By Claire Diliway Thursday, 18 July 2013

Be afraid: Why old SEO tricks are coming back to bite

Google's cleaning up - and its target is businesses bending the rules to boost their search ranking, says Claire Dilliway.

For many businesses, the impact of search on their bottom line is massive. Look at Moneysupermarket.com. Just this week we discovered its May and June traffic levels were hit hard by a change to Google’s algorithm. Its share price fell as a result.

Because of the way Google can affect a company’s profits, over the years many have tried to deceive it, using SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques referred to as ‘black hat’.

While white hat techniques conform to search engines’ guidelines, black hat doesn’t. It basically attempts to improve rankings for a company using methods disapproved of by Google.

In many cases, businesses know they’re taking a risk in their bid for a better ranking, but some don’t. All they know is that they employed agencies to do whatever was necessary to get them to the top of the rankings.

Alas, it’s coming back to bite. Over the years Google hasn’t been particularly stringent about enforcing its guidelines, but now it’s got its act together, penalising sites it believes are using black hat techniques, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings altogether. That’s definitely not good for business.

As part of the big clean-up, two major algorithm updates have been carried out in the past two years by Google.
The first, in February 2011, was dubbed ‘Panda’. Panda penalised websites containing content duplicated from other sites and sources, or which provided very low quality content.

The second, heavier duty ‘Penguin’ update was introduced in April last year. This punished websites using manipulative techniques such as keyword stuffing and buying links to improve their search engine rankings.

As a result, many businesses lost — and are still losing — their search engine rankings, at detriment to their bottom line. In short, if you’ve been guilty of black hat SEO techniques in the past, whether knowingly or not, chances are you’re going to be found out soon — and pay for it.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to redeem your business and get out of the ’sin bin’.

You don’t need to trash your domain and start afresh, but be warned that it will take approximately three months to redeem yourself in the eyes of the ‘Google God’.

First, fess up. Tell Google what you’ve done, and provide full details of all black hat SEO performed on your site. The earlier you do this the better.

Second, hire some experts to review your links and content, and fix or remove any black hat elements on your site.
Third, log a reconsideration request with Google. This will prompt a review of your site and your rankings will be restored if the review is successful.

Finally, initiate a powerful content marketing strategy. Keep your website updated with unique, relevant and engaging content, which adds value to your customer base. All of this will improve or maintain high rankings with search engines.

As a final point, because search engines are constantly making algorithm changes (Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, said in 2010 that Google had made over 500 algorithm changes), ensure SEO forms only one part of your marketing mix. Make sure you are using a combination of marketing channels, both off and online, to get the best results for your business.

- Claire Dilliway is the owner of Sky High Marketing

- Image credit: Flickr/MoneyBlogNewz

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