As an SEO company, we get asked a lot of questions regarding the current changes to Google search engine algorithms and how sites are ranked. The question has come up more than once: are SEO companies legitimate anymore? The answer is yes, as long as they are following white hat techniques outlined by Google and not going to the dark side with black hat SEO.
What is SEO?
Let’s back up for a second here. What is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimization and it is the work put into a website to ensure that search engines recognize the site’s relevance and expertise in their area of relevance. The purpose of SEO is to improve the organic search rankings and traffic for the website; it does not refer to web traffic generated from direct site visitors or Google ads.
The bottom line is that search engines need to be able to understand what your web pages are about in order to rank them properly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). SEO experts optimize those pages with well-known techniques for page titles, content markup, filenames, etc. so Google’s spider crawler can crawl over the content for tracking and indexing purposes.
What is black hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is a series of methods used to manipulate search engines to get a site to rank higher in search engine results. A good SEO company knows to stay away from unethical black hat SEO practices because they can lead to a penalty from search engines and the results don’t provide benefits for the searcher. Examples of black hat SEO include:
- Using keywords too many times (known as keyword stuffing).
- Over-optimizing the content. The rule is that if your content doesn't sound natural, you run the risk of being flagged for spammy content.
- Cloaking content so that the content presented to the search engine spider is different from what’s shown to the user's browser.
- Using private link networks, which is a link building strategy using a blog network with several domains that point to a specific website.
Matt Cutts at Google explains:
The real point is that you shouldn’t try to manipulate search engines or you run the risk of being penalized by Google. Google has the power to stop your website from showing up in search engine results at all; which means your potential customers won’t be able to find you.
How should you use SEO to improve site traffic?
What you should be doing is creating search engine friendly content and backlinks to build credibility with your website. A search engine friendly site has unique content on each page. The content is also specifically relevant to what searchers are looking for and presented in a way that search engines can recognize. Backlinks are a link from another web page to one of your web pages. The idea is that your web page is a resource for people reading content on the other site.
Hiring an SEO professional to optimize your website is the best way to achieve the results you’re looking for: increased web traffic. The good news is that it's getting harder to do black hat SEO, which means that most SEO companies are playing by Google’s rules.
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