Search Engine Optimization is not something you learn today and know forever. “Search engines change their algorithms almost daily,” says SEO expert Lindsay Wassell of Florida-based KeyphrasSEOlogy, an SEO consultancy.
Wassell, a partner and consultant at KeyphaSEOlogy, writes about SEO and Site Auditing at seomoz.org and keyphraseology.com. She has spoken to advanced Internet Marketing and SEO audiences at SMX, SEOmoz Training, SHARE and the Microsoft Speaker Series.
She is among the dozens of digital gurus, Internet mavens and top executives participating in the upcoming TechMedia Digital Summit at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta May 16-17.
Can you fool Google?
While SEO experts can suggest hundreds or more ways to better your SEO strategy legitimately, it’s also a good idea to know what not to do. And that may include things that worked weeks, months or years ago but may land you in Google’s doghouse now. “Google is a lot smarter than people think,” says Wassell. “They build sophisticated technology to try to find and devalue spam.”
They also have a large human team dedicated to searching for and devaluing spam. “So if you’re trying to fool a search engine,” says Wassell, “a best practice” is to ask if your page will stand up to human scrutiny. “Will a real person trained to recognize spam view this as good content?” she asks. “If not, you better re-evaluate your search strategy.”
They didn’t need the black hat
Even major brands can go awry of good SEO practices and pay a high price. Wassell points to the New York Times article about retail giant J.C. Penny, which hired a firm that used questionable tactics to give the company’s web presence an artificial boost, a tactic that worked — for a while. Then Google caught them those site rankings dropped precipitously.
“They didn’t need to get mixed up with black hat practices,” says Wassell. “They could have had more long term results with white hat practices.”
She notes that the company may not have even been aware that they were using black hat techniques. “When you hire a company to do SEO, keep track of what they’re doing,” suggests Wassell. “I’ve heard stories about firms doing SEO work who won’t tell their clients where their links are, saying its proprietary. If you’re working with an SEO firm, nothing they’re doing should be a secret to you.”
She adds, “Imagine doing a marketing campaign with a print ad agency that won’t show you the creative or tell you which magazines your ads will appear in. That’s crazy. Don’t let an SEO firm do everything in a black box. Be concerned with long term success.”
The basic criteria for good white hat SEO, she points out, is to publish content a user wants to read and finds valuable. “It comes down to producing quality content people want to read and share to create a buzz,” she says.
Wassell says that it’s easy to find incorrect information about SEO on the Web, “Because nothing goes away.” But things that worked in the past may actually be counter-productive now.
Five SEO tactics to avoid in 2011
1. Keyword stuffing. “It used to work. You could put every keyword under the sun in your meta tags. When we first did SEO, it was about meta descriptions and keywords. Now it has gone far beyond that. Now, using the Meta Keywords tag “is a giant waste of time,” she says.
2. Don’t name your images with a lot of keywords.
3. Don’t list every zip code and city within a 10-hour drive of your business.
4. Don’t use hidden text – over an image, using white text on a white background, link from a small character such as a period or hyphen or comma, or hide text with CSS.
5. Don’t sign up for: link schemes, reciprocal linking, link farms, a link wheel, a link exchange (unless it’s a real and substantial business partnership or relationship) or use multiple linking (two-way, three-way or any other way).
Those are just a few of the 32 don’t do SEO tactics Wassell lists in her own blog post: 32 SEO Tactics to Avoid in 2011.
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