Cyberdrum: SEO crime
SEO no evil here
This is because unethical SEO techniques go against search engine rules and regulations meaning websites that have been ‘illegally’ optimised will eventually be removed from search engine listings. This will have a massively detrimental effect on a company, especially if it relies heavily on having a strong web presence. And once a site has been removed, the process of being re-listed and gaining a robust search engine ranking have to begin all over again, which is both time consuming and costly.
This is bad enough, but it can be even worse. If the use of underhand tactics is really prolific, websites may actually be blacklisted altogether by search engines and banned from being listed again. In some respect you could say that SEO specialists who use underhand techniques are trying to hide from the search engines, just like a criminal might hide from the police. They may be able to get away with it for a while, but they will eventually get caught.
Like it or not, if you hire a SEO specialist and they use ‘illegal’ SEO techniques to optimise your website, the search engines will hold you personally responsible. Google actually states: “If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or ‘throwaway’ domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to ‘help’ you.”
So, how do you ensure you don’t end up hiring a rogue SEO expert who will optimise your site while simultaneously putting it at risk of being removed or blacklisted by the search engines?
Luckily, there are lots of steps businesses can take to ensure they don’t end up hiring unscrupulous SEO firms and practitioners. And that’s a good thing for the SEO industry too, because the quicker people realise the damaging effects that illegal SEO techniques can have on their websites, the quicker SEO companies using underhand tactics will have to clean up their act. This will stop them destroying the reputation of genuine SEO experts who produce highly effective and long-lasting results using above board SEO techniques.
Firstly, check out Google’s online tutorials about SEO, which give a simple overview on how to avoid being ripped off by unscrupulous SEO firms. It’s a good place to start and because it’s short and easy to understand even the most busy marketers looking to employ an SEO professional to optimise their website should have time to check it out.
Secondly, be aware of what SEO can and cannot achieve. SEO is a highly effective technique, but it does take time to see results. It also creates very high search engine rankings for websites when done well, but any genuine SEO specialist knows that no one who’s genuine can guarantee the top spot – that is just not how SEO works. So, if an SEO professional comes along promising that they will get you to the top of the search engines within a short time period, then be on your guard. They are likely to do so using ‘illegal’ SEO practices that may work in the very short time, but will actually be detrimental to your website and company’s reputation in the longer term.
Businesses looking to employ an SEO specialist should also thoroughly research a selection of SEO companies, shortlist at least three to speak to in detail and then ask to see examples of their work. A good SEO expert should happily spend time discussing the tactics they will employ to effectively optimise your site and should be willing to show you examples of the previous work they have done for other clients – if they have nothing to show then you shouldn’t hire them and look for someone who does.
Another way to make sure you don’t end up hiring an unscrupulous SEO expert to optimise your company’s website is to be aware of the most common ‘illegal’ SEO techniques currently being used. There are a number of phrases which should set the alarm bells ringing when speaking to potential SEO professionals. These are listed on the opposite page.
Search engines are working harder than ever to eradicate SEO crime and as the competition within the SEO industry gets fiercer, legitimate SEO experts are also beginning to clamp down on competitors employing illegal techniques and are increasingly reporting them to the search engines. In fact, there are now online forms readily available where people can file complaints against websites using underhand SEO techniques, making reporting legalities easier than ever. This means it’s now a case of ‘if you don’t get caught by the search engines, you’ll get caught by your competition’.
But, as with everything, new tricks will always pop up as old ones are forced out. SEO professionals need to constantly be on guard to identify and then quickly eradicate new generations of SEO crime before they threaten to damage the industry’s reputation.
Polly Pospyelova is SEO consultant at Leeds-based marketing consultancy Fuse8.
Illegal SEO techniques
Doorway pages are web pages built specifically to increase traffic to a website and are created to do well for particular phrases. In essence, a doorway page is no more than a one-page click-through advertisement for a website, which you have to click through before landing on the actual website itself. Although doorway pages may get lots of visitors, most will be put off by what is effectively a blank page and hit the back button rather than progress through to the site.
This technique involves adding lots of keyword rich text to your pages that is invisible to users, but readable by the search engines and therefore helps to increase a website’s search engine ranking. There are many hidden text techniques, but search engines are becoming increasing capable of detecting such methods and will heavily penalise websites using them.
This technique increases the appearance of keywords by inserting them anywhere possible. Normal keyword density should be from three to seven percent, so anything above this looks like keyword stuffing and is likely to attract special attention from the search engine spam filters.
Cloaking is a technique in which the content presented to the search engine spider is different from that presented to the user’s browser. It’s used to trick search engines, but they really hate this technique and have developed sophisticated ways of finding and penalising sites using it.
Content is becoming increasingly more important to all search engines, which has led some people to create duplicate copies of keyword rich pages to try and manipulate the search engines and increase their website’s ranking. However, search engines are cracking down on duplicate content and have developed highly intelligent duplicate content filters, meaning it’s now harder than ever to do and much easier to get caught out.
There are plenty more other ‘deceiving’ SEO techniques being used out there too, such as shadow domains, link farms and spamdexing. Like the other tactics I’ve mentioned, these also work by manipulating the search engines and in the process degrade the search experience for everyone.