There’s an ethics standard with search engine optimization (SEO) that goes beyond avoiding black hat tricks. If you want to ensure your SEO strategy has a longer shelf life—and avoid penalties from Google—it’s wise to make sure your ethics know-how is up to date. It all starts simply by following the guidelines established by search engines. They all have slight variances in the rules, but make sure you keep up with the basics of Google, Bing and Yahoo! at the least.
These guidelines will include definitions of what type of content they’d like, technical requirements to improve the indexing of a site, quality recommendations, organization tips to optimize inclusion, and a host of SEO/promotional techniques that are “negative SEO” or black hat tricks (which means you need to avoid those). However, it’s better to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
An Eagle Eye
When choosing an SEO professional or firm, make sure they not only follow SEO best practices, but are happy to share them with you. The goal should be optimizing your organic search traffic, which leads to quantifiable results. This might include working with keywords, h# or title elements, alt attributes or a number of other tactics. However, different websites will respond differently to the various strategies. For example, if a website is already performing poorly and the market is competitive, such “on-page” strategies will get you started.
A better approach will be working on authority and peppering citations as well as links throughout the site. Once that’s established, on-page tactics will come into play. In other words, there’s no one size fits all approach (if there was, you could probably do this yourself!). Most likely, you’ll get the best results from high-value options along with SEO basics. This will give you the greatest impact.
While great design can impact SEO, it’s still a “non-SEO” tool. Of course websites need a quality user experience and website layouts—but design in itself isn’t an SEO tool. Your SEO pro should separate the SEO from the non-SEO (even though they may offer services above and beyond SEO). For example, when Google said that page speed was a factor in SEO ranking, suddenly every SEO agency was all about adding this service on (sometimes for a hefty fee). Even though Google announced that it was a small slice of the pie, it was the new buzzword for sales.
Keep the goal of SEO in mind: It should lead to more sales, visitors, ROI, conversions or another quantifiable factor you want and can measure. There are nearly endless things you can do to a site that might improve one or all of these factors, but these “things” won’t necessarily all be SEO.
Keep It Honest
There will always be new black hat tricks to try, or companies might promise the world to a business owner in order to secure their business. However, if you want success in the long haul, it’s better to be realistic. SEO takes time, and sometimes a business owner and an SEO company just isn’t a good match. Check out their mission, vision and values statements to see if their approach is what you are looking for.