Like most web concepts, search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved over time. As search providers continually seek to improve the user experience, they utilize the latest technologies to enhance the results their users see. They are also diligent in their efforts to weed out irrelevant or misleading content. As a result, the best practices for SEO are also constantly changing, leaving many formerly prominent strategies outdated and ineffective. Unfortunately, some web marketing firms still rely on outdated or spammy tactics. So, when considering solutions for your site, watch out for these common SEO scams.
Spammy SEO Links
You’ve probably heard that links pointing to your site are crucial for search engine optimization. This is true, but equally important is the quality of those links. In the not so distant past, many webmasters found success utilizing link and article directories to rank higher with Google and other search engines. Here’s a quick look at how each of these SEO scams worked:
The basic idea behind this was to write an informative article about the subject of your website, then “spin” the article by rewording it. A single article could often be spun up to four times. Then, they would post the spun content to their blog and article directories like Ezine. If the articles could appear distinctive enough, search engines wouldn’t know the difference and webmasters would have less work and research to do. As an added bonus, when submitted to an article directory, a link would be included with the seemingly relevant content back to the author’s site.
Search engines have been cracking down on spun articles for some time now. Their algorithms have gotten much better at detecting repetitive content, even if it appears distinctive. Needless to say, it is important for SEO professionals to provide fresh, informative and accurate content for webpages, blogs and even social media posts (though the same story can be safely shared on more than one site).
When word got out that links help SEO ranking, spam marketers all over the Internet found new opportunities to make a little extra cash. For a fee, webmasters could have a link to their domain listed in a link directory, which is just a website that, in fact, offers links to other websites. Some would allow a small snippet of information to accompany the links, hoping to provide similar benefits of article directories. For a while, it actually worked. But as Google and other search engines noticed the scheme, they began cracking down on the practice very quickly.
Now they focus on quality links. In other words, a website shares its reputation with the websites it links to. If, for example, the website of a prominent news station links to your site as a story’s information source, your site’s reputation will improve among search engines. However, if all or a majority of links are coming from sites like Ezine, your site’s reputation will likely suffer. Also, Google’s indexing technologies can usually sense if two websites are linking to each other solely as an attempt to provide SEO benefits. This tactic should be used with caution.
Ultimately, the problem with link and article directories is that they really do nothing to help users. Visitors will essentially find the same information everywhere they look, and that information tends to be quite limited. Search engines want to provide users with informative, authoritative sources. After all, their reputation depends upon offering the best results for users. If they fail to do this, they’re in trouble.
As a quick note, this isn’t to say that link building is a bad idea. It’s an effective strategy if implemented correctly. Just be sure not to trust someone who promises a quick link building plan, as it takes time and hard work to implement effectively.
Even now, keyword stuffing remains a problem, despite admission by all prominent search engines that it isn’t an effective strategy. Yes, search engines revolve around keyword phrases. And yes, the phrase you are targeting should appear throughout your site. However, listing a word excessively on each page looks awkward and doesn’t flow as well for readers. Also, to attribute a site as authoritative, search engines like to see other phrases that relate to the targeted keyword. Unfortunately, many SEO “professionals” will stuff a page and its meta-description tag (a coding concept) with a targeted keyword, charge around a hundred bucks, and call it a day. This no longer works.
Promised Search Engine Results
The most obvious sign of a SEO scam is a claim to reach the number 1 spot or even first page of Google results. It is not possible to absolutely guarantee a top ranking on any search engine. The closest exception to this is a business that offers services in its local area that no other provides. Yet even this can get outranked, at least to an extent, by popular directory services such as White Pages. Your best bet is to let the reputation of a supposed SEO expert speak for itself.
Even if certain questionable tactics prove highly effective now, search engines will likely consider them SEO scams in the future (take our earlier mention of websites linking to each other as an example). Ultimately, the most effective SEO firms will provide user-centric content and show versatility in their strategies. They will also outline a comprehensive plan that will likely mean a lengthy implementation timeline, as “a quick SEO strategy” simply doesn’t exist.