After David Segal’s article “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search” appeared in the New York Times last month, the mechanics behind search engine optimization have become part of a national conversation. This is a timely opportunity to talk about SEO practices.
Digital marketing can hardly be discussed without the issue of SEO techniques coming to the forefront. To increase the search engine rankings, there are five basic principles used in building websites: domain name, title tag, secondary tag naming conventions, content and tags, and creating external links. It is the last principle that most people are referring to when discussing controversial SEO practices. When a company’s only metric is to move a site up in rankings, there becomes a single minded mission to influence Google’s cryptic algorithms with insubstantial networking and internet manipulation. In this business, clients often wish to improve their online reputation by maneuver particularly unfavorable results below the fold or off the first page of the search engine results. There are many traditional SEO companies that will promise to deliver by any means necessary.
Companies who promise the ability to outsmart and outmaneuver Google’s SERP, or the web page listings that result from a search engine query, through Black Hat or White Hat SEO techniques, paid links, and backlinking creates sham networks by linking the site to any directory, blog or page, regardless of its relevance to the service or product. This focuses on create a high quality of insubstantial links to boost a website’s profile that create the illusion of relevance. It’s the digital marketing equivalent of spam.
Google is aware of these strategies and makes it their business to unearth websites that do this, meaning that a company can spend thousands of dollars of its SEO budget just to call attention to themselves by Google for the wrong reasons, which is the case in the New York Times article mentioned above. It is one thing to create the best possible conditions for your website to ascend to the most visible positions in the search engine results, and quite another to get flagged by the search engine by employing schemes that could ultimately result in being demoted in search ranking- or even removed from the index of searchable results entirely.My advice is to build a solid website with the SEO principle of forward linking- driving real traffic and connecting with the website, generating real, measurable conversions. Do not try to manipulate Google, but know that the “Google juice”- the value that Google assigns to your page- follows the practice of doing things the right way when it comes to search engine practices. The algorithms that Google uses to rank pages is famously enigmatic- there may even be a part of the search engine rankings that might actually notice negative feedback or complaints about a business, and deliberately keep those pages in the loop. A lot of complaint sites get good rankings- there is a chance that Google might actually want them to be where they are.
A more legitimate approach to SEO is through social media is rooted in two tactical approaches: elbow grease and paid advertising. It is more important to build social network followings, establish relationships within these, and develop those relationships into measurable conversions. The conversion data can be used to find out what has been successful in converting- numbers can vary throughout different times of the day, week and month, with trackable patterns. This accounts for the traffic that flows to the site through the different social media- and for the client, can track everything down to a measurable ROI.
Developing real, substantial connections to significant pages is the foundation to adhering to Google’s vision in creating value in a website. Driving traffic to and from sites with quality content is the only real way to raise one’s Google profile- it is this network of quality links that becomes a website’s true internet value.