The rise in internet competition has led to websites ruthlessly competing with each other in order to attain the top positions in terms of website rankings and search results of major search engines including Google, Yahoo! and Bing etc. Over the years, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has managed to gain popularity as one of the proven techniques used to improve website rankings. However, these techniques are not always fair and ethical, even though they might seem to be on the surface.
Recently, Google has undergone a lot of changes in its search engine algorithm to avoid becoming a victim of these deceptive techniques known as ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques, which are employed to increase a website’s ranking in unethical ways. Such techniques are criticized by the majority of the SEO community, but are still used by a large number of website owners for short-term gains, putting them at the risk of getting penalized by search engines upon discovery. The change in Google’s algorithm is a step towards detecting and decreasing rankings for websites that are believed to be involved in black-hat techniques and violating quality guidelines of the search engine.
Lately, a lot of SEO companies suffered and struggled to maintain their clients’ web page rankings as a result of the change in Google’s algorithm. According to SEO expert Kerry Dean, “If you made it through March without an email from Google or a penalty from Google or a drop in Google organic search traffic due to Panda updates or paid link-related issues, you should give yourself a high five.”
Black-hat SEO techniques might result in short-term benefits by contravening search engine regulations and presenting content differently to search engine spiders and users even if it’s not relevant. But, is it really worth relying on these techniques? For in reality, such techniques are deceptive and manipulative, which are bound to be discovered one way or the other by search engines, resulting in penalty for those who use them.
Tim Booth and Shawn Sandifer, founders of a referral site for local contractors, experienced a drastic drop in their website rankings from 140,000 visitors to 90,000 visitors per month by December. Upon in-depth analysis, it was discovered that their SEO team had been using certain black-hat SEO techniques including duplicate content and key-word stuffing. “Black-hat SEO techniques are methods used to get sites quick results, but it is merely short-lived success and detrimental to the site in the long run” says Ali Husayni, CEO of MasterGoogle.
Google is constantly updating itself to take notice of and combat spam techniques that are increasingly emerging day-by-day “It’s not like Google is changing their approach to search engine ranking with these updates,” says CEO Ali Husayni. “They’re just constantly trying to weed out spam.”
There are other, legitimate ways to pump-up your website rankings without running the risk of getting caught or penalized. Enriching your website with original, relevant and interesting content with sufficient keywords is one way to do so. Another effective strategy is to post regular updates, news and latest articles on a WordPress blog to keep users informed and updated, which increases your site’s rankings.
The recent addition of +1 button also helps your website in standing out among competitors by generating more traffic from Google. It is possible to see how many people have +1’d or ‘liked’ your website, which is similar to liking a page on Facebook. These +1’s are public, which means if anyone has clicked on a +1 button for a page, it is visible to everyone in his/her network on Google search results, thus encouraging them to visit your website. Websites with many +1 links would enable Google to rank that site higher in terms of search content due to high traffic.
For the rest of the year, Google is expected to constantly update its algorithm in pursuit of detecting and penalizing black-hatters. Thus, businesses who want to increase and maintain their website rankings in the long-run need to adopt ethical, ‘white-hat’ techniques and utilize latest tools to help them achieve the desired results.
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