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The Good

SEO has been so instrumental in the growth of businesses on the internet by helping surfers research and complete buying decisions online and answering their questions the moment they’re asked. Search Engine Optimization has made the internet a viable place for every business to belong, and that is why the need for SEO firms is on the rise. Search Engine Optimization, simply put, is following the ever changing sets of rules and regulations and working with (and keeping up to date with) the makers of those rules in order to produce healthy and required results.

Sticking to the time-honoured rules aren’t difficult (like producing fresh, quality, content and making it easy to access for people and machines) but staying on the bleeding edge of the changing rules (due to almost weekly algorithmic changes in search engine programming) in order to keep their clients ahead of their competition is the bread and butter of SEO firms.

The Bad

Some disreputable SEO firms and freelance SEO people are too lazy, irresponsible, ignorant, or consider themselves too intelligent to bother following rules and manipulate search engine rankings by playing into a current weakness in the search engine(s) in order to achieve a great result for their client. And it works. It’s very quick, cheap, and only needs to be done once. Unfortunately Google gets angry when people take advantage of it. Very angry.

Most people hate it when they are made a fool of and the internet is no exception. Disreputable SEO firms, previously proud of their “secret advantage”, suddenly start getting calls from their angry customers asking why their websites aren’t appearing in the Google search engine *at all*. Their websites that used to be top ranking on the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page) is now either so far buried under the mountain of un-relevant websites that it couldn’t be found or it had been removed from Google database entirely. Google had discovered the flaw in their system, traced and recorded who had taken advantage of it, updated their algorithms to remove/reduce the potential problem, and then punished the websites which had utilised the flaw in order to get better rankings. In some cases it only takes a small adjustment of the website in order to bring it back up to code (and Google helps with this) and then the website can be re-submitted for Google to be approved before it gets included again in more serious cases (like one I’ll detail below) a completely new website, domain, and marketing strategy would’ve had to be implemented.

And the Ugly

For example, one of our prospective clients had owned an accounting business on the Gold Coast and the owner had hired a freelance programmer to do a once-off SEO job for his website. The freelance promised it would only have to be done once and it would last forever and be difficult for Google to track or remove. The freelancer then created a self-replicating, page-creating, backlink-making, piece of programming genius. Six months later Google reported there was a lot of “bad links” attributed to their site and no amount of SEO would get their business back on track. No matter how many link pages were “cleaned” of the backlinks, the program would simple create more of them on different sites and the program itself was undeletable as it also self-replicated itself. Google wouldn’t accept any resubmission of their site and the business owner was desperate for SEO and was willing to pay any price but the freelancer lived in another country and the owner had lost his contact details. We discovered this in our initial business assessment and reported our findings back to him recommending him to start up a new site completely.

(The) Tightrope

Those who stick to the rules use skills/technologies/techniques called “white hat” SEO and those have long-term staying power, while those who flagrantly try to outwit the system use “black hat” SEO. Make no mistake, black hat SEO isn’t about making simple or accidental mistakes on your website or your marketing and it’s not keeping track of monthly/weekly changes in search engines but a deliberate attempt to circumvent engine algorithms. The sad story is that most of the people involved in bad SEO think they are doing the right thing as most of their work yields quick results and they’ve moved on to another client by the time Google has caught on to their “quick fix SEO”.

Dirty Harry

The question then becomes what makes bad SEO? Firstly we can look at content. If a page is deliberately misleading (ie. it presents itself as “A Backpackers Guide to Brisbane”) but is designed in such a way that it promotes something all together different (like a company selling cheap knock-offs of Gucci handbags through redirects and keyword stuffing) then it is clearly “black hat”. If a page doesn’t make grammatical sense dollars to donuts it’s been written by a machine in order to promote certain keywords. In the case of the imaginary Brisbane Backpackers page the text may read something like this… “Backpackers in Brisbane need fake Gucci handbag guides. If a Brisbane Backpacker guided handbags around Gucci then you’ll need to do a number of things there. Firstly, bring a fake backpack. You’ll need a Gucci backpack as it went well travelling. Secondly, a guide is necessary. Make sure they speak fake Gucci so you can find all the great tourist spots and cheap accommodation to store your handbag” etc etc. That text may have provided great SEO in the year 1999 and fooled many search engines but any surfer would’ve known it to be spam (ie. useless, time wasting garbage) as soon as they saw it and it didn’t take Google long to realise it was garbage too and rank lower the sites that carried similar pages.

A good rule of thumb in terms of content- if your content is not transparently useful to any viewer and wouldn’t be considered valuable enough for people to link to than it’s probably not quality content and likely contains bad SEO. One reason our Brisbane Backpacker’s page looks/sounds so unnatural is that the keywords didn’t match the content and had to be forced into the media. If the website had an article about the cost saving benefits of owning a Gucci handbag facsimile then the keywords would’ve sounded more natural but they were targeting a lower-income demographic (ie. backpackers). At the time of publication perhaps the amount of people searching for “Brisbane Backpacking” was over 1,000,000 unique visitors a month but “fake Gucci Handbag” was under 100 and they thought this was a good way to get more traffic.

Choosing to disregard keywords when creating content is akin to pressing the self-destruct button for your website. It isn’t black hat SEO to use keywords on your site as long as they match your prospective client and the page content in which they’re used. It’s no use using popular keywords in an effort to get more visitors if those visitors don’t spend long on your site. Google will see this “bounce rate” and use that (along with many other factors) to calculate the “relevance” of your site. Many websites hurt themselves by not even using their keywords on their site in simple, machine friendly places like directory structures, titles, captions on pictures etc. It’s only considered “black hat” if it is excessive use of those keywords so it appears unnatural (called keyword stuffing), and/or they’re unrelated to content.

If you confused or not too sure whether you’re doing a bad seo or not? The best option is to contact us, and let us do the work for you.