One of the factors of search engine optimization or SEO within Northwest Indiana and beyond is there is a good way to do SEO and a bad way. The good way is known as white hat SEO and the bad way is known as black hat SEO. One way to think of the good vs bad debate is either following the law of the search engines or deciding to break it. If you are in a small city like Valparaiso Indiana or a big city like Chicago Illinois the rules and laws governed by the search engines need to be adhered to if you want to move up on the search engines.
Most of the tricks of black hat SEO will nowadays land you in purgatory which is less than a desirable place when purgatory means you are no longer loved by Google. Santa has a naughty list and Google has a sandbox which once you enter requires a long time to get out of.
Here in Northwest Indiana we've seen several companies knowingly or unknowingly start to do some, or all, of the techniques to move up in the ranks. The list below is what we have seen in the past year of new clients coming onboard due to their results dropping. Every one of them have stated that they were moving up and then at a certain date they started to drop for no apparent reason. For many this is true as they had hired a firm to help them move up in the search engines. Some after they dropped listened to their search engine optimization provider and opted to move to paid advertising. This didn't fix the problem but masked it. For one client, we brought on it masked it for two years as they were paying over $1,000 a month for their paid advertising but didn't understand why during that time their organic traffic never increased.
- Fake Blogs & Spun content - this is where a company creates 2-6 blogs that look like they will help your business. They are typically on low-quality sites, often not even related to your business. Although inbound links are great; they need to be quality inbound links. This often is referred to as an off-site SEO technique where a blog article is posted around the internet with some words changed, new links back to your website are added and trying to fake the search engines.
- Spam Commenting - A link building strategy that 10-20 years ago (yes, this one has been going on for a long time) was a go-to method for SEO specialists. This is a major No-No when it comes to building up your information. What people did was post a comment on a blog that was related to your industry (sometimes not even related to your industry) and provided a link back to your website.
- Paid Links - While not an entirely bad practice, paid links are something you should use in moderation and with great care. Following sites with unrelated content and links from sponsored posts will not look good and often will work against what you are trying to achieve.
- Low Quality Directories - Submitting your website or business to a low-quality directory will not grant you any favors with search engines and might even lead to penalties. Submitting to high-level directories makes sense however, because clients may find you on them, as it were, directly.
- Reciprocal link Exchange - While not a bad practice, since exchanging links does allow companies to work together it will not contribute to your off-page SEO in any considerable way.
- Guest Posting - Another example of a good practice that should be approached with moderation and care. Make sure to invest in quality content that will build audiences and gain you links. Doing it for quantity alone will dilute your content and as a result, the worth of your links. If you do guest posting where you have an industry expert post on your blog make certain that it aligns with your overall marketing goals.
The above may seem like a lot of ways to try and cheat the system. It would seem like a lot if that wasn't all we've seen in the past year. This is only a very small portion of what we've seen but what we truly see on the rise rather than the decline.
SEO problems like this are not a small town, small city, or big city problem. They are a problem where people try to beat and circumvent the best practices of providing high-quality, unique, and valuable content to their users. SEO is not about throwing tons of money at the problem. It does take time and that does cost money. When it comes to SEO you need to be patient, follow the search engine best practices and do what is right. The rules (laws) of the search engines continue to change.
If you want to work for a company that will only follow the search engine best practices, are a small business with aspirations to grow, organically, then we may be a great source for success for your business.