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SEO – It’s Not Just Black And White Home
Read a very interesting post on SEOMoz recently that was about White Hat SEO, left a comment on this post that whilst writing felt should be made into a post of it's own, so here it is!
As I say on my comment : "When I first started working exclusively in Online Marketing in late 2009, I was initially horrified by the prospect that links from such low quality sites such as directory and article content farms would enable sites to rank well!"
I too share a great dislike of web spam techniques, particularly when they work for unethical SEO's who are only out for personal profit. However a distinction needs to be made between those who work in online marketing who have a genuine interest in making money not just for themselves but for their clients as well; who have good websites, offer good products, care and services to their clients, customers and patients, etc. And those promoting un ethical websites, companies and individuals for short term profit as from my point of view a big difference which needs to be recognised.
To continue with what I said on my comment "18 months down the line now have a different perspective, in that time have come across some unscrupulous SEO's who care about nothing except for making money for themselves, when people like this profit from Black hat SEO makes my blood boil!
However have also come across SEO's + Link Builders, whilst obviously wanting to earn a good living themselves, do genuinely care about the success of their clients sites and giving their businesses, etc an excellent return on investment and value for money."
The SEOMoz blog post covers a number of issues, it is much easier to write good content in interesting niches than boring niches, for example doing seo for a design company makes it much easier to make in context blog comments than for a company selling storage space! However angles can still be found for the more boring topics but when it comes to pure white hat SEO arguably also needs input from client themselves for best results.
For example delighted to come across a potential client last year who was in a very boring niche, cleaning, had excellent rank and relevant visits and enquiries from pure DIY SEO + Link Building and wanted to employ an SEO just to lessen the workload.
Off the back of Facebook, Linkedin + Twitter social networking and reciprocal link exchanges discussed on the phone from related sites which were not direct competitors (Different parts of the country) had rank for competitive terms which many SEO's would be proud of. This is excellent news and shows white hat SEO can work very well and that search engines know sites which are naturally optimised which is how it should be.
Now my argument in favour of some so called black hat techniques such as directory + article submissions many of which are content farms that are poorly designed and developed, slow loading, etc and off topic blog + forum comments is this.
When dealing with clients who have good sites, offer a good product, information or service but do not have the time and / or money to invest in what would be required to rank well naturally, is using a few techniques which is not great for web content as a whole and image of the industry so bad if it enables nice people, with good business websites the ability to compete against established companies with much larger budgets.
As I said in my blog post :
"On that basis feel it is important to bring other elements to the debate such as cost to the client, return on investment, cost of white hat methods and employment of people in developing countries.
> Cost to the client : Many small and medium sized businesses and sole traders cannot afford high SEO costs particularly in the first few years whilst building up their client / customer base.
> Return on investment : Using directory, article + bookmark submissions can lead to a decent rank in competitive industries and give smaller businesses a chance to compete with companies with much larger budgets.
> Cost of white hat methods : Whilst it would be wonderful if all web content utilised by SEOs was top quality, good looking and engaging the reality that good design, content writing and the time needed to social network properly can prove expensive for those on a tight budget.
> Employment of people in developing countries : Outsourcing link building to countries such as India has positives as well, as long as staff are well paid and do not work in sweat shop like conditions then means more people are employed full time in a decent career with prospects."
Then SEOMoz goes on to discuss the time differences used to rank using
White Hat and Black Hat techniques, did an experiment recently using directory, off topic blog comments, social bookmarks + web 2.0 link building, ranked in Top 20 results of Google in 3 weeks that started sending visits. Of the methods used none were which could be deemed to give a ranking penalty as all the links were free, none were paid for just could be seen as low quality hence lower value so might not rank very highly on page 1, but would cause no major problems beyond fluctuating in Top 20 results.
Have since deleted the web 2.0 sites as although methods worked, not comfortable with them. The directory listings I do not see as a problem as long as in relevant categories, the off topic blog comments from well respected blogs feel are not too bad as long as actually try and read the post and add something relevant to go with the link! Social bookmarks which this post sees as white hat could be arguably seen as glorified link farms however many go live instantly so are great for short term results.
SEOMoz post then goes on to discuss that search engines do not do enough to combat black hat spam techniques, agree 100%, personally think a flaw in the algorithm that since on page SEO so heavily abused in years gone by far too heavily weighted towards in bound links.
Have myself managed to rank sites for 2 - 3 main keywords using on page SEO alone by developing sites with SEO in mind from development stage onwards, but for other clients recently have seen many occasions where good on page SEO can be counterproductive and predominantly about inbound links. Algorithm flaw as opposed to work of the SEO's, however in search engines defence, striking correct balance whilst have un scruplious people out there must be hard work!
Post says to steer clear of black hat techniques entirely if unhappy with the variable risk to rank and visits, in some cases agree, paid links for example, not worth the risk of a large drop in rank. However would not put in same category as links from directories and article sites, which in most cases are at the very least in relevant categories, relevant ableit low quality content and free.
Would argue for short and long term results and to deal with algorithm changes use a well rounded combination of on and off page black and white techniques, if done professionally will lead to more pages of site being indexed, more of sites content ranking well and visits from a large variety of sources.
If client has the budget, then can afford to employ a professional writer which could deal with most topics thrown at them and find interesting angles, but if not some well researched content written by an SEO with decent writing skills whilst not ideal should suffice.
One of the things I find ludicrous about recent Google update is the fact it seems to have harmed retail sites which sell similar products and use manufacturers descriptions, hence lot's of duplicate content. Cannot see the problem with this, manufacturers description in most cases gives an excellent description of the product on sale, having to be re written to satisfy a search engine algorithm could harm the accurate description of the product which would be bad for consumer and sales.
The points the post makes about things a good SEO needs to look at are excellent, one of the main ones is SEO best tactic for business in the first place. For example retail sites are often a very safe bet to give good return on investment once ranks well. However, not appropriate for all industries where word of mouth referrals and networking online and in person may be more effective, a good SEO should discuss if demand will potentially be there once hit Top 10 results to avoid negative return on investment.
SEOmoz post then goes on to discuss tasks which would be better invested elsewhere, my response is as follows :
Things to be invested elsewhere :
> Directory Link Building : Low quality but little harm as long as in correct category.
> Keyword variant abuse : Assume this is in anchor text, if so from previous experience if over optimised will not rank well anyhow.
> Reciprocal link pages : If full of un related sites, fair enough, however if between complimentary sites, then can't see the issue.
> Paid links : Agreed, don't use. Could write an entire other post on whether paid links from related / relevant sites with complimentary content should be legal, however for another day!
> Sitewide / Footer Links : Agree unless from an SEO or web design company working on the site then relevant.
> Navigation : 100% agreed.
> Low cost quality outsourced content / Generic design : Depends on available budget, will lead to good people with good businesses / services / etc being priced out and not being able to compete otherwise.
> On Page SEO keyword stuffing and too many ad blocks : Agree.
Invested in :
> SEO : Absolutely
> E Mail : Could be costly / time consuming
> Research white papers : Could be costly / time consuming
> Social networks : Could be costly / time consuming / client does not have the skills
> Word of mouth : Absolutely
> Podcasting : Could be costly / time consuming / client does not have the skills
> Q + A Sites : Need someone with the time and the knowledge to do professionally unless your an SEO great at research.
> Direct / Referring Links : Absolutely
> Social Bookmarking : Great for short term results however some are arguably glorified link farms!
> Forums : In context - absolutely
> Online video : Could be costly / time consuming / client does not have the skills
> Comment marketing : In context - absolutely
> Blogs / blogging / News / Media / PR : Could be costly / time consuming / client does not have the skills
Anyhow, missed some things out and could go on, however hopefully get the picture. A lot depends on time, skills and budget, yes white hat can be done and done well will get results that could increase visits, rank, profitability, etc for years.
In an ideal world there would be no spam, no unscruplious individuals, all sites would be attractive, well developed, fast to load with engaging content and all clients would have thousands to spend on online marketing, however the world is far from ideal!
On that basis as said on my blog comment :
"As long as utilising some tacky, unattractive, poorly designed and developed directory, article + bookmark sites and some half decent web 2.0 sites and social network sites. To enable clients (who have nice websites, with good design and content and / or offer a good product or service to their clients / customers) and well intentioned SEO + Link Builders to earn a decent living, as well as investing money back into the economy, then personally think lessens the issues with some of the methods used to rank well in the first place."
Also for those working on boring niches where in context blogs / forums are going to be few and far between and for sites which have been kind enough to give ability to leave un moderated comments with links! At the very least add something related to post and do not add more than 1 - 3 links as looks ridiculous and really does give SEO a bad name otherwise!
And to blog owners, etc if do not want to be used for spam marketing! Advise you turn on option to moderate comments before they go live!
Anyhow thats enough from me! I can be found at this URL and on Twitter + Linkedinn.
Latest page update: made by FIMS
, May 12 2011, 2:19 PM EDT
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