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Search Engine Optimization Gone Awry

Posted by admin on March 3, 2014

     Rap Genius, a relatively new website for posting lyrics, recently blew up in popularity due to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But the founders went too far and started using illegitimate SEO strategy. In order to get back into Google's good books, Rap Genius owners had to go through their links on other sites and delete the spam.

     The links which they planted maliciously had to be taken down before Google agreed to include them in the search ranking. The young entrepreneurs learned their lesson and were lucky to be let back into Google's search results.  

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Rap Genius' traffic took a dive after Google discovered the founders were taking part in a link building scheme

     You can follow these few easy tips to avoid making the same mistakes as the founders of Rap Genius and suffering the same terrible fate: getting blacklisted from Google Search rankings, essentially the web design equivalent of a death sentence. Being on Google's blacklist means that your website does not show up anywhere near the first page of search results, if at all. 

     SEO is indispensable for any serious website owner today. Whether you work in web design or you are shopping around for a website, chances are you have come across this term. SEO is the process of making a site more accessible to search engines in an effort to increase the website's rank on Google and other search engines.

     There is a right way and a wrong way to do SEO. The two camps are called Black Hat and White Hat tactics, terminology borrowed from the world of computer hacking. 

Black Hat SEO 

     Black Hat SEO was very popular a few years ago but has been prohibited by Google's updates to search engine algorithms. It refers to using what amounts to illegal or unethical methods of getting a site ranked higher on the results page. Black hat tactics include: 

  • Keyword Stuffing – Packing in long lists of keywords in a format that is incoherent to humans, often hiding them on pages users will not see.

  • Invisible text – Inserting large blocks of text which is the same colour as the background. People can't see it but search engines can, so it is a great place to stuff incoherent keywords and boost rank.

  • Doorway Pages – Pages which are not accessible to users and are useful only to boost rank. Doorway pages are often full of countless keyword or outbound links.

  • Link Spamming – Posting a large number of irrelevant links on your site and having someone post lots of links to your site. Link spamming usually takes place between people who know each other. 

     These are just a few methods with which website owners have manipulated Google search rankings. Although it no longer works as effectively, Black-hat SEO has worked in the past and has tempted all types of webmasters – from business owners to bloggers. Resist the temptation at all costs.

     Black hat tactics have only ever worked temporarily and most often result in a permanent ban from Google. Yikes. The unanimous sentiment around ethical Search Engine Optimizers is that black hat tactics never pay off in the long run because they involve manipulating and tricking people into visiting a page. The practice is neither ethical nor approved by Google. 

White Hat SEO

     The easiest way to distinguish good SEO practice from Black Hat tactics is by defining what the optimization is directed at: the search engine or the audience. White Hat tactics, the proper SEO methods which are encouraged by Google, are focused on creating a better user experience and richer content for the people who need it.

      Boosting what is known as organic ranking, page rank which is achieved naturally instead of being paid for, is the desired outcome of White Hat SEO. Here are a few tried and true tactics used in White Hat SEO: 

  • Keywords – Using relevant keywords effectively allows search engines to rank a website according to how relevant it is to a user's search terms. Keywords should complement the content, not dominate it.

  • Backlinking – In SEO terms, backlinking refers to hyperlinks on other posted on other websites that link back to your web page or website. Having backlinks on other pages lets Google know that people are talking about your site and that your information relevant and worth sharing. Networking and providing quality content are the only means of building solid backlinks.

  • Link Building – Linkbuilding involves actively developing quality backlinks and links to other sites, whether by doing guest posts on blogs or getting attention on social media. The effect is that Google categorizes your content as more relevant and shares it with more people.

  • Link Popularity – One of the key indicators of the value of a website, link popularity shows Google how healthy your inbound and outbound traffic is. Are people staying on your website and enjoying your content? The only ethical way to increase popularity is to provide killer content

     Unlike Black Hat SEO, which is typically used for a quick boom in page rank before it is discovered and stopped by Google authorities, White Hat SEO is used by business owners and webmasters who intend to make a long-term investment in their website. Proper SEO requires dedication, patience, and constant maintenance for best results. Think of it as a work out for your website.

     The list provided here is a casual introduction into the world of SEO. More advanced insight SEO, for which you need a programmer or web developer, involves code validation, URL normalization, using canonical link element, anchor tags, and installing files in the root directory, in addition to countless other industry tricks. Don't worry if all of this sounds overwhelming because some people devote their careers to this one important aspect of web design.

Content is King

     SEO copywriting, articles, and engaging, informative blog posts are just some of the forms of content which boost organic page rank and improve user experience. That means more new people will be visiting your website and they will be staying longer, resulting in a boost in conversions. Whether you are selling products or gather subscriptions, SEO is a necessity.

Copywriting_content.jpg

Compelling content is the best means of attracting new visitors and increasing conversions

     Although it is advisable to get a professional web developer to take care of your SEO needs, especially when it comes to copywriting, coding and dealing with Meta Tags and headings, you can have a crack at link building and social media management.

     Just make sure to avoid Black Hat tactics like the Rap Genius boys used because they can leave your web presence crippled and your website banned from Google! If you aren't sure whether what you are doing is black or white, you probably shouldn't be doing it.  It is never a bad idea to consult Google's published guidelines for how to get noticed online.

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