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The ‘dark arts’ of search engine optimisation

Halloween will soon be upon us for another year. Ghouls, ghosts, witches, wizards are abroad, working their dastardly evil to bring chaos and disaster – or so they say. Far scarier for us (at any time of the year) is discovering a website where no one has paid any attention to SEO – or even worse, someone has been playing wicked, black hat search engine optimisation games with the website. Dastardly? Certainly. Effective? Sometimes. But as in any tale of good vs evil, ultimately, black hat SEO tactics will fail and good search engine optimisation strategies will triumph.

Ignore SEO at your peril

  • Search Engine Optimisation is a crucial part of your website development
  • Google is the primary search engine, but there are others to consider
  • SEO is a long haul strategy

Search Engine Optimisation is still a fundamental element of any digital marketing strategy. If you’ve invested in a website, you need to make sure it’s going to get found by the search engines. Google is the most common of the search engines – it’s even become ‘verbed’ as most of us ‘google things’; but there’s Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, AOL and several other to consider too. As a business investing in a digital presence, you ignore SEO at your peril as your website languishes at the bottom of search engine rankings – never making it to the hallowed turf of page 1 of Google. The reality is that SEO isn’t something that you can do in an afternoon, or even a day or a week. It’s an ongoing exercise that requires constant tweaking, both technically in the background of your website, and also in terms of the content on your website.

Avoid black hat SEO tactics or risk the consequences

  • Don’t be tempted by black hat SEO tactics
  • What’s not acceptable is pretty clearly set out by search engines
  • Google will find you out…

You might think that it would be easier to chuck your website into a cauldron, mutter a few dark words and see what comes than to engage in a comprehensive SEO strategy. Alternatively, you might be tempted to engage in some ‘black hat SEO’ techniques to try and boost your search engine rankings. Google is very clear about black hat SEO tactics and the consequences for websites employing these methods. Ultimately, websites have to be about the user experience – the customer – and anything that is designed to ‘trick’ the user: cloaking, keyword stuffing, spam content – the list is extensive – will be penalised if Google finds you out. And remember that Google is evolving all the time; wheedling out underhand SEO tactics. Even if someone offers you some SEO that is probably dodgy and promises you that Google won’t find out, well, it may work for a time, but eventually you’ll be rumbled. For those of you who remember Grange Hill – and for those of you who don’t – “Just say no!”…

Search Engine penalties can damn you to the pits of internet hell…

  • Google penalties can be harsh – and impact negatively
  • Penalties can be ‘algorithmic’– or manual
  • If Google applies a penalty, your traffic will drop

Well, maybe not hell exactly, but what exactly does a Google penalty involve and how can it affect you? Penalties can be ‘algorithmic’ – for example, the Panda algorithm which Google uses seems to seek out websites with low quality content and keep those sites from showing up in search results. We say ‘seems to’ because Google is quite protective of its algorithms and what they actually do, but this is what commentators seem to agree on. Further, you won’t know you’ve been hit – you’ll just see a sharp dip in your organic traffic when such a penalty has been applied. Manual penalties are penalties that are applied by people employed by Google to review your website against their guidelines. At least with manual penalties, you will be advised that the penalty has been applied. Ultimately, the impact of a penalty is that you can pretty much wave goodbye to traffic. And let’s face it, when was the last time you clicked on to page 2 of the search results, let alone any further back?

Escape the clutches of the dark side of the internet with a two-fold approach to SEO

  • Take a complete approach to SEO
  • Construct a strategy involving on page and off-page SEO activity
  • Keep your strategy under review and tweak as necessary

Technical SEO is vital – but what’s on your website itself is only part of the SEO story if you’re looking to keep your website in the light of the front pages of the search engines and not trapped in the dark side of the internet. In other words, you need to pay attention to how your website is viewed by others. This two-fold approach tackles both on page and off page SEO. While you may find one easier than the other, both are important and require your attention Your website. ‘On Page’ search engine optimisation involves what you might traditionally think of as ‘SEO’, and relates to your website itself – great, original and user-friendly content, not overly stuffed with keywords, no spammy blogs, making sure your website is responsive and mobile friendly. Off page SEO is essentially activity that builds genuine links to your website – writing guest blogs on other websites, social media activity. Make sure your website is properly optimised and develop a clear strategy for off page SEO activity and your website should stay out of the dark…

Defeating the SEO demons is achievable!

  • Don’t ignore SEO as ‘too difficult’
  • Tackle SEO yourself or work with a reputable expert
  • Avoid penalties and grow your traffic

If search engine optimisation feels like something unachievable, too many pitfalls, too much to think about, think again. For a start, it’s vital as part of your online strategy to invest in SEO, both when your website is built and as an ongoing activity. If you ignore SEO, there is really very little point having a website in the first place. There are steps you can take yourself to tackle search engine optimisation on your website, or you can work with a reputable web development and search engine optimisation expert who will help you work your way to the top of the search engine rankings using bona fide, Google approved methods.  You’ll avoid the penalties that can hamper the growth of your website, and see an increased return on investment very quickly.

Based in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, we’ve been working with businesses across the UK and beyond to help them optimise their websites, increasing traffic and generating sales since 1997. We keep on top of the best SEO practices to ward off the forces of evil from wreaking havoc on your website – and all year round, not just at Halloween!