SEO: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
If you want to have a successful website, you need to have good SEO. Maybe you feel that you already have a well-optimised website, but learning more about SEO is never a bad thing!
Speaking of bad things, bad SEO can be extremely damaging — to the extent that it could literally destroy a business that draws its main source of income from a single website. So without further ado, here’s an introduction to SEO: the good, the bad, and the ugly (and while we’re at it — let’s bust some other startup myths).
Good SEO is all about having a well put-together website with a good, natural backlink profile. The goal of search engines is to have the most popular, most user-friendly websites come out on top, so building your website with your users in mind and getting links from good, credible sites is probably the way to go. Here are a few examples of good SEO techniques:
- Making sure that pages on your website have a good amount of content on them (say, around 500 words) and that said content is well written and not stuffed with keywords and/or spammy link
- Ensuring that you don’t forget to add a meta-description to your pages and that there are no broken links
- Generating links back to your site by guest posting on various blogs and websites. These need to be high-quality, reliable websites
- Creating valuable pieces of content (e.g. infographics) which you then send on to targeted sites, suggesting that they might like to share or write about it (ensuring that you get a link in the process).
Now, these approaches aren’t quite as ‘bad’ as the ‘ugly’ approaches (which I’ll go into later) and they may even have some short-term benefits, but ultimately they can backfire and oftentimes will. Here are a few examples of bad SEO practices:
- Paying for mass links from other sites (even in the form of blog posts). This breaks one of the rules put forward by Google and if they find out that you’ve done it, your website might be penalised. This can be managed very covertly, but there’s always going to be that element of risk
- Using private blog networks. Some people create websites with one goal in mind: using them to provide links to other sites (either owned by themselves or by others).
- Exchanging links. You may get some short-term benefits from this, but it’s ultimately something else that is disparaged by Google.
The bad SEO mentioned above is generally not great, but it can also be accepted in some circumstances (when used very sparingly). Avoid the following methods at all costs:
- Putting SEO above user experience. There have been times in the past where website owners have found there are certain things that make sites rank highly, even though they make for a poor user experience (e.g. keyword stuffing). Search algorithms are usually updated in the end, which means that these measures can become detrimental. If you’re planning to start a website, looking into creating an online store, or beginning any other internet venture, you will need to spend time testing your user experience, including site speed, web design, and usability.
- Filling up your backlink profile with links from low-quality directories. A common practice in the past, but one that will do nothing today (at best) and harm your rankings (at worst)
- Spammy link building tactics are also a very bad idea. For example, using a bot to post links to your site in the comment section of thousands of articles.
You have to be very careful with SEO. If you're running a website upon which several people’s salaries depend, then under no circumstances should you experiment with ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ SEO.
Victoria Greene is a Brand Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer who works with ecommerce businesses & marketing teams to create content and targeted SEO strategies. You can find her in her office, working on her latest projects for her clients.