Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has rules. As hidden or as obscure as they may be, they’re absolutely essential. SEO is how you format all of your digital assets so that search engines can both find them and prop them in a higher page ranking. The accessibility of your site and the ability for your content to crawl up to the first page on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or the myriad other engines can mean the difference in thousands to millions of visits, and therefore, hundreds to thousands (to millions?) of dollars in sales.
Here’s the skinny: break the golden rules of SEO and Google just might break you. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, but Google does have the power to de-rank, demote, and blacklist any website. They do and certainly have (read on for more on that). Views will go down faster than you can say search engine optimization.
To stay on the good side of the browsers, we’ve listed some severe SEO sins to avoid so you can keep your site visible and happy. Come back next week for the 3 Dos of SEO.
DON’T Run a Content Affiliate Program
Lyrics website Rap Genius promised to promote any blog that linked to its website. Any blog, boasting any content — rap or no rap, or bluegrass, or Southeast Asian Water Filter manufacturers. It was a third-party reward system, which is a true manipulation of Google’s PageRank algorithm, and for that Rap Genius got its hand slapped. Boom. Traffic plummets after Google penalizes the company by making it unsearchable on its web browser for ten days.
In the end, the three founders were appreciative for Google’s demand for “fairness and transparency” and apologized. The apology was finally accepted after a ten day exodus from Google’s hallowed registry, but it took a ruthless in-bound link removal campaign and a tedious paring down of 178,000 pages to wean Rap Genius off the blacklist.
DON’T Overkill Keywords
It used to be that if a website selling homemade barbeque sauce were to stuff titles, sentences, and meta tags with ribs whenever possible, then everyone would be led to Blue Front BBQ’s site and would be sopping up sauce for their ribs! Those days are over.
Just as advertising and marketing has moved into the realm of rich and creative content, so has SEO. Hummingbird is calling for a more sophisticated use of keywords. Searchers are getting smarter, and Google gets it. If the user wants barbeque sauce, then it’s not about CTR or page views; it matters that surfers were searching for “barbeque sauce for ribs,” which is different than landing on Blue Front BBQ’s page because they were searching for the annual “Three Rivers Rib Fest’s concert lineup.” Context makes all the difference here: Google will support pages that drive users to relevant content, not just any content.
DON’T Rely on Arbitrary Guest Bloggers
Why not? Isn’t guest blogging a means to get a name, a passion, a product out there? Yes, if your guest blogger can actually provide content that’s related and germane to your website and mission. If your business complements the expertise of a similar business, share and share alike. However, it’s an emphatic no to strangers offering up a guest post.
But these days the idea of “Guest Blogging” is getting a bad name, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team. There are a number of companies and websites out there sending emails offering to write a “guest post” for your brand that promise original, well-written, relevant, and exclusive content in exchange for allowing a nofollow link within the body of the article. They’ll even pay a suitable contribution or explore including internal links to related articles across your site.
Cutts says companies doing this kind of guest blogging are in the wrong crowd. This e-mail invitation (wait, who’s inviting who here?) has nothing to do with businesses supporting businesses or exposure. It is a “spammy” company taking advantage of keyword SEO, and, in some cases, sneakily adding in links. And that “suitable contribution” offering is a blatant violation of Google’s guidelines — no one pays for page rank.