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Introduction SEO is now recognized as one of the most effective tactics for generating leads and sales from your website. While most marketers understand the importance of SEO, many see the process as a highly technical, almost mysterious discipline that’s best left in the hands of experts. Be careful, though! Many of these “experts” are counting on clients’ ignorance to get quick cash without delivering sustainable results. Worse, some of their dubious practices can actually hurt your business. How can you tell if you’re being sold SEO snake oil? Here are ten signs to help you evaluate your vendor’s approach…
1. Making Promises that are Too Good to be True2. Using “Black Hat” SEO Tactics3. Targeting the Wrong Keywords4. Employing Shoddy Linking Schemes5. Listing Your Site in 1000s of Online Directories
6. Replacing Web Pages without Permanent Redirects7. Focusing on Meta Keywords8. Creating Bad Content9. Driving Irrelevant Traffic10. Offering Quick Fixes with No Ongoing Maintenance
Making Promises that are Too Good to be True SEO is a leap of faith – you’re spending valuable dollars on marketing and need to show ROI. That’s why business owners are tempted by firms that guarantee top rankings in 30 days. Google and Bing explicitly warn against ranking guarantees. Search rankings are notoriously unstable, because they’re subject to a huge number of factors such as the location of the person searching and whether they’ve logged in to Google. Rankings alone are a bad metric for overall performance. It’s more important that the search results drive relevant visitors that take a desired action. SEO is not a quick-fix tactic. It is a diligent, ongoing process that gradually improves your site’s rankings.
Using “Black Hat” SEO Tactics Not all ranking techniques are above board. Bending ethical guidelines established by search engines is called “black hat” SEO. While black hat tactics are not illegal, they can hurt your business in the medium-to-long run. Such tactics include… Doorway Pages – Creating keyword-heavy pages that automatically redirect visitors to another destination, specifically to rank for minor variations in keywords. Invisible Text – Using white text on a white background to fool a search engine spider. Linking Schemes – Paying for links, creating new sites solely to link back to a main site, placing links in the footer of all pages of a site, or inserting links into hacked sites to boost page rank.
Targeting the Wrong Keywords Any SEO firm can come up with a huge list of keywords as part of their services. But in many cases, you’re paying for a bad list. Not every keyword that’s relevant to your products or services is appropriate for your SEO campaign. If you’re in a crowded space, you’re going to have a hard time competing for top rankings for one or two words like “accounting” Instead, target terms related to your strengths and their usage in your location, such as “corporate tax audit firm Mumbai” When it comes to keywords, no one knows your business better than you. You know the kind of language that customers typically use to describe your products/services, and these are the terms they typically employ in their searches.
Employing Shoddy Linking Schemes Not all inbound links are valuable; some may even harm you! Paying for links or creating link pyramids can get your site banned by the search engines. Bad link building practices include… Email Link Prospecting – Dashing off generic email requests to webmasters, asking them to include a link back to your website. This is similar to cold calling and just as ineffective. Link Trading – Linking to any site that agrees to link to yours. Although exchanging links with a few relevant sites in your niche can be a good strategy, this technique is one of the spammiest ever. Automated Link Building – Using software programs to bulk post generic comments with a link back to your site on forum threads and blog posts. Search engines are quick to discount such links.
Listing Your Site in 1000s of Online Directories
Listing Your Site in 1000s of Online Directories As part of a link-building strategy, many SEO firms will promise to list your site with thousands of online “directories” and submit your content to “article” or “social bookmarking” sites. Great, you think, that’s hundreds more inbound links! The truth is that most, if not all, of these sites provide absolutely no value. In fact, links from many of them will probably get your site penalized by search engines. Remember, if your SEO firm is spending time on low-quality or generic submissions, they’re not focusing on the real link building hard work that improves your search rankings.
Replacing Web Pages without Permanent Redirects
Replacing Web Pages without Permanent Redirects If you decide to restructure your website or create new pages for existing content, make sure your SEO guys are using a tool called a “permanent” or “301” redirect to point the search engines and visitors to the new page. Using 301 redirects preserves the existing URL, but automatically forwards traffic to the new page, allowing your site to retain the search rankings of the existing page. If you don’t use 301 redirects, you lose all the established search engine juice from that existing page. Creating redirects can be a tricky, time-consuming process, which is why even big brands sometimes get it wrong.
Focusing on Meta Keywords Metadata is information in the core HTML of a webpage that tells search engines and browsers what a webpage is about. It’s different from the content that a human viewer sees on the page. Tweaking your site’s metadata sounds like the kind of specialized service you should pay experts to perform for you. But in reality, search engines don’t pay attention to metadata anymore when calculating a page’s rankings. Make no mistake. It’s important to give each page a unique title that includes keywords, and to have a good, readable page description for human searchers. However, if an SEO firm is too focused on metadata, they aren’t paying attention to what really helps improve rankings.
Creating Bad Content Unscrupulous SEO firms and site owners are constantly trying to game the system by creating content that’s heavy on keywords and light on actual value. Their methods include… Content Scraping – Copying content without permission from other websites and placing it on your own pages. This is a violation of copyright law, and a practice associated with spammers. Keyword Stuffing – Using low-paid writers to create low-quality articles clearly designed to attract search bots (instead of potential customers) by repeating a keyword over and over in the text. Posting Fake Reviews – Masquerading as satisfied customers to write positive reviews of your business on review sites in order to get links back to you site.
Driving Irrelevant Traffic You need to judge an SEO firm’s performance on the actual business results generated by higher rankings and traffic. Take a look at metrics that help you determine what visitors do once they land on your site, such as lead generation, online sales, or time spent on the site. Have you seen those rates increase since SEO efforts began? If people are leaving your optimized pages quickly without taking a desired action or exploring other parts of you site, chances are they weren’t qualified prospects to begin with. It may also mean that your keyword targeting may be off base.
Offering Quick Fixes with No Ongoing Maintenance
Offering Quick Fixes with No Ongoing Maintenance Your site’s content has to be constantly refreshed, inbound links added regularly, and your keyword strategy tweaked according to market trends and performance metrics. That doesn’t take into account changes to search engine algorithms that make sites’ rankings fluctuate over time. If a firm promises you big improvements from an SEO “package” of fixed duration, you’re not going to achieve long term benefits.You’re likely to be looking for help again before you know it. Part of the burden is on you, too. When you outsource SEO, someone from your team should be intimately involved with the entire strategy, understand the tactics used, contribute to keyword research and content creation, and so on.
Shared on Inbound.org“20 Black Hat SEO Tactics That Work!” wp.me/p12fLw-N by Rand Fishkin Published on YouMoz“Agent SEO Reporting, Ma’am!” mz.cm/Iu1ziX at SEOMoz.org www.linkedin.com/in/rohanayyar firstname.lastname@example.org