When it comes to SEO and website compliance, it’s hard to deny that the game is rigged.
Despite the fact that the rules aren’t abundantly clear, the consequences for breaking them can be grave. Not only did Google invent the game, write the rules, and hide the playbook from everyone else under lock and key—they’re also in charge of policing and regulating it.
Last year saw major changes in the algorithm that resulted in a number of websites being hit
with penalties for abuse. In effect, this means Google applies a negative factor to a website,
thereby preventing it from appearing high in search results. This is probably one of the most
debilitating things that can happen to a web-based business. Imagine that you rank highly on all of your key terms in the retail world and organic search constitutes a huge portion of your
business; to lose that would be catastrophic to your bottom line.
An organisation may have a variety of providers working on ways to improve its site
performance. If that improvement happens, does the marketing lead question their success and the improvement in rankings? No. Far from being sceptical, he or she is probably going to be celebrating. But be careful, a lack of diligence in ensuring best practice is in effect negligence and this is how many companies get into trouble.
In order for this worst case scenario to happen, Google needs to discern whether or not you’ve had illegal practices in place, or partaken in them. A common example of this is in illegal backlinks. While it’s fine for the BBC to publish a link to your site that generates a lot of traffic, it would look suspicious if a large number of seemingly unrelated websites did so over a short space of time. A common, quick-fix SEO tactic in years gone by, was to buy up lots of disused websites and use them as “farms” for building links to their clients’ websites in an effort to boost rankings.
Whilst this activity was no doubt effective, it rewarded websites that practiced this tactic rather than those that published the most useful content. As such, Google began handing out ranking penalties to websites that didn’t clean their act up. So if you had employed these tactics in the past that built links in this way, even if it was an agency working for you and you weren’t aware of it, you're still guilty in the eyes of Google and at risk of receiving a ranking penalty.
The webmaster must then desperately try to find where the problem lies, rectify the situation
and show Google that the issue has been fixed. You cannot claim that you are innocent, you
have to find and fix the problem. Review and reconsideration of a penalty can take weeks or
even months to happen, and it may take even longer for the site’s rankings and organic traffic to return to where they once were.
Essentially, if you’re tempted to circumvent the rules for short term gains, the long term negative effects simply make it not worth the risk.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm and this can lead to major changes to the rules. While there is no reason to go into a panic, due diligence is essential. In essence, all the structural elements and other factors covered in our previous posts affect your SEO ranking. If you pay careful attention to all of these and follow best practice, it’s probable that your website will be behaving to the best of its ability. Thanks to the rules of the game, there’s not a whole lot more you can do, but you might need a reputable agency or an advisor to show you what best practice is.
To review the past few blog posts on SEO, here’s a list of legal SEO activities you can address
when it comes to your site. Embrace best practice and play by the rules. Adhering to Google’s
policies and algorithm means you’re less likely to get in trouble – and more likely to propel your business into success:
● On Page Technology: Site load speed, keyword position in tags, length of URL, only a
few ‘real’ meta tags.
● Backlinks: Links from other good reputable websites – get your news and opinions out there!
● Social Signals: Links from social media – get active!
● The Brand Factor and Wikipedia: Big brands, Niche brands, Wikipedia mentions.
● User and Traffic Signals: Click thru rates - high, time on site - high, bounce rates – low.
● Digression and Outlook: Desktop vs getting a fully mobile enabled website – so much traffic is now mobile!
Tip #33: Don’t try to cheat the Google system. The consequences are grave and the chances of you outsmarting Google are extremely low.
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