Website Ranking Factors For Small Business (Part 3 of 3)
In this final article of Website Ranking Factors For Small Business, I will cover factors that can get your website penalized by the search engines, hurting your chances of appearing for the keywords you want. The below information is by no means all inclusive, but covers some of the more common black hat SEO activities that will eventually hurt your rankings.
Black Hat SEO Violations
There are many black hat SEO tactics that have surfaced over the years, it would be impractical for me to cover them all here in one article. As I focus on helping small business owners achieve search engine rankings, I will cover the black hat tactics, and tactics used by some SEO companies claiming to help small business owners.
- Thin Content
- Keyword Stuffing
- Hidden Text
- Link Spam
- Paid Links
- Duplicate Content
Thin Website Content
As I have talked about before, content is king. If your website does not talk in detail about the information someone is searching for, it just won’t rank well. Google and the other major search engines have done a very good job of deciphering well written “thick” content to give their customers (the search engine users) a rich experience when using their product.
Thin content can be described as adding a page to your website, trying to achieve rankings for a particular keyword set, but not backing that up with sufficient text tied back to that keyword set. Thin content can also be not enough pages to your website (see my article on Google Caffeine), or pages that are not specific enough to target any one set of keyword(s).
Typically small business owners will run into this type of issue when they outsource their website development to a third party that mass-produces websites for a very small fee. These companies will offer to build the business owner a website, but at a very low price typically in the $30 to $100 a month range. I recommend staying away from these types of offerings as they will do little to nothing to help move your sales figures on-line.
Keyword stuffing is the practice of overloading a pages text, title tags, meta-description and page title with keywords and keyword variations to the point where the information on the page or descriptions doesn’t read right. Keyword stuffing doesn’t work because when a search engine spider crawls the page or site, the algorithm it uses can determine if a keyword(s) are used to many, or an unreasonable amount of times. For example, lets say you’re a transmission shop, it may be tempting to use something like the following for your page title and page description:
Transmissions, Used Transmissions, Cheap Transmissions
Nissan Transmissions, Transmissions Shop, Transmissions Repair
Transmissions Portland, Transmission Expert, Used Transmissions
As you notice in the above example there is no sentence structure, no call to action, no confidence factors – it doesn’t invite the search engine user to do anything. Keyword stuffing may produce a temporary “increase” in rankings – but temporary is all it will be.
I won’t link it here, but if you want to cut and paste this url into your browser, this is an excellent example of Keyword Stuffing, make sure to scroll down to the bottom to see: http://www.becklawidaho.com/auto_accidents.htm
Doorway Pages can be an example of cloaking in certain situations. These pages are typically optimized for one set of keywords and traffic going to these pages is re-routed through use of re-directs to other sites.
Cloaking and doorway pages frustrate search engine users, who will typically back out of the page anyways. The main goal of SEO is to get people to stay on your website. So aside from the fact that these practices are against search engine rules, they do little if anything to help a business out.
This one always makes me crack a smile when I come across it, because anyone employing this tactic is knowingly and willfully trying to deceive a search engine spider. Hidden text is the practice of placing text behind pictures, or coloring text to be the same color as a website background. (where it won’t be seen by a human visiting the site). The idea is to place keywords and text in these areas to help out rankings. Be aware search engine spiders see in color and they have x-ray vision. This will get your website penalized, so don’t do it.
Link Spam and Paid Links
I typically don’t see this a lot with small businesses, but I have come across it, so I will cover it. Link spam is the practice of trying to generate lots of links to your website through spam activity on blogs, forums, articles and websites. The idea here is to manipulate the search engines into thinking a website is relevant for descriptive embedded links placed on other pages across the internet. This is a highly frowned upon exercise that can get a website penalized heavily.
Retailer JC Penney got caught up in a link scheme that employed the same techniques as link spamming, which eventually pushed them back several pages in Google’s index.
Duplicate content unfortunately for small business is still a big problem. Duplicate content comes in many forms, but for small businesses the main ones I see are from companies selling the same content over and over again to the same types of small businesses across the country and the other I see is a variation on an old technique called a “mirror site”.
Scenario 1: Mr. Small Business owner answers the phone and a slick internet sales guy on the other end says something like:
“I work for XYZ Marketing, and we guarantee first page of Google, and because we are so good, we don’t charge you a dime until you see that you’re there.”
Now as a small business owner this sounds like a great deal, and of course their fee is relatively inexpensive, and you don’t have to pay until your on the first page…everyone wins, right? Well I guess that’s up to you. I will explain how duplicate content fits into the above, then let you decide for yourself.
The above company will most likely build you a new website, profile, storefront, or whatever they’re going to call it – and it’s going to be free of charge, they are most likely going to steal the content you already have on your current website, and place it on this newly created site, this new site will not be a URL that you own, they own it. They will attain rankings for this new site, while your website stays back on the 10th page. They will use common SEO practices (some good, some bad) to get this site to the first page, and once it’s there, you pay and continue to pay for something you will never own. Oh and by the way, they will want a valid credit card number up front, even though they will tell you that you’re not on a contract.
Two problems for business owners and the above.
- Problem 1: You never build relevance in your own website. The search engines, local directories, internet yellow pages and everything else will be pointed to this new site. Once that happens, they own your internet advertising. Ever want to cancel, kiss everything you have build and paid for on-line goodbye, because you will be starting from ground zero again.
- Problem 2: Many of the websites, profiles, storefronts or whatever they promise to build you are built on very thin content. Many of these companies leverage there size with link building and other SEO factors to achieve first page results (typically guaranteed for only a few keywords). So when a normal human visits these sites, they bounce right out of them because the information they are seeking isn’t there. So the site will produce lots of visits, but that’s about it.
Content sold over and over again. This happens when one of these slick SEO companies claims they specialize in a certain vertical, and say they will build you a great website, get you ranked on the internet and everything else. The problem is that they will sell you the same website content that they just sold your competitor up the street. The problem this creates is that you and your competitors will rank for the exact same keywords.
Don’t believe me? Try searching on Google: “SSDI Denied Portland, OR”. The first 6 attorneys that appear in the organic results all buy their advertising from the same company, scroll to the bottom of their websites and you’ll see.
Avoid Black Hat Tactics
While it may be tempting to try these tactics out, or perhaps you’re like every other small business owner out there and are just to busy to do your internet marketing the right way, these tactics, or employing a firm that uses these tactics will hurt your business. Steer clear of outrageous promises and guarantees. True quality SEO and Internet Marketing takes time, knowledge and on-going commitment for it to work. It’s not a set-it and forget-it proposition. Hiring a good quality Local SEO Company that has you’re best interests in mind reaps big results month over month (if you noticed that embedded link, you’ve been paying attention!).