Did you know there’s a wrong way to do SEO? It’s true. Practices known as black hat SEO and grey hat SEO—where people try to game the system—can get a website blacklisted by Google.
As a Vancouver SEO company, we’ve been providing businesses with ethical, organic solutions for SEO for almost eight years. The problem is some business owners get entangled with companies that engage in dubious practices without ever really knowing what’s going on.
Black hat practises CAN deliver fast results. The problem is once Google figures out what’s going on, your site will be penalized, and getting back to page one will be an uphill battle.
So, how do you know if an SEO provider may be dabbling in the black arts? One of the biggest red flags is speed. Search engine optimization is a long-term strategy, and it typically takes a few months to see results. If instant results are a promise, there’s a real danger they could be engaging in black hat practices that could harm your long-term strategy.
Business owners need to be aware of shady SEO practices, and there are few ways to spot them. To help the movers and shakers aiming for a top spot on Google partner with ethical providers of SEO in Vancouver, we’ve listed a few SEO no-nos—and how you can spot them.
Believe me, we get it. Building up quality links can be a real pain. However, link popularity remains a cornerstone of ranking strategy. Links are one of the ways Google assesses the popularity and authority of website content. The reasoning is quite simple—if more people are sharing your articles and ideas, they must be great, right? In Google’s eye, incoming links identify the thought leaders who are worthy of a better website rank.
The demand for links has created a rather dubious business model known as the link farm. These are a set of pages which are set up for the sole purpose of linking to websites. Usually, of dubious quality, these pages usually have nothing to do with your industry. It’s what us SEO insiders call spammy links, and Google is investing significant resources into shutting these down. The risk-to-reward ratio is almost never worth. Not only do these links often disappear, but your website could be flagged for bad practices, too.
Pro tip: BacklinkWatch is a free tool that allows you to check that links are coming from relevant sources. Links from low-quality sites are probably paid and can negatively impact ratings.
This can be a little tricky, even for legitimate SEO providers. Keywords need to be part of website pages, but Google sometimes changes the percentage that constitutes keyword stuffing. For example, about five years ago a keyword repetition rate of about 4-6% was considered best practices. Today, that will get your site penalized.
Google is putting a lot of emphasis on creating quality content, so try to be intuitive when it comes to your keywords. If the text sounds jilted or unnatural because you’ve winkled in too many keywords, then pare it down. SEO writing should still be good writing. Be mindful of keywords but try to keep the flow pleasant and natural.
Pro tip: today a good repetition rate for keywords is about 2-3%. Make sure keywords appear in strategic areas like the title, headers, and URL.
Sneaky text and links
Hidden content and links is a less common strategy today, but still occurs from time to time. This is simply when text and links are placed in areas that can’t be seen by people, but they can still be detected by Google.
Nefarious strategies include techniques like placing white text on a white page, setting font sizes to zero, or hiding elements behinds pictures or beyond the viewable are of a page. All these practices are strictly prohibited by Google and could easily result in severe penalty for getting caught i.e. your page disappears from search engine rankings.
Pro tip: An easy way to “see” hidden content is to press Ctrl+A, which highlights text, which will show invisible elements. However, savvy cheaters may also hide content and links in the coding, which is harder to detect and may require working with a web developer.