Are you being scammed by a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) service?

Most people who operate a website will receive regular email marketing from Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultants promising to put them at the top of Google’s page rankings. This may seem like an attractive proposition for small business owners who’d like their website to come up first when potential customers type in “plumber camberwell”, or whatever the business type may be. Those who have been down this road will know it can be a very expensive exercise, and in most cases, does not achieve the result that was promised –  to such an extent that business owners are left feeling scammed.

A History of SEO

Search Engine Optimisation, as a concept, has been around for a long time.  In the earlier years, it was promoted by search engines as a strategy to help their algorithms find and accurately index your website. These early algorithms were not very sophisticated, and relied on the honesty of the website owner to accurately represent the content of their websites in coded metadata that was easy for algorithms to find and understand.

Page impressions

As the internet grew, site visitor statistics became increasingly important.  Agencies looking to insert advertisements into websites were focusing on page impressions to decide which websites would provide them with the greatest exposure.   During the dotcom era, whole businesses were valued based in part on these statistics. Page impressions, or how many visitors landed on a page, became a commodity with a monetary value, and website authors started to insert all sorts of unrelated keywords and metadata into their pages to drive traffic to their websites from unrelated searches.

The rise of keyword stacking

A common strategy by authors was to stack pages containing advertisements with unrelated keywords, often at the bottom of each page and in a font colour the same as the page background. These keywords were invisible to visitors, but not to the search engines, which would routinely crawl them and index them accordingly.  You may remember how frustrating and time wasting this was, having to click through many search results just to find a page that was relevant. Over time this became a liability to search engines, and they started to make their algorithms much smarter to win back the confidence of users.

Blacklisting and penalized pages

To combat this trend and regain the confidence of users, search engine algorithms became more sophisticated.  Instead of just indexing keywords based on frequency, they started to look at context as well. In the beginning, search engines simply ignored what they deemed were irrelevant keywords.  However, as the sophistication grew, these algorithms started penalising websites that were deliberately “keyword stacking” their content.  Many previously popular websites would discover their traffic had evaporated because their pages had been blacklisted. One big reason why Google is so dominant today is because their indexing algorithms are so accurate.  As we all became increasingly frustrated by time-wasting irrelevant web pages, we all happily (but perhaps unknowingly) embraced the uncanny accuracy of Google’s crawling engine.

Google’s algorithm is a secret

Google does not reveal the method behind their algorithms, and for good reason.  If they did, website owners would attempt to exploit any vulnerabilities to increase page impressions at the expense of the search engine customer experience. This is the exact opposite of what Google wants you to do, and the very thing that most Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services are offering.

Gaming the Algorithms

Search Engine Optimisation services attempt to “game” Google’s algorithms by exploiting factors that appear to significantly impact page rankings. I say game because Google is not interested in putting a website at the top of a search result for any reason other than because the content most accurately represents what the user is looking for. Returning to my early search example of “plumber camberwell”, ask yourself as a user what business you hoped to find?  Is it the one who paid the most money to an SEO service, or the one that best represents the type of plumbing service you are seeking? From Google’s perspective it is the latter, and they are outstandingly good at achieving it.  Google employ some of the smartest minds on the planet to create their secret algorithms, and they are constantly changing and improving them. That’s great news for the search engine users, but also the very reason why SEO services that promise to put you at the top of page rankings overnight are a scam.

SEO can get you blacklisted

Google themselves caution against the use of SEO services in favour of good web authoring practices, and openly warn that incorrect practices can get you blacklisted. It is not uncommon for website owners who paid for an SEO service to see their pages appear higher in rankings initially, but then plunge for no apparent reason.  What they probably don’t realise is that they have either been penalised or blacklisted, and the SEO service they are paying for has done more harm than good. The message from Google is crystal clear.  They want you to create quality content, and that will improve your page rankings.  Over time, other websites will start to “backlink” to your content, and ultimately improve your page rankings further.

The big reason why SEO promises can’t work

If there are 50 plumbers in Camberwell, not all of them can be at the top of page rankings, despite the promises of the SEO services – that’s just common sense.  You are better off spending your money creating a quality website.

What can you do to improve page ranking

Google is specific about what they are going to reward in terms of search rankings.  They want quality unique content for their search engine customers on responsive, secure websites that are designed for both desktops and mobiles. Here are dygiphy’s top recommendations to improve your website ranking:

  • Research the type of language and keywords that people will likely use in searches, and make sure they are prevalent (and relevant) in your content.
  • Make sure the content is unique, and don’t copy from other sources.
  • Use original (not stock) photography. This is important, check out point 5 in this article.
  • Make sure it has a responsive design that will adapt to any screen size, and especially mobile.
  • Ensure your pages are authored with the recommended HTML markup.
  • Write your copy text so that it achieves a readability score suitable for the target audience.
  • Avoid using images with text content that search engines cannot index.
  • Optimise images to have as small a file size as possible, and have dimensions that match their containers.
  • Publish regular page content or blog posts on your website that demonstrate your area of expertise and include these keywords.
  • Include external links in your content to other website pages that are relevant to yours.
  • Invest in an SSL certificate so your website loads over the more secure HTTPS protocol.
  • Approach your suppliers, partners and customers and ask if they are willing to link to each other’s websites.
  • Add a backlink to your website in free directory listings like Google Business, YellowPages and TrueLocal.  Research others that are relevant to your type of business.
  • Make sure it is served from a quality host, loads quickly, and performs well in recognised speed tests.

All these recommendations are what you will receive at Dygiphy, when we help with your website.  We keep improving our web design and management techniques every day to keep up with trends, relevancy and Google recommendations.  Contact Dygiphy today to see how we can help you achieve improved search rankings the legitimate way.