Talking People Out of SEO #7: Lose The Black Hats

Unscrupulous SEO agencies, let me count thy ways…

  • Thou shalt tout SEO as the be-all and end-all of online marketing which generates masses of free traffic to those with the wisdom to hire thy agency to do it
  • Thou shalt pretend complete ignorance of the term ROI
  • Thou shalt make enormous promises of boosting Google rank and getting websites to the first page without making reference to personalised search
  • Thou shalt guarantee top spot for overly specific long tail keywords which are not necessarily relevant to thy client’s business needs
  • Thou shalt measure results purely on the basis of rankings or page traffic rather than meaningful business metrics
  • Thou shalt not provide any useful reports or insights on work carried out each month except thy invoices to thy client
  • Thou shalt content spam, link spam, article spin and generally use incredibly black hat SEO tactics, in thy mercy…

Black Hat SEOIn the first part of this series of seven articles examining reasons not to do dedicated search engine optimisation work on a website, we looked into the reasons why SEO might not be the be all and end all of online marketing in your business sector. In the second we discussed how the use of SEO and other online marketing activities should be governed by projected return on investment for each activity. In the third we looked at one of the most common promises made by dodgy SEO firms and why modern search engine algorithms make aiming for the top spot a completely redundant aim for today’s marketers. The fourth discussed another cardinal sin committed regularly by dodgy SEO marketers, namely guaranteed top spots for given keywords. The fifth looked at how you should measure the success (or lack thereof) of your search marketing work – and, more importantly, how you shouldn’t. The sixth examined the advantages of keeping track of your external SEO provider and making sure you’re getting value for money. For the final part in the series we’re going to look at that most thorny of all debates: different types of SEO in terms of ethics.

A lot of companies – far too many of them – claim to do SEO, often as an addon to website design or development, but actually either outsource cheaply to various companies abroad and/or make use of a lot of very dodgy techniques to artificially boost the performance of a website. This poor SEO work dilutes the quality of search results, affecting their accuracy and usefulness to users. Search engines often hit back at sloppy SEO with big algorithm updates designed to penalise these so-called “black hat” SEO techniques – Google has become infamous for things like Panda and Penguin which target specific bad practices to try and weed them out.

Here’s the worrying part: black hat SEO gets results. Link farms, keyword stuffing, buying links and all the other sins of the unethical camp can often give great boosts to websites…but only for a little while. Then the next big update hits, the search engines clamp down and all the sites practising black hat techniques see their traffic plummet to embarrassing levels. This means people who use black hat SEO (or are unfortunate enough to have an agency that does) will find their sites bouncing up and down on search listings. Traffic will increase fast, then have a steep dropoff as the next update goes in, followed by another (normally slightly slower) increase as black hat SEOs find a new way to exploit things…then the next update goes in and the entire shameful cycle starts again.

By comparison, white hat or ethical SEO will use sensible and sustainable techniques to build up traffic for a website which converts well into customers or purchases. White hat SEO is often a longer game – it can take weeks or even many months to see good results in a competitive market – but it is also far more sustainable as all the work done builds on what has gone before it. If done properly, you don’t need to worry about starting from scratch every time the search engines update, because ethical SEO is based around creating content and links that are relevant for real users – which is exactly what search engines want.

There’s no definitive list of ethical SEO techniques but based on this and our previous discussions in earlier articles hopefully we can now see the range of things required to build up a holistic and beneficial SEO strategy without any need to constantly panic every time Google announces a new update.

If you’re baffled by blogs and lost in links, pick up the phone and call 0330 555 4680 today to find out how Cornish WebServices can help you build a sensible and sustainable set of online marketing to include SEO, PPC, social media and more.

PS we build beautiful websites too!

Published on 29/10/2012

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