suggest any
This means they are probably taking your money, finding a 3rd party that sells web spam, paying some of it to them, and pocketing the rest.
6. They suggest changes that make your copy look really bad
If you start seeing words underlined seemingly at random or put in italics for no particular reason or notice keywords stuffed into your copy making it horrible to read, then you are paying them to ruin your website.
7. They don’t report on their activity
Do you just get a report? If you ask what they did in the last month, do they fob you off or try to bamboozle you?
8. They promise results
If you are guaranteed ranking improvements, you are being lied to. The only party in control of rankings are search engines themselves. However, only being paid if improvements are seen is a fair guarantee.
9. They charge almost nothing and talk about “article marketing”
They are spamming, and your site is going to get banned!
10. Results are super-fast
They are spamming VERY WELL, and you’ll probably do very well. However, your results will come crashing down eventually. They likely work on a three month contract basis and churn through clients. Look for agencies who have cleared had long standing clients.
Good SEO Agencies Manage Risk Effectively
Searchers are people. People remember shoddy search experiences, and people certainly remember a URL that they had to remove from their blog comments section 100 times. In addition to polluting the web, these link tactics transform brands into web pollutants. Anything that can have this effect is certainly not good, let alone best practice.
A proper SEO strategy makes the site the centre of everything, and using a well optimized site as a foundation, seeks to attract and earn links by adding real value to the web. If you can get a website set up and running in such a way that search engines have a clear picture of what it’s all about, and you can come up with ways to attract endorsement from the wider web, search engines will figure out that users want your content. As search engines rely on ads, they also rely on the quality of their results. By making a site something their searchers want, you make something that search engines want.
But that sounds like a lot of time and effort!
It’s certainly quicker to trick search engines. It’s what the SEO industry relied on for a long time. It’s also the quickest way to eventually ruin your online business. If you are prepared to accept that there are no longer shortcuts to online success, you can ensure that time spent isn’t time wasted.
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