When implementing SEO into your website, you want to be sure that you’re using industry-established SEO practices in order to maintain legitimacy with the search engines. If you are looking to hire an SEO specialist for services and consulting, it is important that you know that what you’re going to be paying for is legitimate and if it’s going to be doing your site any good.
The results of sketchy practices can backfire, resulting in penalizations that will lower your site’s ranking, and can even cause your site to be removed from the index completely. If the specialist you are looking into is implementing any of the following techniques, you would be wise to avoid using their services; no matter how many “guarantees” of success they make.
Worst SEO Practices
The act of keyword stuffing consists of adding a slew of highly searched, yet generally completely irrelevant terms and phrases into your <meta> keywords tag. This out-of-date technique is not only unethical and easy for the search engines to detect as fraudulent, but is also wholly ineffective. Due to the level of abuse, many search engines have ceased the use of <meta> keyword tags for keyword relevance. Keyword stuffing also occurs in <title> tags, <img> alt text, heading tags, anchor text, and occasionally in actual body text as well. Search engines can see when various words are being used excessively, and they will mitigate any benefits that the site was seeking in the first place.
In the instance that using terms repeatedly is necessary, the search engines will recognize this and accommodate it when weeding out spammy pages. For example, if you are a personal injury lawyer, you may be repeating the word “injury” many times per page simply describing the types of cases you take. This is not considered spam because you are using legitimate descriptions and words that are completely relevant to your site.
The only difference between keyword stuffing is the motive behind the repeated use of the keywords. Search engines devote a great deal of time to weeding out illegitimate content, but if you are mistakenly identified as a spammer and your site is penalized, you can file an appeal. However, if you are legitimately penalized, your site must be cleared of all spam techniques before your site can be reconsidered for higher rankings.
Hidden content is content that is crawlable, but doesn’t actually show up in the browser window. This sends up a red flag to the search engines because there is very little use for hidden content outside of manipulating the search engines into giving you credit for something that’s not actually there.
There are a multitude of techniques used to hide content from being visible on the page. To name a few, there is code that can be used to hide text, the font can be set to the same color as the background, or the font can be made so small that it can’t be read. Obviously, the search engines can see these facts in the code, and can tell that the intention is to hide it. If this is determined to be malicious (especially if keyword stuffing is present as well), penalties will most likely occur.
Cloaking occurs when the web server uses the identity of the user agent making the request to determine which version of the content they are able to see. The goal of cloaking is to falsely advance the rank of the page by showing users normal pages while giving search engine crawlers keyword-stuffed pages. Cloaking can also give search engines nicely optimized, relevant pages, but give users junk pages for content that would not rank otherwise for that query.
Adversely, sites filtering for mobile browsers showing abbreviated and formatted versions of their content are not considered to be maliciously cloaking because the intent is legitimate and honest. Cloaking is never a good idea because, as with the other techniques listed above, the search engines will detect it and penalize the site using it.
Intent Is What Matters
The case with all of these SEO practices is based on the fact that they are ineffective from an SEO standpoint. There is no reason to implement them at this level because they are not SEO techniques at all. When used appropriately and honestly, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a keyword repeatedly or to filter your site for mobile devices because the intention is not malicious. As long as you maintain an effective site with compelling content and legitimate SEO, it will rank appropriately.