You may be the best in your business or practice but, without search engine optimization, you're either average or a nobody in your field.
As digital marketing consultant Alex Chris writes, "Search engine optimization or SEO is a set of rules for website (or blog) owners to follow for the proper optimization of their websites to improve their search engine rankings." He also added that "millions of users per day are using the internet to look for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems."
With a proper SEO guide, any website and business can grow into one of the most trusted brands on the internet.
Unfortunately, there are some issues with SEO that you should know about before you hire an expert. In Bob Sakayama's article "When SEO Failure Results in Google Penalties or Rank Suppression," he pointed out that the professionals are the ones who often trigger most of the severe Google penalties. In short, these "experts" who were hired to prevent such problems from happening in the first place are the ones who really trigger the penalties. If that is the case, why should we even consider the idea of hiring an SEO expert? In my years of experience in the search engine optimization industry, there are many factors that can trigger penalties due to the constant changes in rules. Whether you're an optimizer or a website owner, you should know the factors that can cause serious problems in the long run.
We can live with owner-triggered rank issues because they won't affect your established traffic, rankings and profit the way penalties would. On the other hand, Google penalties can ruin your business. There are many different types of penalties; you could get a penalty for unnatural (spam) links to your site or an over optimization anchor text penalty from using a piece of software to build links. You could also be penalized for using the same exact content from another website or using a keyword too many times on a page, which is known as "keyword stuffing."
Penalties are also due to the constant changes in the rules. With the rapid changes, most SEO agencies can't keep up with the latest improvements. Most optimizers are passive which is bad because you can't make proper adjustments in time. Here are some tips for beginners and old professionals on what to look out for to avoid a penalty from Google.
Unnatural Links To And From Your Website
If we take a look at the link schemes section of Google's Quality Guidelines, we'll find out that any links made by an SEO with the intention to manipulate a website's ranking are clear violations of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. In short, unnatural links to your site can get your website in trouble.
Google also warns about unnatural links from your site. Google is now capable of determining natural links from unnatural links. It focuses on links that act as editorial votes for a site. If you somehow manipulate links from your site, there's a high chance you'll receive a penalty. My firm recently helped water filtration company AquaOx (which I am a partner in) recover from a major Google penalty. The previous SEO company used a link-building software to create unnatural links from the website. Unfortunately, the company got caught and the site was pushed far down in the search engines to page 10. We had to go through a list of links, tag the ones that were really bad and disavow those links in Google Webmaster tools. Our next move was to build high-quality links from the site. Once Google noticed our cleanup operation, the search engine made some adjustments in the search rankings. Although penalty recovery is not a quick process by any means, the accomplishment is rewarding.
Publishing Keyword-Heavy Content
Spamming keywords into compelling content is an old trick that used to work for many SEO agencies. Unfortunately, Google made the competition tougher with its frequent changes. My personal belief is that the search engine prefers a website with about 2% of the content being keywords. If it is annoying for users to read unnatural keywords in a website's content, the same thing is true with the search engine. Website owners or SEO companies should keep track of their keyword count by using keyword counting tools. In my practice and belief, high-quality content does not need many keywords to rank higher in Google. Avoid many of the top 10 Google penalties by investing in other tactics like proper keyword research and keyword placement instead of spamming with keywords.
Spammy Structured Data Markup
Although schema markup (structured data markup) can boost your search engine content discovery and make other improvements, this strategy can get you slammed by Google. A spammy structured data markup can potentially hurt your site as you will receive penalties from the search engine. The best way to avoid structured data markup penalties is by following the rules set by Google. You can either adhere to the guidelines of the search engine or use a structured data testing tool. Either one is better than getting into serious trouble.
Deliberately Cloaking Web Pages For SEO Or CTR Purposes
Cloaking web pages for your personal interest is a big crime against Google. Cloaking is where one version of the site is shown to search engine spiders and a different version is shown to the user viewing the site. Once caught, your site will face serious challenges and issues. The search engine discourages any form of manipulation to level up the game and keep the credibility of websites on the search result.
Being penalized isn't the end of the world for website owners, though. There are ways to get your website back on track. As a professional SEO, my first recommendation would be to look for the right people for the job.
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