How to Tell the Difference Between Good and Bad SEO

/ By Scott Beckman / 8 January 2019

It can be challenging to find the best SEO partner for your business, especially when you don't understand effective SEO practices. Make sure your SEO expert isn't implementing black hat SEO practices to boost your visibility by asking these insightful questions. 

Search engine optimization can be a confusing concept to grasp and hard to implement effectively. For those outside the industry, SEO sounds more like a technical term than a successful marketing technique. 

Some non-marketers recognize that SEO has something to do with websites. Others might know that, if done well, SEO increases a website’s ranking on Google. But almost nobody, except an SEO expert, understands the specifics of how the system functions.

This lack of knowledge presents a problem because poor SEO practices can actually harm your visibility online. They can damage your chances of ranking high on Google, and potentially even make it impossible. We, at Devetry, understand that you don't want the impressive website you built to be invisible because of poor SEO practices. 

How Do You Monitor the Marketers You Hired to Boost Your SEO?

When you hire a marketer to improve your SEO, you’ll need a basic understanding of SEO as a concept and tool. 

Search engine optimization is the process you can use to affect your rank on a search engine results page. Good SEO practices increase a website’s rankings for target search terms.

For example, if you’re a plumber, you want your website to appear before your competitors' when someone searches the word, “plumber.”

Google Search of Plumber

You can increase your search rank by implementing certain good practices like including keywords and internal linking. Hiring an experienced SEO agency can help to boost your rank and increase your visibility

How Could Hiring an SEO Expert Endanger Your Current Rank?

To understand why a person hired to increase your rank could harm it, think about what motivates an SEO. 

An SEO’s job is to make your website rank higher than your competitors’. It’s their one sole task. Everything that they do serves that purpose.

The problem is, Google doesn’t make this easy. It’s looking at hundreds of factors to decide on its rankings, and some of those factors are difficult to change.

The enterprising SEO, who wants to keep his or her job, feels a lot of pressure to get Google to bend to their will. The quicker the SEO can get results, the better.

If an SEO discovers a way to cheat Google – to lie about the factors Google considers to make rankings – then there’s very little to stop the SEO from trying it out

When these tactics are employed, they’re called “black hat” because they go against Google’s guidelines. Google spends a lot of time searching for black hat SEO offenders. When Google finds them, they tend to punish the websites by removing them from the results pages – sometimes indefinitely.

As such, you may pay an SEO to boost your site in the rankings only to later find your website hit by a Google penalty that removes it from the results pages entirely.

How Do You Know If the Tactics Your SEO Expert Implements Are Black Hat?

To evaluate if your SEO tactics are white hat or black hat, examine them from Google’s point of view.

Google wants to surface the best pages first. If somebody searches “plumber,” Google wants to show the searcher a list of plumbers organized with the best choice at the top, whether that means the plumber who is physically closest or the best rated.

This is true of any search. Google prioritizes the searcher, not the business the searcher is looking to hire. It provides the very best result it can, every time.

If a tactic your SEO implements seems to be tricking Google into thinking your website or your business is better than it is, that tactic is likely black hat.

For example, your SEO might tell you that links are powerful indicators of a website’s worth, so the SEO suggests buying other domains, building a network of other websites, and using them to link to the one you want to rank. Google would see those links and think your website is particularly good - look at how many other websites link to it!

This link-building tactic would be black hat. Those links weren’t created by other websites because they legitimately thought your site was good. They were created solely to make Google increase your rankings.

Building links by adding your website to listings or writing articles with links for other sites would be white hat practices. Your SEO expert shoud suggest that you create strong, follow-links on different sites to support your own domain. 

Your SEO will also explain how you need keywords in your target search terms on the page. Still, your SEO might advise a black hat technique.

For example, if you’re a plumber in Denver, your SEO could suggest putting the words “plumber in Denver” all over the website. To prevent people from thinking that looks spammy, the SEO will say to make the words “plumber in Denver” white on a white background so they’re invisible to visitors and are only visible to Google.

Again, this technique is tricking Google into thinking your website has a lot to offer about “plumbers in Denver,” when a human visitor wouldn’t see it that way. You’d be lying to Google about what’s on the page, so that would be a black hat technique.

Further, even if you visibly add in too many keywords for no apparent reason, Google could count this as "keyword stuffing,"  which would be considered black hat. Below is an example of inputting a keyword over and over again into a piece of content: 

 

Keyword Stuffing
Source

The "fire pit" example repeatedly says the word "fire pit" without adding value to the actual content. The piece was solely created to repeat the same keyword to boost SEO rankings. If Google recognizes this ploy, then it will decrease the site's rank as punishment for bad practices. 

Ensure Your SEO Practices are Executed Effectively and Correctly

You don’t actually need to know the specifics of SEO to determine whether or not an SEO’s tactics are black hat. You simply need a basic understanding of SEO and to ask questions about certain tactics to ensure your hired SEO is not trying to trick Google.

If you don’t, Google will find out and punish your site. Like most crime, black hat SEO doesn’t pay...at least, not in the long run. Protect yourself from Google’s penalties and your website will enjoy a lifetime of traffic, leads, and revenue.

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