Let me start off by saying that I have seen black hat SEO tactics work for some sites, and in some cases they work very well. However, in my opinion, the potential for disaster and the long term effects that a Google penalty can have on your website are not worth the risks of black hat SEO. Google has spent years warning website owners about the dangers of black hat SEO, but with Panda and Penguin the search engine is really stepping up their enforcement policies. Black or grey hat tactics that used to slide by unnoticed, in some cases for years, are now getting sites tagged and penalized by the search engines. While this can be a frustrating and nerve-wracking time for many small businesses and site owners, I think the recent algorithm updates are finally sending a clear message from Google, and one that I've been saying all along, do small business SEO right or don't do it at all.
Many small business owners are under an extreme amount of pressure to produce results and make things move fast when it comes to SEO. In some cases it's their business on the line if they fail. This pressure to perform is often what pushes sites toward black hat SEO. It's quick, cheap, and easy and it can produce fantastic looking results seemingly overnight. There has always been the threat of getting penalized, but many sites were able to toe the line and avoid any major repercussions for a long time. However, thanks to Panda and Penguin all that has changed.
For many small business owners, a full service SEO campaign from a reputable, white hat SEO provider just isn't in the budget. But that doesn't mean you should resort to cheap SEO services and tricks! Instead of wasting your money (and possibly hurting your website) with black hat SEO service providers, invest in your own SEO education. Take an SEO workshop
, sign up for SEO webinars, download eBooks and guides (starting with the Google and Bing Webmaster Guidelines), read reputable industry blogs, attend local SEO events and so forth. There is no shortage of free, quality SEO information out there that you can use to help your own site. Even if you just read one blog post a day you'll slowly but surely learn all you need to know about the fundamentals of great SEO.
As a small business owner myself, I know that your time is at a premium. The whole reason you want to outsource your SEO is so you don't have to deal with it. But this is your business we're talking about--you need to stay involved! I've spoken with many small business owners that were impacted by Panda or Penguin simply because they didn't know what their SEO provider was doing with their SEO. They had no idea of what kind of links were being built, what anchor text was being used, where content was being published or syndicated--they just trusted their SEO provider to do the work. Now in a perfect world, you should be able to trust your SEO partner, but unfortunately the SEO industry is plagued by plenty of black hats and spammers are that looking to take advantage of unsuspecting site owners. That's why it's so important to educate yourself about SEO! You need to understand what your SEO provider is doing and how it could impact your website.
Investing in your website' SEO is critical to your long term business success, but you want to make sure you are investing in the right kind of small business SEO. I'd much rather see a site put their SEO campaign on the back burner and spend a year learning about white hat link building, onsite optimization, content marketing and so forth, than see a business owner waste their money on a cheap service that could come back to haunt you in the end. When it comes to small business SEO, do it right or don't waste your time!
June 19, 2012