A Look at Sustainable SEO Practices

Search Engine Optimization has a mixed reputation. On the one hand, its seen as something "shady", with deliberate methods deployed to "trick" search engines into ranking your website higher. On the other hand, it's a bonafide marketing strategy that Google offers tools and advice for. There's no contradiction here. It's like almost everything in life: there's a sustainable way to do something that follows best practices, and then there's the throw-out-the-rule-book, corner-cutting way to do it. Let's look at both types of strategies in regards to SEO, and how you can get the most out of SEO without upsetting Google.

Unsustainable SEO ("Black-hat SEO")
"Black hat" is the phrase given to SEO strategies that ignore Google's guidelines and seek out the fastest, most effective ways to achieve high rankings. These strategies often involve a lot of automation - systems build hierarchies of links that eventually funnel through to the target URL. Black-hat SEOs will buy links containing commercial anchor text phrases and ensure they're placed on high value pages. The net result is that the target URL sees a spike of high-value links pointing toward it, and Google - in theory - will see those links as "votes" for the target URL, and rank it higher.

That's the theory, but the theory is a little outdated. In truth, such black-hat strategies have provided diminishing returns over the years. Google are well aware of such strategies, and often simply ignore such unnatural spikes in inbound anchor texts coming into the target URL. Even if you are rewarded with higher ranks for such an unnatural link building campaign, you're skating on thin ice and are at a very high risk of being subjected to your site being penalised in some way by Google. If you do suffer a site penalty, it's often an arduous process to remove the penality. In fact, some site owners simply abandon such a site and start all over again.

For any business, black-hat SEO strategies are highly counter-productive and outright damaging. You are likely to spend a lot of time and money on ensuring your website receives a Google penalty. You also have to be extremely careful who you hire to do your SEO for you - and whoever you hire MUST be transparent in regards to their digital marketing strategies. If they are unwilling to explictly tell you their SEO strategy for your website, avoid them and move on.

Sustainable SEO ("White-hat SEO")
Now we know what to do, what SHOULD we do? White-hat SEO observes the ground reality that it's NOT true that all you have to do is "build a great website and people will find it and share it". There's not enough wind in the sails to get your online business moving with great content alone. You need to do some outreach to let people know your site exists in the first place.

Firstly, it's a good idea to list your site in a handful of reputable website directories. These directories should have a good reputation in the webmaster community. This shortlist of directories will differ depending on what niche you're in (therefore you'll need to research this list). Google value high quality directories while dismissing the vast majority of spammy, cookie-cutter directories. It's no different to how they treat any other site: quality rises to the top over time.

Next, you'll need to reach out to other website owners in your niche and offer some unique content to them (usually these are articles). Such articles usually have an attribution link placed in the "bio section" for the article's author. It's here that you could place a link back to your site (note: this link should not use commercial anchor text, but be a simple, base domain name anchor e.g. mydomain.com).

"But I want to rank for such-and-such a keyword, don't I need to build links with that keyword in it?".

I would advise against that, because you are now moving a little closer to the "dark side" - at least into "grey hat" territory, which could be subject to Google penalties further down the line - why take any chances? Google have become a lot better at determining the topic of each page it indexes - I prefer to trust in Google making that determination than doing it myself via specific anchor texts. In fact, if you are to use specific anchor texts, it's better to use them on the internal links within your website.

This moves us onto on-page SEO. Yes, a huge part of SEO strategies involve honing your actual website's content. Google use a lot of metrics to determine the quality of your content: how long people spend on your site, how easy is it for search engine spiders to understand what each page is about, loading speed, accessiblity of your site based on device and disability. Google want to provide quality results to searchers, and thus your content needs to provide a searcher with what they're looking for and give them a pleasant experience. If you think about it, it's just common sense to work on these areas of your website, since your conversion rate will be commensurate to the quality of your content and the quality of the user experience your site provides.

Sustainable SEO is grounded in common sense. By pleasing your customers with high quality, regularly updated content that's easy to navigate and access, you're also giving Google what it wants. Link building should be judicious and based on quality, not quantity - with careful attention paid to the anchor text you use for your links.

Article kindly provided by highpointmedia.co.uk

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