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If you own a small or medium sized business, you know how important every lead, sale, and customer are to the success of your business. But how do you generate those leads? Do you know exactly how many visits, leads and sales are being generated by your company’s website?
Think of it this way—your website is a sales rep that never sleeps!
Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, your website is working with you to convert leads to sales. But what type salesman is your website? Is it a lazy salesman? Has it actually helped you get any sales this year? That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.
Great SEO improves your website’s rankings within search engines and increases your company’s chance of being spotted—and visited—by qualified prospects.
However, when hiring an SEO company, there are some things you want to watch for and avoid. Not all SEO companies or content marketing firms live up to their promises of more traffic, better rankings (Note: rankings aren’t the real measure of success), and more leads. Some SEO firms achieve results, but they do so using “black-hat SEO” techniques. Black-hat SEO refers to achieving SEO results using techniques Google specifically says to avoid. These unethical strategies can hurt your website’s rankings—and ultimately your business.
Lucky for you, Blue Corona is here to help you learn how to recognize you’re working with a shady SEO company.
Top 3 Signs Your SEO Company Uses Black Hat SEO
When polled, members of the Blue Corona SEO team were in agreement. There are three key signs to look for when determining if your SEO company is using black hat strategies.
- Spammy backlink profile
- Scraped or duplicate content
- Keyword stuffing and/or hidden text
Spammy Backlink Profile
One of the most important ingredients to great SEO is establishing your company as THE AUTHORITY of your industry. You need to build a brand. Are you a reliable, trustworthy source of information and can your company satisfy customers’ need to get the job done? The best way to establish yourself as the authority of your industry is through valuable, informative content. When you do that, prospects will find you when they’re looking for answers to their problems.
A side benefit to creating great content is that, when combined with a great promotional strategy, it results in links to your website from other authoritative and trustworthy websites. The result is an established “link profile.” Your link profile is the sum of all the sites you link to and all of those that link back to you. To put it simply, when you link to other trusted industry websites—and trusted industry sites link their users back to you—your website is viewed as more authoritative by search engines.
Generally speaking, authoritative, trustworthy websites do not link to spammy websites. If your website’s linking profile is filled with untrusted, spammy-looking sites, or ones that major search engines view as untrusted, your website may be penalized and become harder to find through organic searches.
Scraped or Duplicate Content
The second most alarming sign you’re working with a shady SEO company is scraped or duplicate website content. As you read above, there is no substitute for valuable content. Establishing yourself as the go-to source of industry information and services is the fastest way to build trust with your website visitors and convert those visits to leads, and leads to sales. Content is king. Period.
It’s worth noting that if you create great content, your site will almost certainly get scraped. If this has happened to you, we can help. Drop us a line.
Keyword Stuffing and Hidden Text
Keyword stuffing and hidden text are two tricks skeptical SEO companies use to rank higher in search engine results, moving their clients’ webpages to the top of results pages. Take a look at what Google Webmaster Matt Cutts and his buddy Nelson have to say about keyword stuffing and how to right the ship.
Other Signs You’re Working With a Shady SEO Company
Ben Landers, President of Blue Corona, weighs in on some of his signs that you may be working with a shady SEO company:
- An over-reliance on technical sounding jargon
- Evading questions when asked about the credentials of their business or team
- Limited knowledge about business and/or your industry
- Refusal to explain exactly what they’re doing to your website/web presence
- Employees that lack appropriate credentials (college degrees from accredited schools)
- Difficult to get a live person on the phone
- Typos in standard, everyday communication
Google is the dominant search engine of the web, reaping 67.3 percent of all search engine traffic in August 2014, according to a recent study released by comScore. What many business owners don’t realize is that Google will actually penalize your website if its web crawlers find your website is in violation of its webmaster guidelines and practices unethical SEO.
There are two different types of Google penalties—manual and algorithmic:
An algorithmic penalty is a penalty that hurts your website rankings because Google changed their search algorithm. Although the official Google search algorithm is unknown, you can spot an algorithmic penalty if you experience sudden drops in search results, page rank, visits, etc.
A manual penalty from Google occurs when your website is in violation of Google’s recommended webmaster guidelines. You can find if your site is in violation of their guidelines by checking your messages in Google Webmaster Tools.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or work with a company who abides by them.
Finding the Right SEO Company for Your Business
Lexie Bond, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Corona, recommends asking at least three specific questions before selecting your SEO company.
1. “Do you adhere to search engine webmaster guidelines?”
2. “How do you determine SEO success? For (Blue Corona), we always determine SEO success by increased leads—not rankings or traffic. Who cares if you’re getting more website traffic if it’s traffic from China and you’re a local HVAC company in Bethesda, Maryland!
3. I also think most people don’t think to ask, “What happens if/when we part ways?” Many companies don’t let you keep your website or content—you’re simply renting it from them.
Read Lexie’s blog post, “Do I Have to ‘Refresh’ My Search Engine Listings?” to learn more about shady SEO practices.
Looking for an Online Marketing Company?
At Blue Corona, we’re more than just an SEO company. We are an online marketing company that likes to act as a business coach. We think—and act—like owners! That means we make data driven decisions when working with our clients, ensuring you get the full picture of how effective (or ineffective) your marketing strategies are.
Contact Blue Corona today for your consultation.
About The Author: Brandon works in Blue Corona's small business division, Rank First Local. Outside of SEO and analytics, Brandon’s interests include NBA and college basketball, tweeting, and playing with his dogs, Jax and Kona. Twitter: @doylestweet
View more blogs by Brandon Doyle