Since search engines became popular in the 90s website owners have been looking for ways to climb the ranks of whatever search engine was the most popular. Sites like AltaVista and Lycos had their time to shine, but for well over a decade Google has ruled the search engine word. Their dominance was truly cemented when people began to talk about “Googling” something when they want to run a search on a subject online.
With the dominance of Google in mind it only makes sense that people would do just about anything to make it to the top of Google’s search engine results page. But Google isn’t interested in providing free promotion to websites that haven’t earned notoriety, they are looking for sites that either have developed their popularity organically or have purchased advertisements through Google’s AdWords program. As such they are constantly working to prevent people from using dishonest search engine optimization, or SEO, techniques to promote their site.
So what do you do if you want people to find your site on Google if you don’t want to buy ads and don’t want to get in trouble with Google? By doing a little bit of research and keeping a few things in mind you can promote your site without putting it at risk.
Avoid Strategies and Services That Sound Too Good To Be True
One of the most important things you need to remember as a website owner is that success online takes time. You might find a few cases of sites that go from obscurity to fame practically overnight but these are the exceptions and if you look closely at many “overnight successes” you’ll find that such achievements actually took years of hard work that happened to come to fruition rapidly.
Most people understand the importance of diligence and hard work but that doesn’t eliminate the appeal of short cuts. Who wouldn’t want to watch their website go from one hit a day to thousands overnight? The draw of this sort of idea is so strong that every year people waste millions of dollars paying “SEO experts” who say they can supercharge your site’s success.
Some scammers will just take your money while others will follow through by using questionable SEO techniques to promote your site. Any technique that is designed to improve a site’s Google ranking while hurting the experience of users is known as black hat SEO, named after the bad guys in old Western movies who always wore black hats. Some of these techniques include spamming subpar content across the web, buying links, using deceptive keywords and plagiarizing or duplicating content.
Most of these services won’t do much for your site but it’s also important to think about what will happen if you do reach the top of Google using black hat SEO. If Google notices you using these strategies they will punish you. Even companies as big as JC Penney have gotten their pages taken off of Google for using deceptive SEO techniques. Even if you do see some short term success gaming the system it can still hurt you in the long run once Google catches on, and every year they get better at catching these things.
Listen To Google
The inner of Google can be a mystery but there are some things that the company is upfront about. They won’t talk about the specifics of how they determine that a site is worthy of a top spot but they have talked about how they decide to punish sites.
Because of the importance of this issue Google has a special page dedicated to helping people such as yourself who want to understand how to run a website correctly. Known as their Webmaster Guidelines they take readers through their philosophy, technical guidelines and quality concerns so you can move forward with an understanding of what they do and do not want. It’s a page anyone who has a website and wants to be listed on Google should read.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines cover a lot of ground but they don’t address everything. Fortunately Google isn’t shy about talking about the kinds of behaviour they are fighting against. If you have any questions about a particular strategy or tool search the web to see if Google has issues a statement on it. By using common sense and Google itself you should be able to figure out if a strategy is risky or not.
Focus On Your Visitors
If you take even a brief look into the world of SEO you’re likely to come away with one conclusion, that it’s complicated. It deals with the technical side of the web that the average person knows nothing about and has no desire to learn. Still, no matter how technically literate you might be there is still one rule of SEO that you can understand, the visitor comes first.
Anyone who reads Google’s Webmaster Guidelines will notice that they constantly stress this point, you should build your website for visitors first and search engines second. Too many people forget this fact as they get caught up in all the tips and tricks people use to boost their page’s ranking, but if your site doesn’t appeal to real people then it doesn’t matter if you have the most technically optimized page ever.
Whenever you do anything to your site you should ask yourself how it will impact the people who actually use your site. Will a design change make your site easier or harder to use? Does your new page offer quality information or is it just pointless filler? If you put your visitors first in every area from content creation to SEO then you are setting yourself up for long term success.
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