August 23, 2012
For many business owners, SEO (search engine optimisation) can be a confusing and often misunderstood area of the business. Most people know that SEO is essential and can reap massive rewards for those businesses that get it right but most businesses also don't know how to do it or even where to start.
The common approach for many small businesses is to employ the services of an SEO specialist (either an individual or a company). Unfortunately due to the lack of knowledge of how SEO works, there are many unethical SEO firms in the industry that use 'black hat' SEO techniques that usually result in quick short term gains (usually with little effort) but always result in long term damage and negative results.
In the SEO industry, we refer to 'black hat' SEO techniques as all the little 'cheats' and 'tricks' that can be used to try and trick Google and other search engines into giving unnaturally high rankings to sites for specific keywords. In the past this used to be things like stuffing a page with keywords repeated over and over, creation of duplicate websites or doorway pages targeting specific keywords, etc. At the moment the most common black hat technique being used is dodgy backlinking.
A backlink is basically a link from another persons website to your own website purely for the purposes of trying to boost your rankings. Google looks at links from other sites to yours as a 'vote' for your website and takes this into account as a part of their overall algorithm for ranking your site on certain keywords. Google's algorithm for determining the 'value' of each of these links has become more and more sophisticated over the past few years and this year a number of updates were made by Google to target this specifically.
There are specific SEO 'specialists' that we are aware of that currently charge low to medium fees for 'SEO' when the main thing they are doing is just creating backlinks between each of their clients websites to try and boost rankings. This makes it very easy for these SEO firms to make money as they often charge a monthly fee to do nothing other than just adding links between each of their clients sites. Although this gives an initial quick boost in rankings which can last weeks to several months, it always eventually triggers a warning with Google who will investigate (or competitors can lodge a complaint with Google which they will also investigate). If Google detects you are involved in this kind of activity they can blacklist your site or penalise your rankings. We have seen one such site that was ranking for years on some very competitive keywords completely lose their rankings this year which destroyed their business overnight.
When eimpoying the services of an SEO firm, you should always ensure that they are using only 'white hat' techniques. Companies that use black hat techniques will often be very resitant to explaining their strategy for getting you top rankings and say that it is an 'industry secret' or proprietry information. At the end of the day, etchical top rankings can only be acheived by hard work and a long term investment.
The vesy best thing you can do is educate yourself on what Google is looking for in the SEO of your website. Google actually have very easy to understand guidelines which explain exactly what you should and should not do. Click here to read them now.