As we saw way back in 2009 (yes we’ve been doing this for a long time) JC Penny went from #1 to the bottom of the organic rankings overnight. They ended up going the big Chapter 11 partially due to their failed online strategy.
In JC Penny’s SEO case, they hired a less-than reputable SEO firm, who used black-hat SEO tactics to get a short-term burst in traffic through a paid links scheme. When Google was alerted to the strategy, they promptly penalized JC Penny and removed their site from search results.
Going from the top to the bottom can have a very real financial impact on any company. For example, in search engine results, the top result will receive almost half of the click-through traffic for the entire results page—that’s some serious traffic. And that’s why brands hire SEO companies to help them get to the top as fast as they can. And the temptation to go about it the “wrong” way can be powerful, just keep in mind that any traffic boost due to black-hat SEO practices, will almost definitely result in a crash later on and possibly being removed from Google’s index.
So, if you don’t want to negative consequences that come with search engine penalties, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself against questionable SEO practices.
What is it that makes your website better than anyone else’s, and why do you need SEO help? Clearly you want to be number one because it comes with a huge financial gain, but what are you doing to make your website extraordinary? That is, think about the reason you need SEO help. If you need it so that you can truly deliver the best content and products to people who are looking for them, then you’re started in the right direction. If you want to be number one simply because you want people to click on your affiliate links, and you provide no real value to your site visitor, you might want to rethink your strategy. SEO is not a quick and easy fix to get you to the top. True search engine optimization requires hard work and time to build yourself up as a trusted resource to the internet community. When you become a resource, you’ll be legitimized by the online community, which will protect you from search engine penalties.
You will never get to the top of a search engines results page (for long) unless you give users a reasons to come to your site, stay, and come back again repeatedly. This means you need to become a provider of great content inside whatever niche you are trying to carve out. Yes, that include SEO-focused text, but it also means quality blog posts, videos, images, links, and more. Remember, you’re not trying to trick people into coming to your website, you want them to come to you because you are truly the best at what you do. And if you can establish yourself as a resource, users will flock to your site and give you great organic backlinks that will establish your authority and keep you at the top of the SEO game instead of floundering at the bottom.
One of the ways you’ll gain some key ideas about how to build a solid SEO presence is to look at other brands that have done just that. Go out and take a look at brands that have established a good online reputation and have become a resource to their communities. Check out their incoming links, where they are coming from, and what they contain to get an idea of how you should go about getting links and building authority online. If you can see how a respect brand has done it, you’ll be less likely to try quick-fix SEO tactics that can harm your website and your website in the long run. Remember, building a lasting web presence won’t happen overnight, but if you can build a solid foundation, you’ll avoid penalties and have real staying power in the search engine ranks.
One of the biggest indicators of questionable SEO practices (as JC Penny found out) is a high number of low-quality links. If you think that a previous SEO or webmaster was taking advantage of some questionable practices to build links, take a look at where you links are coming from.
If any of the above questions cause you to take pause, don’t be afraid to contact the site owner and ask that your link be removed. A lot of junk links from automated, aggregating blogs will surely catch Google’s eye, and may get you in some trouble. However, at some time or another all websites will receive a few bad links, but you can do damage control by monitoring your incoming links and making sure that incoming links are quality links and not just a bunch of junk.
Focusing on trying to become a resource and weeding out as many spammy links as you can, you’ll build a good online reputation, users will trust you, and search engines will respect your authority—boosting your SEO and pushing you higher in the search results toward that coveted number one spot.
Brad Anderson is the Executive Director and Founder of Fruition. Brad’s focus is supporting Fruition’s team to enable sustainable growth and excellent client satisfaction (EBITDA growth). With a strong statistical background, Brad built Fruition’s in-house software that is used to manage client success.
President & Founder, Tru Family Dental
Marketing, Dependable Cleaners
President & Founder, Family Travel Association