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by Stephen Logan on 30th October 2009
As Halloween looms once more, it feels only fitting to warn of the potential perils of poor SEO in what will no doubt be a gratuitously pun-laden horror-themed post.
The oft-derided business of optimising websites for search engines isn’t without its ghoulish characters and fiendish plots. Website owners therefore need to tread carefully when it comes to how they implement SEO and who they choose to do it (if not themselves); however, when done properly, ethically and without trying to cut corners, it is still the most effective way of marketing yourself online.
Moderation is often a key detail that is overlooked by the enthusiastic and the shady. Newcomers to the world of SEO often understand the basic principles, but don’t manage to get to grips with the quantitative spread of these optimisation techniques. The most obvious example of this is keywords.
Don’t Get Lured into a Tedious Keyword Massacre
Tenuous yes, but the danger of indiscriminately spraying keywords across a website’s pages is a very real one. If enthusiasm gets the better of you and keywords end up spread like blood splattered corpses in a George A. Romero film, eventually they will come back to haunt you.
Content should be produced naturally; it shouldn’t be driven by SEO. If you’re setting out to write specifically for a search engine then you’re doomed to failure. Google won’t take too kindly to you attempting to spam their rankings with unintelligible language and neither will any visitors. Keywords should be a polite indication of what your page relates to, they shouldn’t be used to scream about it.
Everybody has their own theories about how much and how often key phrases may be used, but ultimately you just need to avoid stuffing them in every available catacomb on your site. Get them in there nice and early (usually the first sentence) then forget about it, often they will appear naturally and derivatives will form that will help with contextualising your site to the search engines.
Steer Clear of Shadowy Hidden Content
So if keywords can’t populate the visible copy, then why can’t it lurk somewhere else? Well, just because your visitors can’t see it, that doesn’t mean a search engine can’t. If you have hidden text on your page be prepared for an almighty slap on the wrist. Whilst you might think you’re being clever, it’s been done before and just like any sequel, chances of success are few and far between.
Keep Away from Spammy Ghost Sites
Although it has little or nothing to do with paranormal activity, if you are considering a secondary site that is really just a portal to another dimension domain, then think again. Yes building links is incredibly important, as is the harnessing of targeted traffic, but doing this all in-house on one server will do you no SEO favours whatsoever. Google’s algorithm is highly sophisticated, the spiders are well trained in finding spammy feeder sites, so avoid it at all costs.
Don’t Try Burying Your Problems
The search engines are like your average horror film character in so far as they are a relentless pursuer. Of course with search engines, what they are pursuing is anybody who has broken the rules and any sites that are more relevant than those currently in their SERPs; quite different to their on screen counterparts.
If you’ve been up to no good, you will – more often than not – get found out. So if you’ve been cloaking content (having a page that is visually different to what the HTML Meta suggests – usually as a mask for something illicit), buying links or obtaining them from questionable sources, then you may suffer as a consequence.
Avoid the Sharks
If you’re unable to do SEO yourself, but are still interested in optimising your site, be sure to shop around for a suitable expert or agency. Whilst the good far outweigh the bad, you can’t afford to let your website be hijacked by an unscrupulous type more interested in their own profit margins than your site’s success. Not only will they take your money, they will leave your website buried in the search engine cemetery, so be aware of the dangers before committing.
Conversely, if you do find an SEO company who you trust implicitly, be sure to discuss and implement changes. It is a collaborative process and needs input from all parties to ensure the success of your mutual project – the website.
Keep Your Head
Don’t end up, like so many others, with a site that is neither optimised for search engines or visitors; make sure that it is proportionally developed for both. SEO will help you rise up the rankings, it won’t guarantee top spot, but it should ensure better visibility. There are dangers lurking in the shadows online, but that is just an unfortunate by-product of the Internet’s ongoing success.
Steer clear of the rogues and the blood suckers. Don’t get carried away with optimisation and, where possible, seek the help of those who are experts in the field. A SEO horror show is easily avoided, you just need to follow the rules.