“There are people who believe in SEO and those that don’t,” SEO consultant Dan Shure said, in response to an unethical marking campaign launched by The North Face and its marketing agency, a failed campaign that left a distasteful aroma in the world of SEO. “A stunt like this,” Shure continued, “will serve to reinforce the beliefs of those that already think it’s spammy.” Outsiders peering in may be revulsed by search engine optimization from simply observing such campaigns. We agree. Unethical SEO practices give off a putrid stench. True practicing SEOs must work overtime to make up for the failings of the greasy majority in an effort to prove their worth.
When you compare the efforts of white-hat SEO to those of a black-hat SEO strategist, unethical SEO just can’t beat the extraordinary benefits honest, ethical, client-oriented provide. Google has purposed its algorithms to seek out and reward businesses who truly care for their customers and clients by providing quality content and excellent user experience. SEOs committed to making a business better will ultimately succeed. So, what unethical SEO practices should you avoid?
Start with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
Luckily, Google has written quite a bit of information on SEO and what not to do. To serve companies looking for great SERP rankings, Google laid out a comprehensive list of guidelines and “strongly encourages” companies to pay close attention. Google warns, “Illicit practices…may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise affected by an algorithmic or manual spam action.”
Understand What Panda and Penguin Mean for SEO
Nearly a decade ago, Google released its Penguin and Panda updates. Both updates placed a greater emphasis on quality over quantity than ever before. Panda, launched on February 23, 2011, took aim at low-quality content. The goal of this algorithm was to audit every website page for three main things: thin content (pages with less than 300 words), duplicate content, and low-quality content, essentially eliminating unoriginal, poorly edited content from its results.
The Penguin algorithm, rolled out on April 24, 2012, focused on analyzing the backlink profiles of websites. A backlink from another website is essentially a vouch for your website and business. Once people realized that the more backlinks one had, the better one would rank, Google recognized it was placing too much trust in how its best-ranked websites gained their links. Why reward websites with top rankings if they cheated their way to the top?
Content is king and links are hot on its tail. Google takes content and links seriously. This is why Google punishes black-hat SEO practitioners. Unethical SEO practices aim to directly undermine Google’s guidelines. Google says, “Do it right, or face the consequences.”
Be Aware of Common Black Hat SEO Tactics
Unethical SEO takes many forms. We’re highlighting some of the most common schemes below:
Google My Business Listings at Unqualified Addresses
GMB listings, of course, are an asset utilized in local SEO strategy. In an attempt to build a following in multiple locations, businesses may create listings with household addresses or P.O. Boxes to rank in numerous local SERPs. Google’s guidelines prohibit this: “Use a precise, accurate address and/or service area to describe your business location. P.O. boxes or mailboxes located at remote locations are not acceptable.”
Keyword Stuffing on Web Pages to Rank
Keyword stuffing is a prime example of search engine manipulation. Keyword stuffing involves erratically shoving irrelevant keywords into content to rank. Google’s guidelines define the following practices as keyword stuffing: listing irrelevant phone numbers, cities, or states into text, as well as unnaturally repeating words or phrases. Ultimately, stuffing keywords into web pages creates poor quality content and poor user experiences.
Padding GMB Listing Names
Fighting to rank in specific locations, a business may stuff their Google My Business Listing title with keywords. For example, “Java Coffee Stop” in Dallas may have a location in Seattle as well. Therefore, their GMB might say “Java Coffee Stop – Seattle, Washington Location.” Or, a business may utilize keyword stuffing to rank for various services: “Java Coffee Stop – Latte, Cappuccino, Blended Beverages, Iced Tea, Hot Tea, Lemonade.” Obviously, this is not accurate (and is a direct violation of Google’s standards.) Google states: “Including unnecessary information in your business name is not permitted and could result in your listing being suspended.” Furthermore, ranking for various locations and multiple services is achievable via quality, honest, ethical SEO.
Engaging in Link Schemes
Five unethical link schemes are most often utilized to receive backlinks. Each scheme ultimately impacts ranking negatively. The wording below is pulled directly from Google’s Guidelines:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
- Excessive link exchanges
- Major article campaigns with keyword-loaded anchor text links
- Using automated programs to create backlinks
- Requiring a link as a part of a contract without allowing a nofollow option
RivalMind: An Ethical SEO Company
Phil Frost wrote, “Successful SEO is not about tricking Google. It’s about PARTNERING with Google to provide the best search results for Google’s users.” Determining ethical SEO practices is as simple as paying close attention to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, abiding by the guidelines, and remaining fiercely loyal to the good of the client. RivalMind is a search marketing agency with a genuine desire to grow businesses via honest, transparent, and cutting-edge SEO. Contact us today to begin a conversation.