During the past week, a number of overseas companies will have sent you spam emails promising incredible feats of search engine optimisation. Whether or not these messages reached your inbox depends on the quality of your email provider’s spam filters, but we’re all familiar with subject titles like “1ST PAGE GOOGLE GUARANTEED!!!”
Of course, nothing about Google is guaranteed. There are only ten entries on the first results page of any search query, and few companies will ever achieve this coveted position. However, once you get past the exaggerated promises, spam SEO emails often contain some legitimate optimisation techniques. Sadly, these usually share space with black hat marketing scams that could get your site penalised in future search results, or blacklisted entirely.
If you want to improve your site by adopting the genuine SEO techniques suggested in those unsolicited junk messages, here’s how to go about it…
Accept there is no guaranteed way to appear on Google’s first page.
Appearing in the top ten Google search results generally requires either market leadership or a long-established site with huge traffic volumes and loads of inbound links. Even then, competitors may outperform you. Enter “today’s news” into Google, and platforms like the FT and CNN are relegated to page two, while Reuters and The Times only make page three. Be sceptical of anyone guaranteeing page positions, inbound enquiry volumes or sales leads.Add specific search strings onto every web page.
The spam emails promising a position on Google’s first page never state what search terms you’ll appear on the first page for. There are 20,000,000 results for “freelance photographer” on Google. Search for “freelance photographer Middlesbrough”, and the results drop to 83,000. Search terms of more than three words are known as long tails, and it’s much easier to rank highly for precise searches with relevance to your business.
Accept SEO is constantly evolving.
A typical spam message will hint at “the latest SEO techniques”. Google’s ranking algorithm is being discreetly revised all the time, but only major alterations are publicly announced. Something that worked for a competitor last year (or last month) might not work now, which means there’s always an opportunity to improve your site’s ranking if you’re following industry events closely. Adopting new SEO methods really does yield beneficial results.
Don’t throw your entire marketing budget at SEO.
Most spam missives describe SEO as inexpensive and representing good value. If you sign up with one of these fly-by-night agencies, undoing the damage they cause could prove to be very expensive. However, SEO can be endlessly fettled in your spare time, while optimised content like news articles is quick and inexpensive to generate. Regularly uploading new content with long tails is a vital SEO technique, attracting audiences onto your website.
Be prepared to blog.
Building on the last point, most SEO spam messages mention blogs. However, blog writing is not a highly specialised skill requiring an agency. This article is a blog. Your Facebook posts are as well, since a blog is simply topical online content. Most people can spare half an hour each week to type up a couple of paragraphs about recent contracts, or forthcoming events. Lengthier and original blogs might be shared on social media, generating new audiences.
Look for organic SEO techniques.
The word “organic” frequently crops up in spam SEO emails, as if it confers instant legitimacy. Most people don’t realise that organic SEO is simply traffic generation without relying on advertising, such as reciprocal site links between relevant third-party websites. Other organic SEO techniques include regularly populating blogs with keyword-themed content, and publishing social media images or videos with relevant long tail titles/tags.
Undertake site analysis.
Spam SEO always pledges to optimise your existing site. Before dismissing this lazy promise, consider whether your site really could be optimised. Does every image have an alt tag and placeholder text, to boost its SEO ranking? Do blogs have tags associated with them? Does your site have a robots.txt file, enabling search engines to interrogate it effectively? There are loads of ways to improve a typical site’s SEO, so do your research thoroughly.
Create listings on reputable directories.
A spam missive might mention “directory submissions” as part of its plan to improve inbound links. In reality, black hat agencies rely on toxic link farms which damage sites associated with them. However, a presence on legitimate directories and listing portals can generate organic links. National agencies like Yell and Thomson Local provide a genuine service, and look for well-established local platforms and industry-specific directories, too.
Write more professionally than the spammers.
It’s perhaps unfair to criticise the spelling and grammar of spam messages since they’re usually written by people with a limited grasp of English. Nonetheless, exclamation marks, random line spacing and grammatical errors are unprofessional enough to deter any right-minded customer. The same rules apply to your own web text and blog content. Before uploading new copy, run a spell check and proofread it a couple of times.
Learn from their mistakes.
Few people enjoy receiving unsolicited marketing communications. Some of us ignore these emails, but others add them to spam lists that may damage the sender’s ability to distribute messages in future. If your own company is sending unwanted emails, you could be branded as a spammer and blacklisted. Only contact people if it’s relevant to them (or they’ve opted into communications), make it easy to opt out, and don’t bombard them with endless emails.