While I pointed out in my last post that SEO is good, SEO does have its dark twisted side that can tempt even the best of us. No, I don’t mean the typical black hat stuff — tactics of questionable ethics that recall the bad gunslingers of old. I mean the stupid things we do, the dumb habits we occasionally fall into — not so much black hat as much as asshat.
Black Hat Techniques
Yes, I know I said “Not black hat stuff” so why lead with this? Well, I’m not talking about specific black hat stuff here, but more the general idea of doing black hat stuff. (You know what I mean — those techniques you damned well know are black hat.) I mean, you know you shouldn’t spam folks, so spamming “just a little” doesn’t make it OK.
As tempting as adding one or two “black hat tricks” might be, just remember what happened to Anakin Skywalker. Stay away from the dark side totally, or you’ll go from dancing on the edge of the ethical cliff to being your own walking lava monster.
Obsession with Page Rank
This is a dangerous place for an SEO to play, and one that usually indicates a novice at work. Page rank — at least, the rank that shows on the Google toolbar — is a dated approximation of the relative worth of a page as per the Google ranking algorithm. For practical SEO purposes, the page rank is worthless as a test of a page’s worth for linking purposes.
A great example… I received an (unsolicited) email from some spammer wanting to do a three-way link exchange. “Just place our link on your home page,” they said, “and we’ll give you a link on this PR5 page!” What could be better! Well, a little digging turned up that while the page was PR5, the domain had only been registered three days before. Their high-ranking page had no inbound links and an unusually high page rank, so any link from them would have almost no worth. To a novice SEO, though, this would seem a great deal. #FAIL
Don’t get hung up on page rank. In fact, don’t even consider it when doing your link building. Look for more important (and lasting) qualities like neighborhood and relevance to your topics/visitors.
Being Obsessed with SERPs
This one’s a pet peeve of mine. Every SEO artisan, at least once in their career, gets sucked into this one — getting hyper-focused on how the targeted keywords are doing on the search engine results page (SERP).
So “Why is this bad,” you might ask?
Web site owners are generally in business to do business. Whether it’s generate leads, or sales, or some other method of conversion, most websites exist to do something. As SEO workers, it’s our job to make websites do more of whatever that something is. It’s NOT our job to get all the keywords up to #1 on Google.
This is a hard one for many SEO folk to grasp, but I have to look at this like an entrepreneur. If I have all #1 SERPs but I’m not getting any more revenues or clients or whatever, all those #1s don’t mean a damned thing. Maybe you have the wrong keywords, or maybe it’s something with your layout or message. Whatever it is, the lack of increased business is what you need to focus on.
Focusing on the Wrong Keywords
At best, working the wrong keywords is a waste of your client’s time and money. At worst, it can kill your business (and your client’s too.)
Keyword research is the foundation and heart of any SEO project. This is where you figure out which keywords the potential customers are using to find your site, and which are high-search-volume keywords worthy of your time.
If you pick the wrong keywords, you can end up with the wrong kind of site visitors — ones that don’t convert, or that are looking for something very different than what you’re offering.Worse, you’re not attracting those visitors that WOULD convert and who ARE looking for what you’re offering.
Often SEO novices fall into this rut, as do shadier SEO companies. In an extreme example, it’s pretty easy to get a top ranking for an uncontested keyword nobody searches for. If you’re getting great results really quickly, it could be that you’re God’s gift to the SEO world. It’s more likely, though, that you haven’t done enough keyword research.
Just stay out of these pitfalls, and you’ll be protected from SEO evil. Plus, your clients will thank you. (Isn’t that the same thing?)