SEO Tactics to Avoid So You Don’t Get Thrown in Google Jail
No one can deny that search engine optimisation is vital for getting found online. With mere keywords, Google leads customers to your product or service.
Isn’t that amazing?
But search engine optimisation isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Some people have started using nefarious methods to get ahead in Google search rankings. These methods might give you quick results but only for a short time.
Once Google catches you, your pages drop to the bottom of search rankings. They could even remove your entire website. Hours of work and hard-earned dollars down the drain.
In this blog post, we’re going to discuss some of these methods for two reasons.
You might not be aware you’re using them. You know the difference between what’s legitimate and what’s dodgy.
Let’s get started.
In the old days of the Internet, Google relied on keywords. The more times you used your keywords, the more relevant Google thought your content was.
Since a lot of people wanted to make a quick buck, content written for Google bots, not for actual human beings, flooded the Internet.
For example, I’m trying to sell dog food online. I write a post about the top ten best dog foods on the market, using the keyword “dog food” 50 times in a 300-word blog post. Sure, Google bots like that kind of content, but it turns people off.
Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.
Google has gotten a lot smarter since the early days of SEO. They’ve updated their algorithm several times to weed out keyword stuffers.
Hummingbird is one such update. The update doesn’t just look at the words used in a keyword. It takes context into account.
If your keyword is “self-defence classes Sydney,” you can’t use those same keywords repeatedly and hope something sticks. You also have to use related words like martial arts, taekwondo, etc.
The bottom line is, your content needs to:
- Be well-written.
- Be helpful or entertaining or both.
- Use keywords naturally.
Buying Spun Articles
If you’ve never heard of spun articles before, you’re in for an eye-opening experience.
Spun articles are the Frankenstein’s monster of online content. Either a person or an automated tool takes apart an existing piece of content and puts it back together a little differently. They tweak things here and there so that the same content is written in a different way.
It’s like the online equivalent of copying someone’s homework. You’re changing things a bit, so the teacher–Google, in this case–doesn’t catch you.
I admit it sounds easy. You’re getting new articles for your blog without making that much effort. You might even decide to pay for an article spinning tool that can spit out hundreds of articles for you.
Buying spun articles have two major drawbacks.
Spun articles read like a robot coughed them up.
Here’s an example of how a spun article is written:
When perusing a spun article, you can tell immediately that it wasn’t composed with the motivation behind interfacing considering a man. It’s firm and the word utilization is past normal. You can smell the site proprietor’s urgency to move up Google look rankings, and you’re killed.
In non-robot speak, I said that when reading a spun article, you can tell that it wasn’t written to connect with an actual person. It’s stiff and the word usage is beyond strange. You can smell the desperation to climb up Google search rankings, and you’re turned off.
You’re not offering visitors anything new.
Google loves it when you offer users unique content. Users love it, too.
What if a new visitor comes to your website and sees that you’re saying the same thing on every page? And you’re saying it in a way that sounds robotic? They’ll click out of your website so fast, you wouldn’t have known they were there if Google Analytics didn’t record the site visit.
The best way to climb up Google search rankings is to create the type of content that tells readers a story and/or teaches them something new. And you have to do it in a way that doesn’t make them nod off to sleep in the middle of it.
We all wish there was a shortcut or magic formula that shoots you up Google rankings. There isn’t. At the end of the day, it all boils down to how great your content is. No robot-speak allowed.
Before we talk about the nefarious practice of buying links, let’s define page authority and link equity first.
Page authority is how popular our page is online. The more other websites link to it, the better Google thinks your content is. With a higher page authority score, you’ll have a bigger chance to rise up on Google search rankings.
Link equity is the “authority” one page can give to another. If a web page that has a high page authority links to me, Google thinks my content must be great too. It gives my own page authority a boost.
In a perfect world, websites will only link to another website if they think the content is amazing, but that’s not the case at all.
In 2018, buying links involves trading links between popular websites and businesses.
Let’s say that you have a popular blog that gets thousands of hits every month. People love your posts, and they share it on their own websites.
If you wanted to, you could start allowing businesses to guest post on your blog…for a fee. These posts would then include links to their own websites.
If you’re a business owner, this sounds like a quick way to get links back to your website from a popular page.
It’s also prohibited by Google. They even state it in their Search Console Help.
“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.”
Excessive Link Exchanges
Don’t get me wrong.
Google doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with exchanging links with other websites. Let’s say Person A owns a blog about acoustic guitars and Person B writes about electric guitars.
They’re writing about the same thing, even if they’re under different niches. If they do exchange links once in a while, their users will still be interested in the links and find them helpful. Both blogs get more traffic, and users get more information.
It’s a win-win situation for everybody.
Exchanging links for the sake of it is a different story. If your website is about aircraft maintenance and you’re linking to a pet store website, Google will find it very suspicious.
In Search Console Help, they mentioned excessive link exchanges as one of the things that can negatively impact a website’s search results.
To sum up, Google is okay with exchanging links with two major caveats:
- Your content has to be relevant. When exchanging links, the page you’re linking to has to at least be connected to your own page.
- Don’t overdo it. Don’t create a page and fill it with links to other websites. Google will see through it right away.
This is one of the shadiest SEO tactics you’ll come across on the Internet.
In a nutshell, cloaking uses the old bait-and-switch. It shows Google a version of a web page that is different from the version that site visitors see.
For example, Google crawlers might find an HTML file when they try to index a web page but users see a bunch of images when they visit it. It may benefit you in terms of SEO, but it gives users a negative first impression of your site.
If you’re a business, you most likely have a web presence to find more customers. Using a tactic like cloaking might lead more people to your website, but setting false expectations won’t turn them into customers.
If your business has a blog, you’ve seen link spam. These are random comments or forums posts that contribute nothing to the conversation and always contain product links.
Just like with buying links, people spam links to build their page authority.
Imagine writing a 3,000-word article entitled 10 Must-See Spots in New South Wales. When you receive a comment notification, you’re excited to see what it’s about and who it’s from. Finally, someone recognised all your hard work.
You click on the notification and see that it’s from a username called ilovetrees101. All they said was, “Cool post! Tree Services NSW.”
It’s annoying and disappointing to be on the receiving end of link spam.
Don’t get me wrong. Comments on blogs can help build your page authority, but–and this is a major but–they have to be engaging. You’re responding to what someone else said and not just trying to promote your business.
If done correctly, blog comments can benefit you in many ways. They can:
- Show you’re an expert. Read industry blogs and leave meaningful comments. You’re still leaving links to your own website, but at the same time, you’re showing people you know your stuff.
- Increase in traffic. Commenting on industry blogs that get a lot of traffic can lead traffic to your own website…as long as your comments contain valuable insights.
It’s hard to decide whether hidden text or cloaking is shadier.
Hidden text is when you try to use a different font colour or format so certain words won’t be visible on your web page. Technically, you want Google crawlers to see those words but not your website visitors.
Let’s say you want to mention a competitor in your web page because you’re hoping that people looking for them will find you as well. Obviously, you don’t want potential customers to see what you did. Since your website uses a white background, you change the text colour to white as well.
It sounds like such a simple solution. It’s also one that could get your entire website removed from Google search results.
According to Google, “hiding text or links in your content to manipulate Google’s search rankings can be seen as deceptive and is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”
Shady search engine optimisation tactics abound on the Internet.
But tactics only work for a short while. You might climb up Google search rankings, but they’ll catch up with you sooner or later.
You need long-term SEO strategies that won’t get you in trouble with search engines and make your site visitors happy.
Creating valuable content still reigns supreme over all other SEO strategies. Instead of spending your money on article spinners and buying links, invest it in creating content instead. There are no shortcuts.
Cornerstone Digital is an SEO agency in Sydney. We’d be glad to create SEO strategies for you that don’t get your website kicked out of search rankings. Call us on (02) 8211 0668 or email us at [email protected]
A self-professed book and digital marketing nerd, Darlyn Herradura focuses on building trust between customers and businesses with the written word. She understands that creating valuable content is the best way to get found online and happily spends her time doing that.