Search engine optimisation or SEO is important for business but it is one of the most misunderstood terms in the marketing world. SEO’s unfair reputation over the last decade has caused many savvy business people to devalue its importance as part of solid marketing plans for small, medium and large businesses.
This is unfortunate because SEO is a very viable marketing strategy to create internet traffic, lead people to effective landing pages, share useful, relevant content and bring your business qualified leads that can convert into customers. Many businesses have also stated that having an effective SEO strategy can bring better ROI as compared to traditional marketing methods. SEO provides business visibility, brand recall, internet traffic, credibility, wider customer reach and insights into customer behaviour.
What Is Search Engine Optimisation?
To explain simply, SEO is the process that tries to improve a business or brand’s search engine rankings. In search engine results just like in Google, it displays the link to pages that it considers authoritative and relevant. A successful SEO campaign will utilise relevant and carefully selected keywords in which the on-page optimisation will be designed to make prominent for search engine algorithms. SEO has two types:
- On-page optimisation. This refers to website elements which comprises of a web page like an HTML code, textual content and images.
- Off-page optimisation. This refers to backlinks. These links point to the site which is being optimised from another relevant website.
Your website or blogsite will appear in Google if you have relevant, useful and up-to-date content. Great content will encourage people to link to your pages and it will the search engines that your web/blogsite is interesting and has authority. Search engines promote “authority pages” to the top of its rankings or to their first page. Thus, it’s your job as a business or brand to create an authoritative website. Again, this will involve writing and creating content that people find useful because it will be shared in other blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and others. Below are known advantages of a good search engine optimisation strategy.
1. Business Visibility
Whenever people search for your products or services, you want to appear as high in the search engine rankings as possible. Aside from showing in the top search results in different search engines, there are other reasons and you want people to click through to your website. It’s a known fact that there is a certain amount of value in just appearing in search results for terms that directly relate to your business. If you continually show in all of these search results , then you are gaining more mindshare with each potential visitor or customer. It also means that your website is trustworthy and the content is always relevant.
2. Business Credibility
Most website visitors make mental notes of the rankings of the terms that enter or use in Google and other search engines. Although they may not realise it, but it happens and in the mind consumers, your page result ranking is a vote of confidence because “Google says that your business is relevant”. It may seem far-fetched, but that’s how Google works now. Gone are the days of shady websites, untrustworthy rankings and keyword use that are not really relevant to the content. Customers and visitors may not admit it, but showing up on the first page of any search engine and probably below the top 10 search results makes your business more credible in their eyes.
3. Business Traffic
Internet traffic alone won’t increase your ROI. But it will help to increase brand awareness and provide some valuable insights into how you can improve your site. Still, you need to do your best to sell to your target customers once they are already on your website.
4. Good SEO Equates to Good ROI
A good SEO can reward your business with a higher rate as compared to traditional forms of marketing when it is done right. This can also be said for many types of internet marketing and the reason for this is search engine optimisation is a type of inbound marketing strategy which allows you, as a business, to market to people when they are searching for the products and services your business provides. Your business will be there whenever they need to get information and useful content. You will not be as pushy as other marketing strategies and you don’t have to convince them that they need you or your product. You just have to convince people that you are the right business, brand or service to purchase from. If the right SEO strategy has been laid out and executed, half the battle is won before it even starts.
5. SEO Provides Insights
As mentioned earlier, SEO generates valuable traffic and for you as a business, it is important to know what your visitors and customers want. Google Analytics can provide you with customer insights. Google Analytics is an amazing tool that can give as much data as you need. These metrics are essential because they give you useful and actionable customer insights (how they search, how they browse, the language they use, the region they live in, the technology they use to connect, the days they are most active, the time they are most active). This information is highly valuable because this can help you in making more informed decisions about your business and your online and offline marketing strategies.
Poor SEO strategies will lead to poor search engine result rankings, and with poor rankings you won’t experience the advantages you need to make your business successful. A poorly executed SEO plan can cost you more than just money. Below are some of the things that can happen if you have bad SEO
1. You’ll Get Penalised by Google
It’s truly frustrating when your website or blogsite is not getting search engine rankings after you have invested the money and time for the project. But at least there’s a potential to make a significant jump on any given day. That potential will be gone if you earn a Google penalty. If you or your SEO specialist executed a poorly planned SEO strategy, you might be in trouble. Google is quite sensitive to any unethical SEO and has developed effective algorithms to detect this behaviour. If this happens to your website, your website will receive a demotion, or even worse, a complete removal from the search engine result page.
Bad SEO can also cast your business in a bad light. Even if it’s not your fault, or even if someone will not admit using black hat SEO, you as a business or brand will lose good reputation because it makes you appear unethical and untrustworthy. And once your business reputation is down the drain, it’s very difficult to regain both with consumers and search engines.
3. Loss Of Trust
Customers have to trust the companies they are doing business with. Once you’re exposed for using unethical SEO strategies, you can’t count on anyone giving you their trust.
Black Hat Vs White Hat SEO
The main objective of SEO is to improve the site ranking in various search engines. Almost everything on the internet has grown around the idea of SEO. With all of this, it is important to note that there are two distinct methods when it comes to SEO. The groups are divided into “white hat SEO” and “black hat SEO”.
White hat SEOs accuse black hatters of giving SEO a bad name and they also state that black hatters are unethically manipulating the ranking of search engines. The black hat SEOs defend themselves from white hatters by saying that all SEO is just the same because it’s an attempt to manipulate the rankings thus the individual methods use to increase search ranking is not relevant.
White Hat SEO aims to improve the overall quality of websites and increase the site ranking through approved methods. It also focuses on readability, content relevance, well-structured and well prepared content that people will use and share when they read or watch it. It also focuses on cross-linking pages internally on a website where applicable. It also uses techniques to build relevant inbound links from trusted sources. Some examples of white hat techniques include:
- The use of accurate description of Meta tags without the overuse of keywords.
- Optimising tags, titles and other parts of the source data.
- Using Word Tracker or a similar databases to find popular search keywords and phrases.
- Monitoring of different search engines to ensure URLs are indexed.
- Increasing the amount of exclusive, quality and relevant content on the site.
- Writing quality content aimed at site visitors instead of search engines.
Black Hat SEO is the practice of attempting to improve webpage rankings in ways that are not approved by search engines and mostly involve deception techniques. Search engines put penalties on websites that use black hat methods when discovered. This reduces or completely eliminates the site ranking on search engine result pages. Search engine algorithms automatically apply these penalties because the internet is too big to do it manually. Black hat SEO practices can yield fast results, but again have a high risk of penalisation. This is a short-sighted solution to organic search traffic. Black hat SEO techniques include:
- Spamdexing. This is the practice repeating unrelated phrases in content to manipulate the relevancy or prominence of resources indexed by search engines.
- Invisible text. This practice includes placing keywords in white text using a white background to attract search engine spiders while the page seemingly looks normal.
- Keyword stuffing. This practice uses a long list of keywords without proper content formation.
- Doorway pages. This is a fake page that users never get to see. This page is constructed only for search engine spiders to tricking them into indexing the website to a higher position.
There has been a lot of buzz around negative SEO and many ask if it does happen. How would you know if someone is trying to attack you with negative SEO?
Negative SEO occurs when someone attempts to lower a website’s ranking in the search engines. Negative SEO can also be referred to the practice of using black hat and unethical techniques to sabotage a competitor’s rank in search engines. One of the most common type of negative SEO is link-based negative SEO. Below are some of the type of links that you can see when someone is trying to attack you with negative links as well as some black hat techniques used:
- Links from foreign forums.
- An influx of links from gambling sites, porn sites, payday loan sites and others.
- Lots of keywords-anchored links from different or multiple sources.
- Hacking your site.
- Removing the best backlinks your website has.
- Creating fake social profiles and ruining your reputation online.
- Copying your content and then re-distributing it all over the internet.
- Fake reviews.
- DMCA removal request.
Take note that not all re-directs are bad if you have established affiliates with other websites. They may have pages redirect to your product or business page. In general, these are fine and there are many valid reasons for a website to be redirected to your site.
Negative SEO also has two types:
1. Negative Off-page SEO
This type of negative SEO attacks without internally changing your website. Most of it evolves around using Black Hat link building practices and points them to the target website. These include:
Link farms are a series of web pages created for the purpose of linking to another page on the web. Best practices dictate that inbound links are good and help a site improve its ranking, but if there are a lot of links coming in from the same unrelated and spam websites, it tells Google that you’re trying to artificially increase the number of links that point to your website by creating link farms. This will get you penalised.
This involves a company or a person claiming that you’ve posted material that belongs to them. In most cases, this can result in an automatic removal of the page for up to 10 days. A day without an active website is a big loss – just imagine up to 10 days of having no website.
This is just basically copying and pasting your web pages or content to other web pages over and over again. This may be a part of those link farms. A build-up of duplicated content across domains may be a signal of a manipulative attempt to get multiple websites ranking with the same content. This was a popular Black hat SEO technique before Google Started cracking down on negative SEO.
2. Negative On-Page SEO
This type usually focuses on hacking into your website and changing things in your blogsite or website. A hacker could easily change your site’s codes, upload viruses and just wreak havoc on everything you’ve built. Most of these threats are hard to notice.
Altering The SEO Properties
Honestly, it’s not likely for you to notice if someone changes all the alt text on your content to be less effective. A lot of the basic SEO techniques are intended to be set and to be forgotten; this can leave you vulnerable to any on-page negative SEO attacks.
Changing the Robots.txt
This is one of the most important files on your site when it comes to SEO because it tells the crawlers how it will interact with your website. It is normally used to tell Google which part of the website you don’t want them to crawl and index. A hacker can gain access to your website and can easily modify robots.txt and tell Google to bypass any important pages or even the whole website.
Sites that are automatically redirected from bad pages are not penalised much, but if the redirects are changed, scrambled or disabled, your rankings can go down the drain.
Protecting Your Website From Negative SEO
The entire SEO world has experienced a major transformation over the past 4 or so years and as a result, many online marketers have changed their plans and strategies. To be ranked high in the Google search results is not easy as compared to 4 years ago. Many say that black hat SEO is harder to execute and less likely to give results because of the Google updates, thus, it has given rise to the newer techniques of negative SEO.
How can you prevent your website from negative SEO attacks?
1. Set up Google Webmaster Tools Email Alerts
Setting up this tool can send email alerts whenever:
- Your blogsite or website is being compromised by malware
- You’re having server connectivity issues
- Your pages are not being indexed
- You’ve received a manual penalty from Google
2. Keep Track of your Backlinks Profile
This is the most essential action to take in preventing spammers from succeeding. Mostly, they will do negative SEO against your website by creating redirects or low quality links. You can use Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs or MonitorBacklinks.com from time to time to manually check if anyone is building links to your website.
3. Protect Your Best Backlinks
In most negative SEO attacks or attempts, spammers will try to remove your best backlinks. They will contact the website owner of the link using your name and they will talk to the webmaster to have your backlinks removed. To prevent this from happening, you can:
- Communicate with webmasters using an email address form your domain instead of using Yahoo or Gmail. This will prove that your work for the website and that it’s not someone pretending to be you.
- Keep track of your backlinks by using the mentioned tools.
4. Secure Your Website From Hackers and Malware
Securing your site is a very important aspect in maintaining a website. The last thing you want is to have spam on your website and you not knowing about it. There are several security measures you can take:
- For WordPress users, install the Google Authenticator and create a 2-step password verification. Every time you login to WordPress, you will be required to add a generated code by the Google Authenticator.
- Create a strong password with special characters and numbers. Do not use your birthday as your password.
- Create backups of all your files. Talk to your hosting and ask if you can install antivirus software for protection from malware and viruses.
5. Check for Duplicate Content
Content duplication is one of the most common techniques spammers use in negative SEO. You can check if your website has a duplicate content or pages by going to copyscape.com. Just add your website or the article body you want to verify and it will show you if your content is being uploaded or published on any other website without your consent.
6. Check Your Social Media Mentions
You can check if your brand name is being used by someone else on social media by going to mention.net. Just create your account and as soon as someone mentions your business name on any social media or website, you will be notified and you can decide whether to take action.
7. Always Check Your Speed
If for no reason that you noticed that your website is lagging or takes a very long time to load, you might want to check if someone is trying to send thousands of requests per second daily to your server. If you don’t act on it quickly, these spammers may be able to put down your server. If this happens, this will be a big setback on your services.
8. Do Not Make Enemies
Do not make enemies or make unnecessary attacks on your competition. There is no reason to make enemies because it will just hurt your brand or business. Never argue with clients because you may never know who you’re dealing with.
9. Solid SEO Strategy
Don’t be a victim of your own SEO mistakes and always make sure not to hurt your website rankings by using techniques that are not acceptable by Google. Below are some of the things that you should not do to prevent any penalty from Google:
- Don’t link to any penalised websites.
- Do not buy links from blog networks.
- Do not publish a large number of low quality guest posts.
- Do not create or build a large number of backlinks to your website using “money keywords”. Make sure at least 60% of your anchor text bears your website name.
There is no true set list of negative SEO tactics. Any negative SEO campaign will always identify the weakness of your site and exploit it. The best defence is to have a website with a solid SEO foundation and a constant monitoring strategy. Plus an open and honest relationship with customers, clients, Google and other search engines can help you in maintaining long-standing rankings.