The Morals of SEO: Why not to play it dirty

As web developers, we have clear web standards that guide us to see what is right and wrong. In SEO, unfortunately the laws aren’t quite as clear. In fact, there are barely any laws at all – something that a morally competent practitioner can find incredibly frustrating. Because there are absolutely loads of so-called SEO “experts” out there all too willing to play it dirty to get what they want in the short term.

One of the reasons for why they have been getting away with it is that too many small (and large) businesses are uneducated and naive to what SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, truly entails. (It is also down to the fact that the dirty players are often the cheaper ones.) But with a bit of education, along with a little adjustment from Google (etc), we can hopefully encourage more people to take the high road in SEO ethics.

NB. To understand this post you will need to comprehend that search engines like Google use computer robots to trail through websites, and then use secret algorithms to order these sites by relevancy per each search term. These algorithms will be forever being altered as necessary. SEO is the art of optimising a website in order to increase its ranking order on Google for relevant search terms.

Got it?

So what do I mean by “dirty” SEO tricks? There are many examples – and since Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving, so will they. Currently it ranges from spam comments on blogs, to buying links, reposting older content to keep it fresh, stuffing keywords in irrelevant sentences, and so on.

As a small business owner looking to contract out your SEO, you may ask – why or how are these wrong? Basically think of it this way – Google wants and aims to keep search results as natural as possible. In order to be successful, it needs to present websites that are genuinely relevant, provide good content, and are considered by viewers to be the best result for whatever search term they enter. If Google didn’t do this, then we wouldn’t use it.

So the emphasis must always be on human interaction. Where my above examples go wrong is that they rely on non-human interaction, i.e. they are there purely for the search robots to find. There are no human benefits – they are unnatural.

Ok then, you may argue – isn’t all forms of SEO unnatural? And you would be quite justified in asking this. Google have reportedly commented that in an ideal world, optimisation would not exist because it defeats the whole purpose of relevant search results. Nevertheless, your business cannot afford to take this much of a high road – so you must accept that as long as you have a website, SEO is going to continue to be important to its success.

The only reason why SEO advisors and companies use the bad methods is to gain a short-term boost in search engine rankings… which it might well do. But – and a big “but” here(!) – then it will actually create a bad long-term outlook for the website in question. Because Google will cotton on. As I said, their search algorithms are consistently being modified and you can never expect to outsmart them forever.

So let’s briefly touch upon the better methods your SEO advisor(s) should be using to help achieve higher search results. And you can do this by asking, what would our online audience like for us to do? The answer is… provide plenty of unique, up-to-date and valuable content. Link with other websites that have a mutual relevancy – and don’t just use a hideous long link page that no one ever reads. Do mention your keyword phrases in your content, but only in a way that people would find makes sense. Be a key player in social media but don’t repeat everyone else. It goes on…

Of course, many businesses don’t have the time to think about all of this in great detail, which is why they will hire a specialised contracter to deal with all their SEO. To these businesses, on behalf of myself and all the other morally-decent SEO advisers out there, please do take enough time to realise whether the person or company you are hiring is going to improve your website results long term, and not just play a few dirty tricks to get a short term result. And don’t be too tight with the budget. By spending a little more money on them now, will save you a great deal on your long term future.

Lastly… ever received an email from some random offering SEO services? Don’t you think that if they knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t need to spam strangers about their apparent skills?

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