Web Marketing: How to Avoid Search Engine Penalties - dummies

Web Marketing: How to Avoid Search Engine Penalties

By John Arnold, Michael Becker, Marty Dickinson, Ian Lurie, Elizabeth Marsten

While working to optimize your site for web marketing with search engine optimization (SEO), it’s important to know how to avoid penalties. Website owners often make the mistake of looking for the Miraculous Path to Search Engine Greatness. One does not exist. SEO is a long process. You need to write, optimize, build links, and slowly work your way up.

If you do find a short-term fix that works, it won’t last. The road to a No. 1 ranking is littered with the shells of websites that tried all sorts of trickery and shortcuts.

At some point, you, your boss, your spouse, or your business partner is going to ask, “Why does this other site rank higher than ours?” You might discover that the other site bought 4,000 links, or that it has 1,000 near-duplicate pages. Then you’ll ask yourself, “Why shouldn’t I do that, too?”

Search engines aren’t the keeper of ethics or laws. Strictly speaking, there’s no ethical reason not to play games with them in an attempt to get a higher ranking. However, this is a lousy business plan. Only one or two cases exist where someone got away with trickiness for more than a few months.

Assuming that your business plan allows growth over a period of years, it pays to practice white hat SEO tactics — relying on content and natural link growth, with a little help here and there — rather than tricks.

Black hat SEO professionals try to find loopholes and ways to fool search engines into providing a higher ranking than a site might actually deserve within that search engine’s ranking system. They’re not breaking any laws or doing anything unethical. They’re just balancing risk versus benefit: Black hat SEO is very risky, but it can provide a huge benefit. However, it also nearly guarantees you’ll get caught at some point.

Search engines demand relevance, not tricks, and assuming that you want your rankings to have a life span beyond a couple months, you should give the search engines what they want. Although it takes longer, following the rules gives you a more resilient online business.

Anyone guaranteeing you a No.1 ranking, offering to submit you to 3,000 search engines, or contacting you out of the blue is probably going to rip you off. Also beware of tools that promise instant SEO ranking improvement with little or no effort. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here is an SEO tale of woe and why it’s important to understand what you’re getting into.

A business owner named Jake received a call from a company promising him great search rankings. He worked with a white hat search engine optimization company and slowly began moving up in the rankings. Unfortunately, he became impatient.

He decided to find a new SEO company. This company’s experts explained that they would modify his website to include dozens of hidden links that search engines would see, but visitors would not. In exchange, they’d add Jake’s site to all of their other clients’ websites. Best of all, the results were guaranteed: Top 10 rankings on Google and Yahoo! within two months.

Jake hired the new company, and within a few weeks, his site ranked in the top 10 for nearly every key phrase. He was ecstatic.

Then, a week later, traffic to his site plunged. He checked the rankings: He’d vanished from the search engines. Why? Google and Yahoo! had both found the hidden links, detected that they were indeed hidden, and removed his site from their indexes.

It took six months for Jake to get back into the search engines. In the long run, his business lost far more than it gained.