So you are evaluating an SEO company for a new project and as you are talking to them about their strategies, you hear some things that make you wonder how ethical they are, if they are doing black hat SEO tactics or using black hat SEO software, and how well they actually know what it takes to do User-Focused SEO – the only long-term, low-risk SEO strategy.

Below you will find 8 black hat tactics, bad and low-value SEO strategies, that if you ever hear an SEO company mention, you should run.

Bad SEO Tactic #1: Article Spinning

What is it? Article spinning is a simple black hat SEO tactic that utilizes software to take a single article and create a large number of derivatives of that article. This is done by using black hat SEO software to programmatically find synonyms (words that have similar meanings), and replacing them throughout the article.

Why it’s bad: Not only does it create a ton of low-value articles that don’t make any sense when read, it also will get you penalized by the search engines. We have seen numerous sites try article spinning to spam the search results and manipulate the link graph, and each of them had their primary website either penalized or banned from the search results.

Bad SEO Tactic #2: You Don’t Need To Do A Website Audit

What is it? A website audit confirms your website is in good health or outlines concerns that would cause it to not rank as well as it could.

Why it’s bad: What would you think if you went to the doctor and he/she said, “you look like you have [insert major illness], we are not going to do any tests but take these pills.”. You’d probably run, or at least be extremely worried that a professional was just “guessing” what you were suffering from.

This is the same when trying to figure out what is wrong with a website, or what went wrong during a website redesign – and is why every one of our campaigns starts with a website audit.

Bad SEO Tactic #3: Google Won’t Catch It

What is it? We have actually heard this from a few large design agencies, who obviously don’t understand the capabilities that Google has. Do SEO’s and web design firms really think that they can trick Google’s massive team of some of the smartest engineers from around the world?

Why it’s bad: This mentality is bad because it puts businesses at risk of being devalued or de-indexed from the search results.

Bad SEO Tactic #4: Directory Submission

What is it? If done in a controlled manner there are still a few directories that can be beneficial for new sites to submit to.

Why it’s bad: Where sites get in trouble is they adopt the mentality “more is better” and they enlist websites that do mass directory submission. The sites that these mass directory submission services submit to are inevitably low-value spam directories that end up hurting a websites rankings – and which are near impossible to get removed from.

Bad SEO Tactic #5:Guaranteed Rankings

What is it: There are SEO companies that do performance based SEO (guaranteed SEO). Meaning they guarantee they can get you top rankings, and you don’t pay until they do. Sounds great right? Wrong! It kind of reminds me of the scene from the movie Tommy Boy.

Why it’s bad: These companies have two major issues:

  • Keyword Target: They will promise they can get you ranked for very obscure search terms that have little to no value to driving conversions or traffic to your website.
  • Spam and Black Hat Tactics: Most of these “SEO companies” employ short term spam tactics to get you quick rankings – that inevitably tank shortly after you have sent them payment. You are left with a site that was worse off than before, and when you approach them to ask what went wrong, they hide behind the, “oh the algorithm is always changing” statement.

Bad SEO Tactic #6: It’s All About Getting To #1

What is it? I will agree that rankings are one part of SEO, but when that’s all the marketers obsess over, they miss the big picture.

Why it’s bad: Ranking #1 for a term means very little if the resulting traffic does not accomplish one of your business goals. I would strongly suggest you have a goal and measurement strategy for each keyword you are attempting to rank for. This will help you prioritize keyword value and strategies needed to provide the best ROI.

Bad SEO Tactic #7: Articles for $30

What are they? There are a ton of content creation websites that will sell you cheap articles. But let’s think about this for a second. How long does it take you (being the expert in what you are selling) to write a high-value article for your business? An hour, two hours, three hours? It takes a professional close to 5 hours to write a fully inclusive article – that is $6 an hour at the above rate. Know any professional writers that can add value to your business who will work for $6 and hour – probably not.

Why it’s bad: The content on your website is what keeps people coming back. It helps you build your brand and defines who you are as a business. Do you want your businesses or brand represented by low quality messaging and content?

Bad SEO Tactic #8: Doorway pages

What are they? Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination. Whether deployed across many domains or established within one domain, doorway pages tend to frustrate users.

Some examples of doorways include:

  • Having multiple domain names targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
  • Template pages made solely for affiliate linking
  • Multiple pages on your site with similar content designed to rank for specific queries like city or state names

Why it’s bad: Google frowns on practices that are designed to manipulate search engines and deceive users by directing them to sites other than the one they selected, and that provide content solely for the benefit of search engines. Google may take action on doorway sites and other sites making use of these deceptive practices and black hat tactics, including removing these sites from Google’s index.

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