The term Search Engine Optimisation is often misused by website owners and website developers alike. SEO refers to the process of doing things to your website to try to help it to rank better for specific search terms within the organic (or free) rankings for Google, Bing etc. It does not, for example, include things such as Social Media optimisation, whose focus is to bring greater visibility across social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc..
There has long been a battle between Google and other search engines against ‘web spam’: websites that have ‘gamed’ the system to try to get their website to rank higher than they deserve by using tricks or divisive measures, which has divided the Search Engine Optimisation companies using “White Hat” and “Black Hat” SEO techniques. The former use above board techniques to present their website to Google in the best light possible for the search terms that they want to rank for, the latter try to cheat the system using underhanded techniques such as link rinks, presenting different content to Google than to normal website visitors etc. If you’re wondering where the hats come from, it’s an industry term picked up from old cowboy films where the good guys wear white hats, and the bad guys, black hats.
At Igentics we only use white hat SEO techniques and we have in the past sometimes felt the pain of seeing Search Engine Optimisation companies getting high rankings for their sites by cheating (which we let Google know about using their reporting scheme). However, over the years Google has placed great emphasis on eliminating the benefit received from using black hat SEO techniques, or – the ultimate threat – simply removing websites from the index when caught using underhand practices. In some respects this has reduced the scope for companies doing SEO, however, we think it leaves a much more level playing field and we applaud Google’s ever increasing effort to remove web spam.
Google has always placed a massive emphasis on quality content presented in a clear manner to get better ranking, and we work with many clients on their ongoing SEO to help them improve that (from determining the best keywords to try to rank for, through reviewing and updating websites to ensure those keywords are presented in the best way possible across structure and content, to dealing with technical issues such as URL canonicalisation). Such Search Engine Optimisation isn’t easy – often we have to work with clients to develop large quantities of quality content, which is hard – and it isn’t quick, but such techniques will give real long lasting benefits – without the threat of you waking up one day to find your website removed from the Google results.
So, how do you choose an SEO company?
- Make sure they only use white hat techniques – ask them what techniques they use to get rankings and if there is any threat to your business disappearing from the search engine results
- Don’t use SEO companies with over-inflated claims about instant success/change
- Pick a partner you feel you can work with closely over the longer term
- Pick one who speaks honestly about the legitimate opportunities available to you
Need some help? Come and talk to us.
Gerald Thulbourn, Head of Search.