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There are some things in the world you just don’t rub the wrong way. A bear. The in-laws. Your boss. Otherwise, you’ve learned to be you: to care little about what others think, as long as you’re being genuine. Well, such nonchalance won’t work with Google. They’re another item to add to your “do not anger” list. As much you may want the traffic, you can’t cheat Google to get better SEO. They just won’t take it. Before you know it, sometimes without any warning, you could wake up to find your site kicked off the web.
Just like you know not to get between a mama bear and her cub, it’s good to know how to avoid making Google angry so your website can get (and maintain) the SEO rank it deserves.
Image via Flickr by Neon Tommy
Think about those emails that you get all too often that try so hard to look legitimate. They ask for money, promising great returns and rewards in exchange. As hard as those scammers may try, you can often tell the difference between those emails and an email from your bank. Similarly, Google can also tell the difference between a legitimate link and one you landed from a link scam.
Links do wonders for your SEO, but only good links. Knowing that marketers will be looking for cheap and easy ways to get links to their website, “SEO firms” have crept in the corners of the Internet for years, claiming that for a fee, they’ll provide you with hundreds of links and land you that golden ranking that you’ve always wanted for your site. But just like those sketchy emails are almost always scams, these links often come from disreputable, unreliable sources. Sure, they may actually give you links, but these aren’t links that you want.
These scammers claim that they (and by extension, you) won’t ever get caught. Maybe they got away with it in the past, so they’re getting a bit cocky, but thanks to Google’s constant updates to their algorithms, it’s only a matter of time before those links are found and both you and the scammer pay the price, no matter how innocent (or ignorant, if we’re being honest) you were at the time.
You may have been able to cheat younger siblings out of board game victories in your younger years, but that kind of thinking just won’t fly when it comes to SEO strategy. Google is too smart to cheat, thanks to its constant evolution. The loopholes that worked one year won’t work for long. For example, article marketing used to be one of the favorite cheats on the web, but it’s been recently dying as people realize its growing ineffectiveness.
What’s article marketing? It involves taking previously written content, “spinning” multiple versions with small changes, then submitting those variations to sites that collect free articles in exchange for links back to your original sites. Google used to see each variation of the content as completely unique and took the links as legitimate, but as we learned earlier, you don’t mess with links and get away with it for long. Google’s algorithm now recognizes those superficial changes and may actually penalize you for trying to swindle them.
It really is possible to have too much of a good thing. You can have the greatest keyword in the world, one that’s bound to get plenty of hits, but if you’re spamming your content with too much of the same keyword, Google will recognize what you’re trying to do. That’s keyword stuffing. It might look something like this (let’s say our keyword is disaster survival): Disaster survival skills are important to cultivate in order to survive disasters. Disaster survival skills are easy to learn, just as building a disaster survival kit is a reachable goal.
Just grates at the mind, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, that short example isn’t even as worse as it gets. Why would anyone do this? Because they assume that the more keywords you have in your content, the higher rank you’ll earn. That may have been true for some time, but here’s the current problem: while keyword stuffing met a portion of Google’s algorithm, it often did so at the cost of quality.
Regardless of what it may have done in the past, the algorithm now puts quality high above keyword quantity. Plus, a poor quality article is less likely to get links, which is ultimately a more important part of the algorithm than keywords. Focus on crafting great content and don’t go crazy with the keywords. Use them sparingly and throw in plenty of synonyms. Google will recognize the similarity.
When it comes down to it, SEO strategy is a game, and every game has its rules. You win by pulling the best moves within the bounds of those rules, not by cheating. Think of Google’s algorithm as the rulebook. Play the game, bring new moves to the table, but don’t cheat. That’s where most of the problems with Google start.
Everyone wants a great ranking for their website, but it ultimately starts with creating strong content geared toward your audience. By doing so, you’ll have enough keywords as long as you remain relevant and focused, and as long as you can become a resource for readers, you’ll earn plenty of links back to your site. Start there, and you’ll be just fine.
Don’t be tempted by supposed success stories from those who claim to have used loopholes or cheats to get a high rank on Google. Is that the kind of content you really want to trust? Content that had to be cheated to the top of the list? The best content is content that has rightfully earned its ranking. If you don’t have the rank you want, adjust your strategy, do your research, but don’t fall to the level of scammers and cheaters. Before long, you’ll have a combination of great content and a well-deserved rank.