Google may have fingers in many pies, from mobile phones to self-driving cars, but their core business is still their search engine. Processing an average of 3.5 billion searches worldwide every day, Google dominates the search market and has even found itself acknowledged by the Oxford English Dictionary as the verb to search the Internet. ( A “Bing” meanwhile, is defined as an old Scottish word for “a heap of waste from a mine” ).
But users would be quick to abandon Google if it stopped giving them good answers so maintaining their market dominance necessitates that Google maintains the quality of their search index. Accordingly, Google has invested a huge amount of time and money in building a team dedicated not only to improving its index, but also to protecting it. They are on a crusade to ensure that their search engine remains the first choice for any Internet user and their primary enemy is anyone who is trying to position a site in a better position than the one it "deserves" according to their algorithm.
Under the auspices of this "Web Spam" team, Google has released numerous updates to its index, the most famous codenamed Panda and Penguin, and the ramifications of these continue to be felt by businesses today. Google is still releasing new iterations of these updates as well, and adding more update projects to its schedule. Tracking Google updates has become a daily task for webmasters and SEO consultants, with whole web communities dedicated to analyzing and discussing what Google may, or may not, be doing.
All of this makes agreeing on an SEO plan a daunting task for any business. Whether your building your plan in-house or using a third party agency/consultant, how can you possibly predict what tactics and techniques Google may decide are “bad practice” in the future? The good news is that you don’t actually have to be a psychic (or work for Google) to predict that. Looking back over a decade or more of SEO best (and worst) practice, we’ve compiled a list of simple rules that you can check any SEO plan against to avoid engaging in tactics that may do more harm to your website than good.
Rule 1: If you can automate it, it's probably spam
Google believes in a "human-generated" Internet. Any content, link, or page generated by a machine alone is likely to be classed as SPAM at some point in the future.
This also includes downloading content from another site or provider and regurgitating it on your own website. The days of cheap "affiliate" sites that could reproduce a manufacturer or supplier's content but with generally better structural SEO are almost completely dead.
Rule 2: If you're doing it because "It's Good for SEO" or "Good for Google" but not "Good for the User", it's probably spam
Anything done to a website purely to help it position better and that has zero benefits for the end user is probably a SPAM tactic. Whatever you do to your website, whether you do it under the banner of SEO or not, should be done to improve the experience for the user. Google wants to deliver its customers to websites that give them a great experience - if that's you, they should position you better.
Rule 3: If you are paying an unknown third party for something, it's probably spam
Anything that promises links, clicks, or traffic from undefined sources in exchange for money is either a straight out con or more SPAM (unless we're talking about a clearly paid for advertisement).
Google don't have a problem with you buying advertising from them or from anyone else - but they don't like to see links, social media updates, or blog posts that are made to look organic but have really been bought and paid for. If you’ve paid for links in the past, check your Google Webmaster Tools Control Panel and consider disavowing any links that may be penalizing your website.
Rule 4: If someone tells you it will "trick" or "trap" Google, it's probably spam
No matter who it is you are talking to, if they tell you they've figured out something Google doesn't know about its own system... then they're wrong (or soon will be). The problem with any SEO "trick" is that Google gets to hear about them pretty quickly. Even a technique that actually works will almost invariably engineered out of the algorithm in very short order. At best, the benefits are real but transitory. At worst, those real benefits become real penalties if Google think you've been trying to abuse the system.
Rule 5: If someone told you about it in a spam email, it's probaby spam
Sadly the snake oil SEO salesmen of yesterday still exist today and they're still shilling their wares via email, social media, and good old-fashioned cold calling. If a company is resorting to SPAM email to get your attention, how good do you think their SEO is really going to be? Shouldn't they be living handsomely off the customers who find their website organically?
Hit delete and move on.
Oh no! It's too late! I already did something that I think is spam...
Don’t worry, all is not lost. Clean up your act and apply for reassessment from Google. It’s simpler than you fix and Google won’t “hold a grudge” against a site that has made mistakes in the past.
Contact us to find out more about cleaning up bad SEO and removing a Google penalty.