Is Your SEO Strategy Harmful or Helpful?

When we were first introduced to the Internet, we were baffled by how quickly we could get the information we wanted. With no more than a few keystrokes and clicks, we’d be scrolling through pages and pages of helpful information or hilarious entertainment. As time went on, those minor lags and wait-times even disappeared.

Soon, we had instant access not only to information but to products. With those second-nature keystrokes and clicks, we could find whatever product we wanted and have it arrive on our doorstep by the end of the following week. In the last few years, even the real world has picked up with the rapid-fire pace of technology. Gone are the days of waiting weeks for orders to arrive. Often it only takes days.

The instant gratification the Internet has rewarded us with has set the bar quite high for all services. We expect instantaneous results, no matter what the cost.

Unfortunately, some things still take time. Such is the case with Google rankings. The best and safest Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies require commitment, repetition, and patience. We wrote about many of these tried and true SEO strategies here.

This seems contradictory to all the Internet has promised us. Why should it take so long for someone’s business to become the top result in Google searches when we’re in the age of same-day shipping and on-demand streaming services? When you’ve spent dozens of hours or hundreds of dollars on SEO, you don’t want to wait for results.

This impatience leads some business owners down a dangerous path. In an effort to try and ‘cut corners’ or take advantage of supposed ‘loopholes’ in Google’s policies, they deploy risky SEO strategies. These strategies, though attractive, are often more harmful than helpful.

Blackhat SEO Strategies Can Put Your Business at Risk

LinkNow isn’t here to judge or condemn business owners who attempt to sneak past Google’s guidelines. It is only natural that someone would want the most bang for their hard-earned dollar, especially when their livelihood is on the line. Risky SEO strategies aren’t hurtful to others. They can, however, hurt the person’s very own business.

The trouble with these risky SEO tactics? They’re often toted by supposed insiders and experts as being perfectly safe. These ‘black-hat’ or ‘gray-hat’ tactics, unfortunately, aren’t safe at all, though not everyone is told that.

The reality is, any of these strategies put you at risk of being penalized by Google. A single Google penalty has the potential to undo lots of valuable SEO work, so it is best to steer clear of any gray and black-hat SEO strategies. When you take risks with strategies frowned-upon by Google, you’re messing with your website’s overall reputation. While some people might think they can outsmart Google, they’ll never outsmart them for long. Google’s algorithms and crawlers become more intelligent every passing day. If an SEO technique is promising results that seem too good to be true—or safe—it is probably because they’re unsafe.

What are some of these black-hat and gray-hat SEO tactics? Read on. Let the team at LinkNow Media tell you everything you need to know.

Keyword Stuffing

Creating high-quality web content is time-consuming and challenging in a variety of ways. It’s not just about knowing your service, it’s about knowing your potential customers. That is why many business owners will seek the assistance of white-hat SEO companies like LinkNow Media. At LinkNow Media, we have a dedicated staff of full-time content writers who work around-the-clock to churn out sleek, reputable, and highly original content for our clients. We provide fully customized and on-brand content that stands out to consumers—and to Google—as being a cut above the rest.

This kind of content takes skill and take. Unfortunately, it is the sort of time a lot of business owners do not have. When a black-hat or gray-hat SEO strategist tips them off on some a shortcut, that shortcut seems all the more appealing.

This shortcut is known as ‘keyword stuffing’. Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of churning out lots of poorly-written content that is ‘stuffed’ with lots of keywords deemed relevant by Google. The content is often just recycled from a previously written page, with the only difference being that many (dozens and dozens) of keywords have been injected into the piece.

Practitioners of keyword stuffing clearly are not writing this content with consumers in mind. Their hope is that Google’s algorithms will notice that their site is loaded with relevant keywords and give it a higher ranking in search results.

Unfortunately, Google isn’t so easily fooled. Google tireless community of workers and their algorithms evolve every single day. In the past, this shortcut might have helped businesses rank higher—at the expense of coherent, customer-focused content—but those days are gone. Google’s algorithms are now so sophisticated that they can detect bogus content. Their grasp on grammar and everyday language is startling, really. Which means that Google can identify a keyword-stuffed page from a mile away.

The Key to Quality Content

What’s our advice? It is the same advice we give to our writers-in-training at LinkNow Media: Don’t write content solely for Google’s robots. Write content with the customer in mind. Clean, coherent, and helpful content will always outrank the nonsense. Trust us.

Does the thought of writing pages and pages of content seem intimidating? Even if you’re a skilled writer with experience in copywriting, good content is always going to take time. Time, unfortunately, is something that many business owners might not have.

But that doesn’t mean you should miss out on a great opportunity to simultaneously connect with clients and boost your ranking. There are many reputable marketing firms and SEO companies that can help you boost your online presence. One such company is LinkNow Media. Web content is but one of the many perks of working with an SEO company like ours. Give us a call and ask what we can do for you.

Steer Clear of Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Private Blog Networks, while not the most insidious shortcut in the SEO world, are quite risky. Not only are they risky but managing them can be quite painstaking. Why invest so much time and energy into such a risky process?

What is a Private Blog Network?

PBNs are networks of websites used for link-building. What’s the appeal of a network of websites used to build links? Well, all those links help give build your authority. Authority, in the eyes of Google, is important. When there are many different websites all linking to the same website or to each other, the idea is that it will successfully manipulate Google’s search engine rankings.

Private Blog Networks were huge in the world of SEO several years ago. These days, though, they’re considered a black-hat tactic by most experts, and simply risky by others.

The Risks of Using Private Blog Networks

Don’t believe the risks are real? Let’s take a look at the J.C. Penney link scheme from 2011, uncovered by journalist David Segal at the New York Times. Segal, astonished by how well J.C. Penney did in organic search results for almost every product they sold, became suspicious. No SEO specialist himself, he sought the expertise of someone familiar with search engine optimization, a man named Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media.

What their investigation uncovered was scandalous. J.C. Penney wasn’t earning their high ranking in organic results by any ordinary means. Thousands upon thousands of websites, many of which contained nothing but links, were linking to the jcpenney.com. It was no fluke or coincidence, either. All these links had been designed to help J.C. Penney rank higher in Google’s organic search results. This was a scheme of the highest order. By Pierce’s own admission, it was the most ambitious attempt to game Google’s search results that he’d ever seen or heard of in his life.

Once Segal and Pierce uncovered J.C. Penney’s astonishing attempts to game the system, they presented all their facts to Google. The head of webspam at Google, Matt Cutts, confirmed wholeheartedly that these PBN practices violated Google’s guidelines.

What happened next? J.C. Penney was penalized for violating Google’s webmaster guidelines. Shortly thereafter, jcpenney.com lost its prized rankings. Where J.C. Penney would once appear at the top of the organic search results, they appeared no more. Their website was nowhere to be found. Even industry leaders need to follow the rules.

Easy Come, Easy Go: Google Rankings and SEO

Since then, Google’s algorithms have become much smarter. Much like their ability to detect keyword-stuffed content, Google knows when a website is relying on Private Blog Networks to boost their organic ranking. It might take a few days, weeks, or even months, but Google will find out. When they do, they might just penalize you so harshly that you lose your high rankings.

When it comes to Google rankings, try to remember the mantra, “Easy come, easy go.” If there is an SEO tactic promising instant leaps in ranking and riches beyond your wildest dreams, its benefits won’t last long. Its consequences might even plummet your ranking in organic searches.

At LinkNow Media, we recommend sticking to the time-honored and safe approach to SEO. White-hat SEO companies like us don’t take risks with your online presence. Though you won’t get the results you want overnight, your ranking will be irrefutable and hard-earned. When customers see your company at the top of Google’s organic search results, they’ll know you deserve to be there.

Keep Away from Negative SEO

When one of your competitors is outranking you in Google’s organic searches, it is hard not to feel frustrated. Ideally, this frustration becomes fuel for finding the right, risk-free approach to strengthening your SEO practices. You might ask yourself questions like, “What am I doing wrong?” You might notice that your website has very little content on it. You might notice that your Google My Business listing is unverified.

Competition in the world of business and SEO is a good thing. Businesses and the free market thrive off it. But there is no reason competition should ever become cutthroat. Some business owners and black-hat SEO practitioners, however, see the opportunity to be malicious towards their competitors and take it. This is what we at LinkNow Media call ‘Negative SEO’.

What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO is any tactic deployed to intentionally impact a competitor’s Google ranking for a specific keyword. Malicious negative SEO tactics vary, but their intentions are all the same. Some of these tactics include, but are not limited to:

Fake Reviews

Although Google, Yelp, and other review sites are making strides to reduce fake online reviews, there's still a lot of work to be done. As we wrote about this week, in December there was a fake review attack that affected small businesses worldwide. Fake reviews, whether good or bad, can seriously damage the reputation of a small business.

Sending and Buying Bad Links

One negative SEO strategy is sending hundreds of bad neighborhood links to a specific target URL. Another is buying many bad links from bad networks for your targeted competitor.

Content Spamming and Comment Spamming

Some business owners have approached their SEO firm with the suspicion that they were being targeted by ‘comment spammers’. Comment spamming is the practice of leaving many comments on a page that are loaded with bad keyword-stuffed content. The intent is to ‘shift’ the content of the page.

Hacking

Though less common, hacking is a real threat. By hacking a competitor’s website, someone can alter, edit, and destroy on-site content with a few simple clicks. They can keyword-stuff every page, destroy content, hotlink images, and more.

Bad Backlinks

Creating low-quality backlinks that are irrelevant to a competitor’s website is one of the most common negative SEO attacks.

Avoid Negative SEO Tactics

If an SEO firm or colleague suggests any of these tactics, don’t trust them. Negative SEO will do little good for your business at the end of the day, and it will only needlessly hurt other competitors. If these strategies are traced back to your business, you might get flagged and banned by Google. Some negative SEO practices that involve breaching cybersecurity might even have legal repercussions too. Stay away!

Think you might be the victim of a negative SEO attack? Take a look through our article on negative SEO. If you're still not sure, consult one of the SEO experts at LinkNow Media!

Practice Safe and Sensible SEO

Thankfully, it’s not hard to stay away from these risky and ruthless methods. There are many safe and consequence-free ways to optimize your business. White-hat SEO firms like LinkNow Media offer a comprehensive suite of SEO strategies that are sure to help boost your company’s online profile.

Aubrey Grant

Author: Aubrey Grant

About Aubrey Grant

Aubrey is Head of Content at LinkNow Media. Although generally mild mannered, he has been known to fly into rages at the sight of a semicolon.