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What Is 'Good' SEO?

03-Sep-2014

It is almost impossible to research online marketing without hearing about search engine optimisation (SEO). The fact of the matter is that SEO is a necessary part of the online marketing equation if one wants to be successful. However, as with nearly everything else, there are right and wrong ways to do it. There is ‘good’ SEO and 'bad' SEO. Not knowing the difference could spell trouble for your business. We think the following rule of thumb sums it all up perfectly: "If search engines didn't exist would you still do this?". Put another way - build your website and write your content for your (human) visitors - just like this article - and not for a search engine robot.

What is good SEO? It's difficult to define in one or two short sentences due to the fact that it is always changing. However, it can be summed it up quite nicely as consisting of three primary elements:

1. quality content creation
2. quality back link generation
3. analysis and adjustment.

This simple definition is the baseline that all good SEO companies will start from when doing work for their clients. There is so much on the internet about what constitutes "good SEO" that the average business owner will soon become phased with such a choice of advice, much of which often conflicts and contradicts!

Nevertheless, understanding the difference between good SEO and bad SEO gets to the details of how the above three practices are accomplished. It comes down to what are known as 'white hat' and ' black hat' practices.

Google expert Marziah Karch defines white hat SEO as that collection of techniques based on ethical standards. Black hat SEO is just the opposite. In the end, Google algorithms determine what is ethical and what is not. A good SEO company strives to only produce excellent search engine results via white hat practices. To do otherwise is to risk being penalised by Google for delving into the unethical.

Black and White Examples

The fact that Google and SEO are constantly evolving makes keeping up with white and black hat practices somewhat challenging. Yet there are some underlying principles that have not changed that much over many years. Visual Webz published a good guide back in 2010 that still holds good today, listing some of the most common black and white hat techniques. Here are some examples:

White Hat – meta-tags; limited page size (as in kilobytes, not word length); quality back links; quality content; complete site mapping; fast page load speeds; validated code; proper spelling

Black Hat – keyword stuffing; sneaky redirects; link buying; rapid link accumulation; too much exact match anchor text; stealing content; hidden text; doorway pages.

Today's Internet is all about quality: quality of website build, quality of content and quality of back links. A company using good SEO techniques does not need to manipulate search engine algorithms through unethical practices in order to improve page rankings. The SEO experts at that company will already know how to take advantage of ethical techniques that provide good results for clients - consistently high ranking positions on Google and the other search engines.

The Spectre of Over-Optimisation

Perhaps nothing delineates the difference between good and bad SEO more than the spectre of over-optimisation. What do we mean by this? SEO consultant Jill Whalen defines it as building an entire site around static SEO elements without actually developing something users want to see. (We build websites for humans, not for search engines.) She wrote about it in a 2012 piece in response to comments made by Google's Matt Cutts.

During the rollout of the Panda update that year, Cutts said that Google had had enough of web developers who had mastered static SEO techniques yet were not producing sites that Google wanted to see at the top of search engine results. Much of this was later referred to by Matt Cutts as "gaming Google" by using thousands of back-links and over-optimised web page content to achieve unfair advantage over reputable sites. They set out to redesign their algorithms to rectify this anomaly; they needed to if they were to remain the No 1 search engine.

In a nutshell, over-optimisation is the practice of using every SEO technique in the book, even the white hat ones, but without bothering to produce a quality website. Google is now looking for quality over quantity. They are looking for sites that reflect well in their search algorithms, not sites that people have no interest in ever viewing or using. A good SEO expert does not over-optimise; he or she figures out what Google is looking for and then makes it happen.

It's true that SEO is constantly evolving as we move into the future. We are here to help you make the most of your website by deploying the right combination of white hat SEO practices and high quality content. If you would like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact us. We also invite you to download and read our comprehensive Business Owners' SEO Guide 2014. It's bang up to date and is an invaluable resource in today's highly competitive online marketplace.


Sources:
1. Reuters – http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshsteimle/2014/05/02/what-does-an-seo-firm-do/
2. Google.about.com – http://google.about.com/od/wx/g/whiteseodef.htm
3. Visual Webz – http://visualwebz.com/website-resources/Seattle-SEO-Services-Tutorials/SEO-white-hat-vs-black-hat.pdf
4. Talent Zoo – http://www.talentzoo.com/news/Over-Optimization-It-s-Not-Your-Mother-s-SEO-Anymore/13754.html


Robert Wakefield

Robert Wakefield

Robert Wakefield founded Siteglide in 2012 after having worked in the web design, SEO and IT sector since the mid-90's. Robert's main interests include website usability, visitor experience, SEO and website marketing in general.

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