Like the Force, there is a light and dark side to SEO, and as always one has to be careful not to be seduced by the dark side…
The dark side
So what is this dark side I’ve been hearing about, I look good in black – where do I sign up? Well, I’m sure you are interested in the dark side, just so you can avoid it, rather than use it for evil. Anyway, as far as dodgy techniques go my top favourites (to hate) are:
- Swapping or paying for links
- Using hidden links/keywords
- Getting people whose sites have no relevance to the content of your site to link to you
- Using other peoples trademarks in your keywords
- Display different content to search engines than you display to your users
But don’t just take my word for it, checkout what google has to say on the topic.
It should be noted that avoiding these techniques is not only good for your karma, but it also help to reduce your risk as well. This is because the search engines frown upon this behaviour and they take active steps to penalise those found to be using them. For instance, when google believes they have found a link farm they can note in their servers that the pages are bad news, and anyone being linked to from them is at risk of being tainted by this bad reputation.
So if decide to tread the path of the righteous (right on!), what tools are available to you? Well there are many, and here are some of the best:
- Putting your preferred search keywords / phrases in page titles
- Weaving your preferred search keywords / phrases into page content
- Having many pages of original content that has keyword phrase links to your main page
- Keep your site fresh with new material, a blog is a good way to do this
- Making it easy for people to link to you (e.g. you could provide a html snippet plus button)
- Encourage people, when they are linking to you, to put your preferred keywords in the text of the link
- Encourage people to use social book-marking (delicious, StumbleUpon and friends) to let people that you like a site. For instance you could write “Cool people add The Startup Gardener to their social bookmark ist, you are a cool person aren’t you?”
- Submitting your site to directory services like Technorati
- Register your site with Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines
- Ensure your domain name’s expiry date is a number of years in the future1
- Respond to forum questions with a link to your site in your signature
All these things aim at either telling google what you are about, or putting the word out about your site. The thing that will have the most positive effect on your search result position is to be linked to from sites of good reputation, with your keyword phrase in the link text. For instance, if people were to link to this blog from their blog, using the text “The Startup Gardener” then that would help push this blog up the search results, especially when people enter the search terms “Startup Gardener”2. The more “important” the site is in the eyes of google, the further up the search result list this blog would be pushed. So whilst being linked to sites like digg.com, wallstjournal.com etc may melt your servers with the sudden increase in traffic, it also has a long term effect of increasing your reputation with google, floating your site closer to the lofty position of No. 1 n the list.
Basically you should avoid dishonest and make full use of honest techniques. The lists above are by no means exhaustive and I encourage readers to leave a comment on this post with other techiques that you like / dislike. And here is a little free advice: if you ever find yourself contemplating the use of SEO techniques that are new to you and you’re trying to work out if they’re honest/ethical, I find a good rule of thumb is if you have to ask someone else if something is ethical/honest, it usually isn’t.
So, what’s the best way to do get quality sites to link to you? Well the first thing to do is to produce a quality product that people will be interested in talking about – so I best stop blogging and get back to coding.
Catch ya later!
P.S: I’d just like to say that cool people add The Startup Gardener to their social bookmark list, you are a cool person aren’t you?
1. Search engines like to know that you are going to be around for a while and having a domain expiry date far into the future can them confidence that your domain is not just used for spam.
2. Actually, this blog already gets #1 or #2 ranking for “Startup Gardener”, so it can’t get much better than that. Being at the top is great and all, but it’s not a heavily contested keyword phrase so it’s not much of an achievement, and most people putting the word “gardener” in a search won’t be that keen to read about the trials and tribulations of a software startup.