Sometimes an unfair advantage seems like the most attractive path to victory. After all, it’s typically low effort, highly effective, and brings faster results. The only problem is that it usually ends with getting caught; Lance Armstrong was one of the greatest cyclists ever until he admitted to doping, and the Houston Astros were on an incredible win streak until they were caught banging on a trash can. How can you trust those kinds of people?
Even in the world of SEO there are rule followers and rule benders. It’s easy to accidentally fall into not-so great strategies unless you know what you’re looking for. But don’t worry, Big Leap is here to give you the lowdown on how to tell the difference between good (or ethical) SEO and bad (or unethical) SEO so you can get legitimate results that will stand the test of time.
SEO: Right vs. Wrong
The difference between good and bad SEO is pretty clear. While both of these can lead to a higher search ranking for your webpage, bad SEO doesn’t play by the rules and guidelines set by search engines. This leads to some unethical strategies just to get a high ranking. It can produce quick results, but companies that use bad SEO can be severely penalized if they’re caught. Good SEO strategies, which play by the rules, will incur no such penalty.
Search engine algorithms were pretty easy to take advantage of when they first started. Some saw this as an opportunity to get ahead of the competition, manipulating the content of their websites and exploit algorithmic loopholes to get higher rankings. This bred a plethora of unethical and shady SEO tactics.
While this kind of SEO is incredibly risky, people still do it. Why? As helpful as SEO can be for your business, it’s a long term investment; most companies start seeing results after four or six months. Some companies are looking for a quicker turnaround, which bad SEO can usually do for them. But it comes with a price. Examples of unethical strategies include:
1. Keyword Stuffing
Businesses who stuff their content with unnecessary or irrelevant keywords are attempting to manipulate where their page will rank in search results. You can usually catch a keyword stuffer if they list random phone numbers, include blocks of text listing cities and states, or if their content is repetitive. For example, if the webpage was for automotive repair, you might see a section like this:
“We’re in the automotive repair business. If you need automotive repair or anyone you know needs automotive repair, all of your automotive repair needs can be dealt by us, an automotive repair company. Automotive repair is what we’re good at, and you should listen to automotive repair companies, like us.”
You don’t have to be an English professor to know that is a terrible paragraph. Fortunately this kind of content is quickly flagged by search engine crawlers.
2. Paid Links
Since developing a healthy link portfolio is a key component of SEO strategies, some have started buying and selling links to expedite the process. Paid links are strictly prohibited by Google and other search engines.
There are a lot of scammers in the link selling business, so even if you do try to buy links, you likely won’t get anything of value.
3. Link Farms
In another attempt to avoid link building, a link farm is a website developed solely for the purpose of inflating the number of backlinks for a particular site. These links usually have the keyword the site is hoping to rank for, but search engines have become pretty good at identifying link farms.
Cloaking involves showing the search engine one kind of content and a different kind to readers. This is done in an attempt to rank high for search results that are completely unrelated to the content, and is a tactic most used by spam sites.
Similarly, other sites get into the practice of bait and switch, which redirects someone to a different URL after they click on a link.
5. Bad Content
When it comes to content, websites that focus on bad SEO techniques are usually trying to appease the search engine rather than the reader. The irony is they’ve forgotten that a high search ranking is only part of a full marketing strategy; just having a high ranking won’t get you anywhere if the content is useless.
Bad SEO content is usually repetitive and meaningless. But it could also be content from other websites that have been copied and pasted into a Frankenstein’s Monster of a webpage.
Drawbacks of Bad SEO
Overall, bad SEO is high risk and low reward in the long term (aside from being unethical). That’s why Big Leap always supports the use of good, ethical SEO strategies.