Friday, March 10, 2017

SEO vs. Spam: New Google Algorithm Update (Fred), Same Old Story

If spam is the plague of the Internet, organic SEO, if performed correctly and with integrity, is the white knight. Unfortunately, many people associate SEO with spam--a link that likely dates to the mid-1990s, when the first search engines began cataloging and ranking websites.

At the time, many keen entrepreneurs recognized the value of digital marketing. Compared to traditional marketing--on radio and TV, or in the pages of local newspapers or magazines--digital marketing was convenient, effective, and much less costly.

The new market for digital marketing created opportunities for webmasters who understood how to increase website visibility by working with--or often against--the algorithms.

Those working with the algorithms, so-called White Hat SEOs, attempted to make their sites easier for the search engines to "crawl," by creating streamlined pages with precise HTML language. The search engines crawled these websites then returned information, such as relevant keywords and links, to an "index." Once stored in the index, the websites could be retrieved for any number of relevant browser searches.

Those working against the algorithm, so-called Black Hat SEOs, recognized the early emphasis on keywords and links, and attempted to manipulate the algorithms by manipulating code, chiefly placing excessive keywords in each page; and by creating artificial websites, ten, twenty, or more, owned by a single website, and built for the purpose of creating links to the original website.

What distinguished the White Hat from Back Hat at the time was an emphasis on quality over quantity.

Even then, as the effectiveness of SEO, both White Hat and Back Hat, became more apparent, search engines developed new algorithms to curtail keyword abuse and "bad links."

The latter changes were seemingly intended to combat the spammy practices of Black Hat SEO. Yet search engines also developed a paid alternative, Pay Per Click (PPC), which now offered a viable alternative to organic ranking--and the practices of White Hat SEO.

With PPC, website owners pay for each click delivered to their website by a search engine's own advertising. PPC created a new environment online, and may have inadvertently increased spam.

With PPC, most websites, regardless of quality, could now pay for clicks. At the same time, PPC made the challenge of White Hat SEO all the more apparent. Yes, compared to PPC, organic SEO was free, but the practice required knowledge and a studious devotion to detail.

Today, of course, organic SEO is the exact opposite of spam. Spam requires no knowledge, is inattentive to detail, and requires no time commitment.

Unfortunately, early Black Hat practitioners defined SEO for a generation or more.

"Thankfully," as we've noted before, "this practice is increasingly irrelevant, but Black Hat SEO has proved effective in the past. Techniques such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, and the creation of duplicate content continue to haunt the Internet, compromising businesses and personal users alike"

New Google Algorithm Update: Fred

For this reason, Google (and other search engines) continue to perfect the algorithm, and ever so often the SEO world is abuzz with news of a major change. Today, for example, Search Engine Land reported that a "New, unconfirmed Google ranking update [has] shake[d] the SEO world":

"Since yesterday morning," Barry Schwartz writes, "the SEO industry has been watching an unconfirmed Google ranking update that seems to target more of the link quality aspects of the overall algorithm."

The same industry, noting Google's recent step away from reporting on algorithm updates, is calling this update Fred.

Not that Fred.
Does this recent update matter for your site? Hopefully not--hopefully you won't need to give it a second thought. Just like SEO trend articles, we believe you can safely ignore most news about Google's algorithm changes.

What is important, of course, is understanding the difference between practices that may get your site penalized by new algorithm updates and truly organic and timeless practices--in other words, the difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO.

SEO vs. Spam

Only recently, with the help of Google, has true, organic SEO emerged from the shadow of the Black Hats. Today, organic SEO is a valued practice, which stands in contrast to spam. On its Webmaster Tools "help" page entitled "Do You Need an SEO?", Google cites an email from a spammer that is just plain ridiculous (and funny):

"Dear, I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories..."

"Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue," Google warns. "Amazingly, we get these spam emails too. Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for 'burn fat at night' diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators."

No one takes spam seriously. Unfortunately, since spam is so often associated with SEO, many website owners do not take SEO seriously. However, to use the hyperbolic language of spam to prove a point: If you're a website owner, this simple mistake could doom your business.

If performed correctly and with integrity, SEO is, indeed, serious business.

A good SEO campaign means the difference between success and failure.

So how do you find a good search engine optimization specialist. Why not trust Google? We suggest asking any potential specialist the following questions from Google:
  • Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories? 
  • Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines? 
  • Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business? 
  • What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? 
  • How do you measure your success? 
  • What's your experience in my industry? 
  • What's your experience in my country/city? 
  • What's your experience developing international sites? 
  • What are your most important SEO techniques? 
  • How long have you been in business? 
  • How can I expect to communicate with you? 
  • Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?
Organic SEO with Stepman's PC

The Organic SEO Blog is sponsored by an SEO specialist who will happily answer each of these questions for you. Alex Stepman, of Stepmans PC is the epitome of the white knight SEO. We believe this blog is a testament to Alex's integrity. After all, our mission is to offer knowledge, with a studious attention to detail. This work, of course, takes time, but we believe we're fighting a good fight against dark practices like spam.

If you're serious about website performance we suggest calling Alex: 215-900-9398. We list this number, of course, to promote Alex, but also to offer a resource for any questions you might have about SEO.