For small businesses, search engine optimization can offer more of an impact on growth than traditional forms of advertising – especially in today’s digital-centric environment, where more users are turning to their computers, phones or tablets to quickly search for a solution or answer to their problems online. In fact, a survey last year from Fleishman Hillard showed that 89% of consumers surveyed search online to make purchasing decisions. With its ability to connect customers to companies at the click of a button, SEO can help increase brand exposure and awareness, generate new leads and create new partnerships. It can only do these things, however, when it’s executed correctly.
Since its inception, as is common in any form of marketing and business growth, SEO has been defined by two sides of the same coin, often referred to in the industry as ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ tactics. White hat SEO consists of legitimate, user-friendly strategies that work towards ensuring a website contributes something of value to the web, with unique content that individuals think is worth reading or watching and – most importantly – sharing with others. In other words, white hat SEO is SEO that’s recommended by Google; all of the strategies that fall under this category are their best practices for search. It’s an approach that involves helping individuals searching online for a solution to their problem find the one that suits them best. This is true search engine optimization.
Conversely, black hat SEO consists of strategies that don’t contribute anything of value to the web, such as article spamming, irrelevant links, hidden text, and things of that nature; essentially, anything that does little to nothing to actually help users find what they’re looking for while filling the web with useless and often nonsensical content.
Unfortunately, many SEO agencies utilize black hat tactics in the guise of legitimate techniques for increasing a business’s presence online, taking an approach that more often than not results in their clients’ websites getting knocked down to the double-digit pages on Google and other search engines. This, of course, creates a negative connotation with SEO, causing many business owners to swear it off forever as a scam that doesn’t work because all it did was cost them a lot of time and money.
With this in mind, we’d like to share some SEO myths that business owners should really stop believing in order to avoid this kind of thing. This is part one of a two-part series; we’ll be including more of these in a future blog entry over the next few days.
- “We’ll Get You to the Top of the Search Engines in a MONTH!”
What’s funny about claims like these is that they can be true – but there’s a reason they don’t include the phrase “…and make sure you stay there.” Using illegitimate tactics may still help websites skyrocket to the top of search results, but it’s certainly no guarantee that they’ll stay there once Google finds out what they’re up to – and they will find out, sooner or later.
Black hat companies will often guarantee results that sound like they’re impossible to achieve or maintain. And guess what? They seem impossible because they are impossible. Like anything else, SEO doesn’t include any shortcuts or fast and easy fixes. It can take up to a year of consistent, hard work for you to see solid results that stick. It takes a lot of patience, perseverance, testing and time to ensure it’s done right. The only way to come close to “guaranteeing a first page spot” is with a well-run AdWords campaign, as it’s a lot easier to determine your position with pay-per-click advertising.
- “We’ll Buy You 1,000 Quality Links That Guarantee Results for CHEAP!”
Funny thing again: sure, anyone saying this probably does have contacts with a network of websites that are willing to put up a link in exchange for money. But there’s a problem with this concept.
Buying links is a huge no-no in the SEO industry; it’s something that any agency worth their weight simply wouldn’t bother with, period. Any firm that mentions buying links without including the phrase “we don’t” is one that you should run from right away without looking back, because this is something Google takes very seriously; it’s strictly against their terms of service, and any website caught doing it is going to see just how quickly they can be shipped to page 100 – or, worse, removed from the index entirely. It’s just not worth it.
The best way to build a network of links is to create unique, compelling and quality content that people will want to share. This can’t be stressed enough. Over the years, Google has shifted to focus on rewarding websites that they see are contributing something of value to the web; links for the sake of links don’t matter. They have to be relevant, earned, and worth the click to the user if they’re going to bring you any long-term value.
- “We’ll Update Your Website With Consistent Fresh Content. Google Loves Fresh Content!”
This one is tricky to debunk, because right above this paragraph I’ve stated that “unique, compelling and quality content that people want to share” can offer some value to your website. But the difference with black hat companies is that they aren’t interested in offering content that’s unique, compelling, quality or valuable in the least. To them, any text on a page will do.
Here’s the thing: Google has become smart. It’s become very, very smart, in fact, and it’s going to keep getting smarter. By now it’s reached a point where it can easily tell original writing from something that’s been thrown together in a matter of minutes, then duplicated with synonyms ten times over and posted week after week in a thinly-veiled attempt to fool users and search engine crawlers alike into thinking that text on a website is enough to pass as valuable information. Google knows what spam looks like, and they don’t like it.
If a company is promising you more blog posts than it sounds like they have the resources to write, chances are there’s a catch. If they’re promising you 20 articles on 20 different websites a month, chances are there’s a catch. If they’re promising a fresh update to your homepage every six weeks because “Google likes fresh content”, there’s a catch.
The bottom line with content is something that’s been said multiple times in this article already: like links, content for content’s sake will do nothing to bring your website any added value. Black hat agencies will try to convince small business owners that it doesn’t matter what’s posted to their site; it just matters that updates are frequent. If you want to focus on creating content that will help your website increase in terms of quality and originality, then you need to have a plan in place that consists of ensuring every update offers users value that they won’t find anywhere else.
The concept of search engine optimization has been around for nearly two decades, but there are still several misconceptions that surround it, and unfortunately many small business owners who have a negative experience with black hat companies that promise the impossible want nothing to do with SEO. It’s important to remember that every industry has its myths, its too-good-to-be-true tales, and SEO is no different – if it sounds outlandishly beneficial, there’s probably a catch or two.
That’s all for this installment! Head back here in the next few days for Part 2 of this series to learn more about common myths in SEO and how you can choose a reliable agency that will only utilize legitimate strategies for search.