When you entrust an outside firm to optimise your website, you are giving them a key into your business. Many – most – SEO firms are completely legitimate, reliable, and willing to go the extra length to improve your search engine rankings. Then, there are the others. Not only do they give the entire industry a terrible name, they can damage a website’s reputation and profitability. What should you be aware of – and looking for – to ensure that your site doesn’t run afoul of search engines and those who use them?
Unfortunately, when an unprofessional SEO employs grey or black hat techniques, it is you that has to endure the consequences. This appears to have happened to US retailer, JCPenney, which was severely penalised by Google when it was discovered they (or their SEO company) had engaged in spammy link building. You must continue to monitor your website; it is relatively easy to spot things like keyword stuffing – after all, how many times does “best woolen mittens in the UK” have to come up in one paragraph? But there are a few more sly tricks to be aware of:
Multiple websites. SEO is a continually evolving field; it used to be quite acceptable, and even smart, to invest in multiple websites. Today, you might establish sites that are related for strategic purposes, or you may have different websites for different purposes. A few years ago, it was fine to have dozens or more websites that simply hosted a copy of your main website’s content. They would be indexed separately and help boost your ranking. The problem, though, is that this will now cause issues with duplicate content, which can be heavily penalised by Google. If you are going to have multiple websites, fine. They just need to have their own separate identities and purposes.
Multiple domains. When it became obvious that having multiple sites with the same content was going to work, these black hat SEOs made minor changes so the sites appeared to be different. The wording may be slightly different; the layout may be slightly different; but they’re not really fooling anyone, least of all the search algorithms.
Doorway pages. Another formerly white hat tactic was to create doorway pages. These are bait for search engines. They are indexed and ranked by search engines, but real, live visitors never actually see them. Instead, the doorway page immediately leads them to a landing page, which is not as optimally optimised, as it were. This is essentially bait, and it is not going to reflect favorably on your company.
Take the time to monitor you own site, even if you know your SEO provider is honest and trustworthy. If they are, then you’ll spend some time getting to know your site better. And if they’re not, you can quickly give them the boot.
Posted by Hitesh Patel, Managing Director at Bullseye Media