There are various SEO techniques that are frowned upon by the search engines because they break search engine guidelines. Use of these techniques is also called Black Hat Seo, and using these to influence the ranking of your landing page for your targeted keyword will sooner rather than later, land your website in search engine purgatory.

The most common of these dubious SEO techniques are the following:

1. Keyword Stuffing: This practice of putting as many related keywords as possible on a web page to try to mine the longtail of search for that keyword. The problem with keyword stuffing is that its use renders the webpage unreadable for your visitor. The hope of webmasters who use this is to monetize the website by redirecting the visitor
to an affiliate offer or by clicking ads. This is a very weak monetizing strategy as the searchers today have become wise to these tricks and do not fall for the trap, in fact they are more than likely to report the spammy sites to the search engines and enough of these reports can trigger a manual review of the website, and lead to some sort of penalty.

2. Cloaking: Cloaking is a technique whereby the content on the web page changes depending who is visiting the page. The search engine spider will be shown different content, on the basis of which it will rank the web page for a particular keyword and the searcher who clicks on the listing on the serp’s (search engine results page) will be shown totally different content. For e.g. a cloaked web page will show on the serp’s for the keyword “Golf” and upon clicking this the searcher will be shown content about Viagra. The cloaked sites are now easily identified by the search engines and will be banned by the search engines.

3. Doorway Pages: Customized HTML pages for keywords are programmed so that they  are only visible to search engine spiders, this technique tries to trick the search engine spiders to rank pages for a particular keyword and then direct the searcher to a totally unrelated page, this is in direct violation of search engine guidelines. These pages are created by costly software which require you to use keywords, meta tags etc. If you are willing to do this, you might as well do it to properly optimize your web site anyways and not worry about it getting banned or de-indexed.

4. Invisible Text : This involves tricking the search engines by putting keywords in white text on white background. This makes the text with keyword invisible to the visitors, while trying to lure the search engines spiders to rank the web page on its serp’s.

These spammy tricks can work for a short while, but will definitely be identified and penalized by the search engines. It’s important for you to know of these black hat techniques, so that these are not implemented on your website by the SEO’s that you hire or by anyone on your staff who is working on your site. These techniques are a bad idea not only because of the potential penalties that can be imposed by the search engines but also because the conversion rate on such sites is very poor.

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Posted by Navneet under Black Hat Seo, On Page SEO

I recently took a look at various freelancing websites like Odesk, Scriptlance etc, to see what types of  SEO jobs were being posted on them. I was shocked at the types of seo projects that were being posted and the amount of responses they generated from so called “SEO Companies”. The jobs posted under link building were the ones that stupefied me the most. Here is a snap shot of a couple of them.

job post snapshot

I looked at them and thought to myself, these websites have to be thin affiliates or just plain spam sites, just to be sure I checked further and found that a lot of them were not just brand new websites but sites that had high PageRank and were ranking quite well for their chosen keywords.

Now I know that one is scrapping the bottom of the barrel when posting on these freelancing websites and going by the budgets allocated for jobs, it’s quite obvious why.

Some folks will say a link is better than no link, this is true to a certain extent but will depend on the market that you are playing in. A backlink analysis of your online competition will tell you what type of links you need to compete and in any moderately competitive niche you will need your link profile to be quite varied. So if you are in these markets the following link building techniques are more than likely to be a waste of your time and money.

1. Do Follow Links: Majority of blogs have the no follow attribute built in the comment section, so its time consuming to try to find Blogs that allow do follow links in comments. And more importantly if you can find them, you can bet the spammers have already found them and the search engines have identified these Blogs and discounted the links from them anyways.

2. Hiring Seo freelancers or companies to get you thousands of “PR2,PR3,PR4….” links: These links can only come from the network of sites owned and operated by the people you hire, already linking to hundreds of other unrelated sites. The PageRank toolbar may show the appropriate green pixels but its more than likely that that the search engines are again discounting any link juice.

3.Reciprocal Links: This technique worked quite well till a couple of years ago. Not Anymore. Tests have shown that websites which took down these types of links showed no perceptible decrease in their rankings, which tels us that the search engines discount most of these  links. And in any case why would you want to put an external link on your web page to facilitate your visitors to leave your website, and in most cases never to return to your website. Only link out if the resource that you are linking to makes sense for your visitors and enhances your credibility.

4. Paid Links: Buying links for purely SEO reasons (link popularity) is a bad idea, not only do the search engines frown upon it but they can penalize your website quite heavily. ROS (run of site) links used to work like a charm 6 years ago but not anymore. Link to bad neighborhoods at your own peril. At best these links are totally discounted by the search engines.

There are few other link building techniques that come under this category, these 4 are the more obvious ones, do comment below if you have had any experiences using these and other link building techniques that you found to be not very beneficial.

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Posted by Navneet under Link Building

Links have been bought and sold on the Internet from the time of its inception. So should you sell links? The answer depends on the kind of links that you are willing to sell.

If you are planning to sell “link juice” i.e. anchor text links that pass page rank from your page, you are playing with FIRE because you will get into trouble with the major search engines especially Google. You might get away with it for a while but you will be caught eventually and once your website has been marked as a link seller, your ability to pass link reputation (page rank) to any pages including your own will be greatly diminished as the search engines will just discount all of it. The green pixels on your Google tool bar will keep showing the PR but you won’t be passing any link juice.

Now if you are selling advertising space on your website and use the rel=”nofollow” on the outbound link you have nothing to worry about. Infact Google is the biggest link seller on the net (Adwords) and promotes selling of advertising on websites (Adsense). It would be ironic and counter productive for them to discourage others from doing the same.

All they care about is that you are not selling links to help other websites to manipulate their organic search results by gaming their link popularity algorithms.

In my opinion selling links for passing page rank is just not worth the risk of your website being red-flagged by Google and other search engines, you may lose your rankings and the money you make by selling these links is not that much anyways. On the other hand selling advertising space to reputable and relevant websites in your market is not only a great way to monetize your website but also useful for your visitors.

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Posted by Navneet under On Page SEO

Whether you are a first time online business owner or a grizzled online veteran; you know the importance of compelling and relevant content for not just SEO but also for the overall success of your business.

The tendency of many online entrepreneurs, when they launch a new website is to have content written around the features and benefits of their products or services, mainly to be used on the website itself, some may get few articles posted on article directories as well.

Others use blogs to post about topics related to their niche. They churn out a lot of content in the beginning and then slowly start to run out of ideas about topics to write upon.

Yahoo Answers is a great resource to get an insight into the needs and concerns of your target market. You can use this information to provide them with a solution to their problems or at least point them in the right direction and establish yourself as an authority in your niche at the same time.

All you need to do is, type in the primary search term, that your visitors use to find your product or services in the search box at Yahoo Answers and you will instantly get a list of questions that your prospective customers have asked using that search term.

Yahoo Answers

Lets use “weight loss” as an example, as you can see in the snapshot above, there is a list of questions that mention weight loss. There are in fact over 100,000 results for this search term. These questions vary from weight loss supplements to weight loss exercises. Open the questions that are related to your product, read the question and the answers given, sometimes the answers given are more insightful than the question itself.

Yahoo Answers Snapshot

Use the information to create headlines, articles, blog posts or even an e-book and never run out of ideas about what to write again.

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Posted by Navneet under Content

Let us first find out what does a description tag look like. For this, if you search for the keyword ‘cars’ on Google, the first three results on the search engine results page look like this-

Serach engine result sample
The sentence in blue is the title (clickable link) while below that content in black is the description tag. Description tags provide a sneak peek into what a reader can expect on that webpage or article. Description and the title are placed in the head section of the HTML code of the webpage.

Purpose of description tags:

On the utility of description tag there is a debate, some consider it useful while others undermine the importance of this Meta tag.

One opinion is that description tags are not useful to SEO because they do not help in the ranking process. If we see it from this perspective, there is no denying the fact that the description tag does not have the same value that it had till a few years back,  However, what is important to understand here is that description tags encourages the visitor  to click through to the landing page.

The searcher clicking through to your web page is the first step in the conversion process of your website. Unfortunately, many of so-called ‘SEO Experts’ often ignore this crucial aspect. For me, description tag is important because, a relevant description leads to increased click through rate leading to better conversions.
Conversion Funel

The searcher identifies a genuine and useful webpage from the others is by reading these description tags.

Therefore, it is important to have a well-written, specific description to draw your prospects interest; otherwise, you might lose him/her. These description tags in conjunction with a well-written Title Tag create the first impression of your website.

What to remember when writing a Meta description tag:

  • Description should be short, to-the –point with objectives clearly laid out. Logic is to give a quick view to the reader. Keep the language simple and focused.
  • Use around 155 characters including spaces.
  • Description tags should be eye-catching. Remember you have less than a second to impress your reader and draw his/her attention to your webpage.
  • Notice that the searched term ‘cars’ highlighted in bold throughout the description. This emphasis aids further click through. However, avoid using too many keywords; otherwise, it will give a spammy look and your potential visitor will ignore it.
  • Writing description tag is an art. Description tag should have immediate solution to the searchers purpose. You should include a Call to Action like ‘Call Now’ etc in the description tag. Writing a scarcity offer in description also attracts attention. Example – ‘limited offer’, ‘contact today to get special discount’, ‘limited edition’ etc.

Description tag is like a window to your webpage, so be very clear what you intend to sell in order to draw targeted traffic.

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Posted by Navneet under On Page SEO

It amazes me that so many website owners have no clue as to how to track the performance of their online business. This is especially true in countries like India, where a lot of businesses that have an online presence, have it for the sole purpose of printing an url on their stationary. Thankfully this trend has started to decline as the business owners are  starting to realize the potential of how having a optimized and well marketed website can vastly improve their profits, as well as help branding their product or services.

This has led to a huge demand for SEO services in India, unfortunately most get hoodwinked by low end seo companies, who for a pittance provide dubious seo services with predictable results. I will cover this topic in a series of posts soon, anyways I am digressing from the topic I want to write about today and that concerns about how you can use analytics to get valuable insight on the performance and ROI of your online business.

Analytics can provide you with crucial data on key metrics that you can track on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. You can check the following:

  • The total number of visitors coming to you website.
  • The geographical location where your visitors came from.
  • The keyword (search term) that your visitors used to visit your website.
  • Where did your traffic come from ( search engines,referral sites,direct traffic etc.)
  • How long did your visitor stay on your website.
  • How many pages did your visitor visit during their stay on your website.
  • Track the number of leads or sales made.

These are just a few of the things that you can track to find out how well your seo or marketing efforts are panning out. You can use this data to test and tweak your sales message, landing pages, call to action etc to increase your ROI.

Analytics should be one of the most well used tools in your arsenal to better your rankings and user experience which should lead your website to perform to your expectations.

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Posted by Navneet under Analytics

If you have an online business which caters to a specific local area for e.g if you sell real estate in the suburb of Carlsbad in the San Diego area and your prospective clients use a geographic modifier like” real estate Carlsbad” as the search term when searching on Google, You are missing out on a huge opportunity to be in front of them if your online business is not listed on Google Places (Local Business Center).

Google Places is a great way for you to market your services, as your prospects move from general search queries to very specific and targeted ones. Your local listing when properly optimized will get you, in some cases, faster results than traditional SEO.

The key is to take good care when filling out your listings on Google. Make sure that you fill out as many details as possible in your listing. Attach photos and videos etc. Make sure that you have a complete listing and no categories are left blank. Don’t forget to verify your listing with Google after completing your details. The fastest way would be to verify via phone, so make sure that the phone number that you have listed is manned by someone when you make the verification request as you need to take the Pin number and enter it to claim your local listing. You also have the option to receive the Pin via post card.

Google Places is a great way to get targeted local traffic to your website and be one up on the bigger players in your local market, who are yet to claim and optimize their local listings.

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Posted by Navneet under Google Places