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SEO Risks to Take and SEO Risks to Avoid

Many business people have a hard time seeing the value of SEO, and we understand that. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there about search engine optimization, and it can really increase the difficulty of this decision.

While an effective SEO strategy will take many months to yield positive results for a company, and the tactics may not make sense for non-SEOers, it can make a significant improvement in a company’s online exposure and profits.

Many companies are naturally nervous about trying something out they’re not familiar with, but let’s face it, nearly any business decision is going to carry some risks with it. Some can be avoided, and some can lead to sudden and serious growth.

The question that has to be asked, then, is what SEO risks are worth it, and which should be avoided.

Before we get into it, though, let’s put this out there first: the greatest SEO risk a company can make is to avoid SEO all together. Everyone got that? Great. Let’s consider a few more.

SEO Risks to Take

1.  Making and Testing Large and Small Changes

The overall goal of SEO is to get traffic and, ultimately, transactions on your website.

Neither of those will happen if nobody clicks on your website in the first place.

So, what if you’re getting your website to rank well for certain keywords, but no one is actually clicking on your link?

There could be any number of reasons for this, and it can take some time to zero in on exactly why it isn’t performing as well as expected.

And the only way to do that is through A/B testing. You’re going to have to take one element at a time, whether that’s the meta descriptions, the titles, the content and more, and test them against new variations.

That’s all well and good and even a little obvious. So what makes it a “risk”?

It will likely take a bit of trial and error to come up with the correct wording and layout combination that results in maximum website traffic and transactions. During this time, you may find a combination that doesn’t work well at all and ends up reducing what traffic you do have – at least for a while.

The risk is worth it, though, because once you find the best results, you’ll be able to focus on that element and continue to drive more traffic and get better returns.

As you make changes, you should document what was changed, when it was changed and the date it was first re-crawled by Google after the change. This will help you correlate ranking movements to changes made. Just make sure you use a solid keyword rank checker so you’re data is valid and useful.

2.  Getting and Giving High-Quality Backlinks

Why would one company feature a link to another company’s website and risk the web user leaving their page?

Backlinks are a well-established part of SEO, and most companies want to get as many of them as they can. They help increase rankings and build authority.

However, it’s not just about being the one with the most links. Sometimes you need to give a little back.

So, yes, you may risk losing a few web visitors by providing a link to other high-quality sites, but at the same time, you’re showing Google that you are using and referencing reliable sites with established authority.

Just keep in mind, webpages that knowingly feature links to low-quality, malicious, spammy websites are at risk of getting penalized by Google. You may also get penalized by getting too many links to your site from those poor-quality sites.

3.  Enhancing Your Site’s URL Structure

Ideally, your homepage URL should be short, with only the company name, such as: www.yourcompany.com. Short, simple, concise and easily remembered.

Subsequent pages, however, should have targeted keywords and be more specific about the content of the webpage.

Even so, you don’t want to let the URL get out of hand. If they’re too long and descriptive, the search engine will truncate their display with a […] after a cut-off point.

So, it may be time to alter some of your URLs with an overhaul of the site’s structure.

The risk, here, is that any kind of change like this can impact your rankings. As you alter old URLs and 301 redirect traffic to the new ones, you may see some dips in traffic and rankings.

However, if you do it right, you can end up with a streamlined structure that appeals to both search engines and internet users.

4.  Overhauling Your Website

Every once in a while, websites need to get updated and redesigned. Website redesigns can be risky and expensive, not to mention time-consuming.

Eventually, though, your website may need a new facelift. Maybe it just looks extremely outdated. Then again, it may be optimized for search engines, but human users find it difficult to navigate. There could be any number of reasons to take another look at your website and maybe – just maybe – consider reconstructing it from the ground up.

Of course, just like changing the URL structure, these types of changes come with a risk to your rankings as Google tries to re-evaluate your site. For that matter, it comes with the risk of alienating customers who have grown accustomed to your website just the way it is.

Usually, though, Google understands that every website goes through these overhauls every once in a while, so your rankings will usually bounce right back. You just have to be patient. Most of your customers will eventually get used to the changes, too. More importantly, updated your website has a better chance of bringing in many more new clients.

5.  Buy Expired or Available Domains

Some website owners, for whatever reason, don’t renew their domains, making them available for others to buy and use.

Buying some domains with a history and redirecting them to your site can potentially be a quick and easy way to increase the number of valuable backlinks adding some link juice to your site.

There are some serious risks with this technique, though, so you should only do so when you know exactly what you’re doing.

The domain, for example, has to be related to your business. It should be professional and legitimate, because if that domain still receives rankings and traffic, those visitors will be redirected to your site, and there is nothing more frustrating than arriving on a site that isn’t at all related to your original search.

Also, expired domains that were filled with spammy content and links will also be transferred over to your website, causing your site to potentially drop in rankings and get penalized by Google.

This tactic, however, is inexpensive and has the potential to drive serious traffic to your site if you follow the best practices.

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Good and Bad SEO Risks2

SEO Risks to Avoid

Now that you have an idea of what SEO risks are worth taking, here are SEO risks that will likely do your business more harm than good:

1.  Poor Doorway Pages (or any doorway pages at all)

Doorway pages are simple and easy to create in batches to target specific keywords and keyword groups. Trustworthy SEOers avoid doorway pages as a rule because Google greatly dislikes them and penalizes sites that use them.

Google’s opinion of such pages should be reason enough for you to avoid this particular risk.

The only time Google will let doorway pages slide is if they offer unique, clear and valuable content and information to the site visitor – in other words, only if it acts just like the regular content on your website.

There is simply no reason to bother with them, so don’t risk it.

2.  Disallowing Neutral Backlinks

You want good backlinks to your website, not bad ones. What about the ones that are neutral, that don’t help, yet don’t hurt your website’s ranking and SEO?

Neutral backlinks may not give your website the SEO boost it needs, but they also won’t subject your site to Google’s potentially harsh penalties.

In fact, with Google’s Penguin update, some penalties for bad backlinks because the search engine realized that the websites themselves don’t have control over every site that links to theirs.

As a result, it is harder for a site to be punished by Google for malicious backlinks.

The only way you’ll be able to tell if the backlinks on your website are bad, spammy and low-quality is if you’ve noticed that Google has taken manual action on your site.

If no action has been taken against your website by Google, the backlinks on your website are safe, though they may not be high enough quality to boost your site’s search rankings.

It is possible to disavow certain links, but you need to be careful about it. If you attempt to disavow all your neutral links, you risk potentially blocking sites that can improve your ranking.

3.  Deleting or Condensing Content or Entire Pages

It may seem like no big deal to delete a page from your website, especially if it is about a product or service your company has discontinued.

Once a page is deleted, the keywords it once ranked for are now gone. The same thing happens to the URL of the page, which also includes those page-specific keywords.

Instead of risking the loss of those rankings, consider keeping the webpage even if you’ve discontinued the product. Simply leave a message on the page for the visitor that redirects them to a similar page with a relevant product or service.

If you’re merging or condensing two pages into one, make sure to include 301 redirects on the old URLs to make sure that all the link juice and traffic isn’t lost.

4.  Using Exact Match Keywords in Anchor Text

It may seem logical to have your targeted keyword as the anchor text for a link to your website. After all, you want your site to rank for that keyword or phrase.

This practice was popular for SEOers in the past who had the same logic. Unfortunately, this practice got abused by “black hat” SEOers who used an excessive amount of exact match keyword anchor texts to link to their websites – and the links didn’t exactly come from the most authoritative sites.

Since then, Google has greatly cracked down on this practice and will punish websites who overdo this practice. Don’t risk it. Look for more natural ways to link to your site and develop a more varied backlink portfolio.

5.  Making Too Many “Small” SEO Changes to a Site

Occasionally, it is a good idea to update the content on your website. In fact, Google favors fresh, updated content.

However, constantly changing the content and the look and feel of your website, even a little bit at a time, strictly for SEO purposes, will not go unnoticed by your website visitors or Google.

Making too many changes to your website or making the changes too often will raise red flags for Google which will likely see your webpage as suspicious and likely penalize your site.

Over time your site visitors will also notice the changes (especially since most of the changes were likely done for search engines instead of them). If this happens, they may find your site harder to navigate and find value. Some visitors may even start to think your site is suspicious.

Balancing Risk and Reward

SEO is essential for any business to succeed. There are many risks to SEO, some of which are worth taking because they can produce favorable results for a business. Other risks can harm and hinder a company’s internet marketing strategy and online presence.

As risky as SEO is, the only thing riskier is for a company not to do any SEO at all.

Social media has its own share of risks. So before you jump into your next campaign, download and complete this checklist to ensure everything is ready to go.

Download your free social media checklist

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The post SEO Risks to Take and SEO Risks to Avoid appeared first on SEO.com.

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Here’s How Learning SEO Changed My Life

Hey,

Nathan Gotch here.

I founded Gotch SEO back in 2013 within one mission: to help as many businesses as I can achieve SEO success.

I then pursued that goal by packing my stuff up and driving from California to St. Louis.

Drive

I had no clients, no prospects, and no money (except for a credit card with $500 limit).

I was also $40,000 in debt because of student and car loans.

I’ll be honest with you:

I was scared and I had every possible limiting belief enter my mind during that 27 hour drive…

“What if I fail?”… “What will people think about me?”

I could have crumbled from a case of “what ifs”, but I pushed through it.

As I result… I landed my first several SEO clients within 30 days of moving to St. Louis. I even took a picture of the first “big” check I ever received:

Check

I then grew Gotch SEO to six figures (profit) in less than 6 months and my life was never the same:

IMG_1834-1

(1st full year of running Gotch SEO)

I also eradicated my debt and exploded my net worth:

Net Worth

Bought my wife her dream engagement ring:

Ring

And a new mom ride:

Car

Also went on my first ever official vacation to St. Thomas:

Ritz Carlton St Thomas

And then to Mexico:

El Dorado Maroma Mexico

We even moved into my dream house (with my own office and dream basement).

House

I’m not telling you this stuff to brag.

In fact:

I’m a very introverted and private person (ask my wife). I literally had knots in my stomach deciding whether or not to show you the stuff above.

Here’s the truth:

I wanted to show you these things because I’m no different than you are. I was raised by a single mother in a low-income household. We actually lived in a trailer park at one point, here’s an aerial look:

trailer

I also got horrible grades in school…

GPA

…and nearly got kicked out of college for my poor writing skills.

I sometimes go through funks and question everything I’m doing.

And I still, to this day, make TONS of mistakes in my business.

Why the hell am I telling you this?

Because if I can learn SEO, get real results, and grow hundreds of companies, then there’s nothing stopping you from doing the same.

There’s one other thing I want to tell you:

I’m not motivated by material stuff.

What motivates me is FREEDOM.

Learning SEO helped me reach that goal.

I went from stressing out about paying bills…

…to never even thinking about them.

I went from feeling trapped at a job I hated…

…to jumping out of bed to work on a business that I love.

I went from never being able to do anything I wanted…

…to always being able to do what I want, when I want.

I went from a life of scarcity and fear…

…to a life of abundance and unlimited opportunity.

The truth is that learning how to drive consistent SEO results made it all possible.

If you’de like to learn how to drive consistent SEO results, then check out Gotch SEO Academy.

Over 700 other entrepreneurs have already joined and I hope you do the same.

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Part 1: Grow Your Business and Leads With SEO

This is a 2 part series written in conjunction with Aktify.

Part 2: How To Revive Dead Leads To Increase Business Growth

Growing one’s business and leads are two of the top goals of every businessperson. Lead growth and business growth go hand-in-hand. You won’t get one without the other. Many business owners, particularly start-ups think business and lead growth begin with the salespeople making phone calls. This view of building a business is outdated and unsuccessful.

While the good old telemarketing phone calls are still around, most communication happens online. Computers and smartphones grant people 24/7 access to information and each other. If your sales team isn’t complimenting their phone calling with online communication via email, social media and SEO, you won’t be growing your business or number of leads well any time soon.

The acronym SEO in the last sentence may have caught your attention. What does search engine optimization have to do with leads and growing one’s business? In short, a whole lot.

With the readily accessibility to the Internet, users expect to find information and answers to their questions immediately. Websites provide the content containing this information users are hurriedly looking for. However, there are millions of websites out there on the Internet and not all of them appear in search results. Only the ones deemed most relevant and credible appear. After all a user is in a hurry to get specific information so they don’t want to waste their time reading irrelevant website content.

This is where SEO, or search engine optimization, comes in. Behind every search query typed in by a user, a Google SEO or search engine robot indexes and collects data from every website published on the web. Spiders crawl websites looking for keywords that match or are related to the words used in a user’s search query. The search engine robot uses a formula to then rank certain webpages in the search results that are seen by the user.

In search engine marketing, ranking is important. Every internet marketing company strives to get their own website and the websites of their clients to the coveted #1 search result position.

Why is ranking important? Well, going back to the previous points of 24/7 Internet access and people’s expectations for immediate answers and information, the first handful of search results will be read while those on the following pages will likely be ignored. After all, who is going to click through multiple websites when their time is precious and short?

It is only through implementing  a good online marketing with SEO optimization of one’s website that there is a greater chance of your website receiving one of these top rankings and thereby increased website visitors and possible leads and customers.

SEO not only brings more traffic to your website, but it also attracts quality leads who are interested in your brand, product or service.

Start tracking your keyword rankings with a serp ranking tool to monitor the results of your SEO efforts.

If search engine optimization is a foreign concept for you, it can be overwhelming as to know where to start and what to do. Here are some simple SEO tactics you can start to implement in order to catch the attention of search engine robots and gain a higher, more visible search results ranking:

  • Utilize Keywords

An excellent starting point for an SEO strategy is the implementation of keywords. When you set up an account with Google Search Console, you  can access a handy keyword tool where you can find which industry or niche specific keywords, keyword phrases and keyword groupings to target and implement throughout the content on your website. When determining which keywords to target, look for ones with lower search volume, but high monthly searches.  Those with lower search volumes mean they aren’t as competitive so your company has a better chance of ranking for them.

You may be tempted to go after broad, short keywords and phrases, but so will everyone else. When you decide to target long-tailed keywords (keywords or keyword phrases that contain more words that are also more specific), your website’s chances of getting ranked increase and the people who find and visit your site will be more likely to be interested in your product or service.

  • Write Good Meta Descriptions

The meta description is the one or two line blurb that appears under the clickable web page heading. It gives a brief description of what that specific page is about. The length of the meta description has been lengthened  from 160 to 300 characters. Meta descriptions longer than this are truncated, which is something to avoid. Meta descriptions are to be short and concise. They are also prime places to insert some of your targeted keywords. When writing meta descriptions, think of the web user and the questions he or she may be asking when they are conducting a search. Let your meta description be your answer to one of their questions.

  • Make Your Website Mobile Responsive

More people now browse the Internet on their smartphones than on a desktop or laptop computer. You likely have noticed the difference in screen size between a smartphone and a computer. Websites that aren’t mobile responsive will fit the screen size of a desktop or laptop computer, but won’t shrink to fit the small screen of a smartphone. The result is an ugly, hard to navigate website when a user uses his or her smartphone.

Search engines, like Google don’t like unhappy Internet users and since mobile responsiveness is a big deal  for user experience that it is now a ranking factor in its search ranking algorithm.

By having a website that is mobile friendly you not only satisfy search engines and possibly get a boost in search results rankings, but you’ll also give your site visitors a pleasant experience.

  • Get Active on Google Business Listings

Google My Business (GMB) is a great way for local businesses to get listed online. With GMB, businesses are listed on Google maps with directions, a summary of the company’s products and services, the company’s address, telephone, hours of operation, pictures, reviews and a link to the company’s website.

To take advantage of GMB, one must “claim” their business. The provided business summary section is another prime place for inserting keywords. Here, however, try and implement local keyword phrases like “hair salon in X city.”

Reviews are also crucial. Aim to generate as many positive reviews as you can. With people conducting more business transactions online without interacting with the company, reviews are an invaluable way to gauge whether someone should work with a company or make a purchase from a business. Online users making their first purchase from a business will automatically read reviews about the company first.

  • Regularly Produce Quality, Optimized Content

While it is great to include keywords in the URLs, titles, meta descriptions and images used on each page of your website, a blog where one regularly publishes fresh, informative content is the sweet spot to implement keywords. Search engines also look for fresh, new content that would provide users with useful information that they are looking for. Blog posts provide users with relevant, informative, interesting content as well as places where you can implement keywords and links. Consistent blogging also shows web users and search engines that you’re a credible  and reputable source of information which goes a long way in boosting your website’s search results ranking.

Your blogs should be written in a way that is easy to read and understand and be free of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and contain a call to action or some form of engagement with the reader. When blogging, some things to be aware of include link bait and buying, keyword stuffing and plagiarism. Only insert relevant links from other credible websites into your blog posts, don’t excessively use the same targeted keywords and make sure your blog content is 100% unique and original. Website visitors and search engines will thank you.

  • Share Your Wealth of Knowledge Through Guest Posting

With guest posting, you write a blog post which is then published on another website. This is a great way for your blog content to get more exposure and more visits to your website. If your blog post is published on a reputable site within your industry, the credibility and reputation of your own website will get a boost which will catch the attention of search engines who in turn may reward your website with a higher search results ranking.

Ideally, guest posting should go two ways where you agree to publish someone else’s blog post on your site in exchange for them posting your blog post on their website. This is the best, and most ethical way to exchange links as well.

  • Improve Your Website’s Speed

Web users expect to get what they’re looking for almost immediately. They are not going to sit around and wait a minute or two for a website to load. Instead, they will immediately go to another website. Site speed is also a factor search engine robots use in awarding search results rankings. Some ways to improve the loading speed of your website include allowing caching, compressing the size of images and videos, remove unnecessary plugins and scripts and have a reliable web host.

  • Optimize Your Images

While most visitors to your website will have no problem seeing your images, those who are blind as well as search engines will be unable to view them. Search engines are computers and only read text and numbers. Blind visitors can have a description of the image read to them. To make it possible for everyone, including search engines to “see” your website images, an ALT tag is used. These are brief descriptions of a few words telling what the image depicts. It is a good idea to implement keywords in the ALT descriptions. With keyword rich ALT descriptions, your  website will appear more relevant to search engines.

Implementing SEO onto your company’s website can greatly grow your business and leads. It can be tedious and take time to see an improvement in search results page listing rank. The algorithm, or formula used by search results robots change frequently so it is important to constantly monitor your website’s SEO tactics and to continually adjust them.

While the basic search engine optimization tactics make for a good foundation and are easy to implement, it can be a challenge to keep it up. SEO isn’t a “one and done” thing. It requires constant maintenance and adjustments over multiple years. For many small and medium sized businesses, this can be more than what they can handle while also trying to manage the day-to-day operations of their businesses. As a result, many choose to hire an experienced, outside digital marketing company to handle and oversee their website’s SEO.

If you’re in this latter group and need help with your website’s SEO, be sure to check us out at SEO.com. We are an SEO company made of experienced internet marketers in the areas of web development, PPC, SEO, social media marketing, remarketing and content marketing. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how they can help your website’s SEO generate more leads and grow your business.

SEO can help grow your business by attracting leads to your website. Once the leads are obtained, the sales team must take them through your sales funnel to convert them into paying customers. Some leads, however, become stagnant, or dead. These dead leads, however can be revived through products and services that help with sales funnel management like those by Aktify. SEO combined with platforms to revive dead leads like Aktify can help your business grow by leaps and bounds.

Part 2: How To Revive Dead Leads To Increase Business Growth

The post Part 1: Grow Your Business and Leads With SEO appeared first on SEO.com.

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WordPress robots.txt: Best-practice example for SEO

Your robots.txt file is a powerful tool when you’re working on a website’s SEO – but it should be handled with care. It allows you to deny search engines access to different files and folders, but often that’s not the best way to optimize your site. Here, we’ll explain how we think webmasters should use their robots.txt file, and propose a ‘best practice’ approach suitable for most websites.

You’ll find a robots.txt example that works for the vast majority of WordPress websites further down this page. If want to know more about how your robots.txt file works, you can read our ultimate guide to robots.txt.

What does “best practice” look like?

Search engines continually improve the way in which they crawl the web and index content. That means what used to be best practice a few years ago doesn’t work anymore, or, may even harm your site.

Today, best practice means relying on your robots.txt file as little as possible. In fact, it’s only really necessary to block URLs in your robots.txt file when you have complex technical challenges (e.g., a large eCommerce website with faceted navigation), or when there’s no other option.

Blocking URLs via robots.txt is a ‘brute force’ approach, and can cause more problems than it solves.

For most WordPress sites, the following example is best practice:

# This space intentionally left blank
# If you want to learn about why our robots.txt looks like this, read this post: https://yoa.st/robots-txt
User-agent: *

We even use this approach in our own robots.txt file.

What does this code do?

  • The User-agent: * instruction states that any following instructions apply to all crawlers.
  • Because we don’t provide any further instructions, we’re saying “all crawlers can freely crawl this site without restriction”.
  • We also provide some information for humans looking at the file (linking to this very page), so that they understand why the file is ’empty’.

If you have to disallow URLs

If you want to prevent search engines from crawling or indexing certain parts of your WordPress site, it’s almost always better to do so by adding meta robots tags or robots HTTP headers.

Our ultimate guide to meta robots tags explains how you can manage crawling and indexing ‘the right way’, and our Yoast SEO plugin provides the tools to help you implement those tags on your pages.

If your site has crawling or indexing challenges that can’t be fixed via meta robots tags or HTTP headers, or if you need to prevent crawler access for other reasons, you should read our ultimate guide to robots.txt.

Note that WordPress and Yoast SEO already automatically prevent indexing of some sensitive files and URLs, like your WordPress admin area (via an x-robots HTTP header).

Why is this ‘minimalism’ best practice?

Robots.txt creates dead ends

Before you can compete for visibility in the search results, search engines need to discover, crawl and index your pages. If you’ve blocked certain URLs via robots.txt, search engines can no longer crawl through those pages to discover others. That might mean that key pages don’t get discovered.

Robots.txt denies links their value

One of the basic rules of SEO is that links from other pages can influence your performance. If a URL is blocked, not only won’t search engines crawl it, but they also might not distribute any ‘link value’ pointing to that URL to, or through that URL to other pages on the site.

Google fully renders your site

People used to block access to CSS and JavaScript files in order to keep search engines focused on those all-important content pages.

Nowadays, Google fetches all of your styling and JavaScript and renders your pages completely. Understanding your page’s layout and presentation is a key part of how it evaluates quality. So Google doesn’t like it at all when you deny it access to your CSS or JavaScript files.

Previous best practice of blocking access to your wp-includes directory and your plugins directory via robots.txt is no longer valid, which is why we worked with WordPress to remove the default disallow rule for wp-includes in version 4.0.

Many WordPress themes also use asynchronous JavaScript requests – so-called AJAX – to add content to web pages. WordPress used to block Google from this by default, but we fixed this in WordPress 4.4.

You (usually) don’t need to link to your sitemap

The robots.txt standard supports adding a link to your XML sitemap(s) to the file. This helps search engines to discover the location and contents of your site.

We’ve always felt that this was redundant; you should already by adding your sitemap to your Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts in order to access analytics and performance data. If you’ve done that, then you don’t need the reference in your robots.txt file.

Read more: Preventing your site from being indexed: the right way »

The post WordPress robots.txt: Best-practice example for SEO appeared first on Yoast.

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