As the race to rank as highly as possible on Google continues to hot up on a daily basis, and more businesses begin to see the power and importance a strong web presence can have in attracting clients, the lines between what is considered “white hat SEO” and “black hat SEO” have become blurred.

Over the last couple of weeks, the consequences of falling foul of “black hat SEO” techniques have become all too clear for one leading company, who have been penalised by search engine giant, Google, as they continue their fight back against those who fail to comply with their SEO regulations.

The business who has been penalised by Google, are reported to have had over 150 recent links in the form of generic online advertorials, which worked to influence search page rankings.

Unfortunately for the company involved, generic “story-based” advertorials have been overused by those looking to get ahead of competitors in the race to rank number one, page one on Google; and as such Google have been hot on penalising any site they believe has fallen foul of their regulations.

Whilst paid advertorials are not forbidden by Google, all links included in such content must attribute a “nofollow” link, which allows webmasters to tell the search engine robots to ignore the link and not attribute any PageRank (how Google scores the influence of each website – from 0 to 10) to it.

In this recent case, the “nofollow” link is reported to have been missing, and as such the business has found their site “sandboxed” – meaning that it does not appear in search results for the keywords it was targeting.

Along with penalising the business that paid for the advertorials, Google has also reduced the PageRank of over forty local newspapers who featured the adverts on their websites; highlighting that the search engine will come down on those who try to manipulate search results.

The case above is not the first time that Google has cracked the whip and penalised those who have attempted to gain an unfair advantage in search results.

In 2006, Google reduced the PageRank of BMW in Germany to zero after it was found to have influenced search results; whilst in 2008 GoCompare was dropped from page one to page seven, after paying for links in a bid to gain an advantage.

Following the latest crackdown, within their webmaster blog, Google again reiterated that selling (or buying) links to pass PageRank violates their quality guidelines, and sites found guilty of doing so will be penalised, with penalties ranging from a reduction of visible PageRank to lower rankings in search engines.

Within the blog, Google also highlighted the need for “paid for” links to include the rel=“nofollow” attribute.

Businesses looking to enhance their SEO, but not fall foul of Google’s strict guidelines, or of “black hat SEO” techniques, should consider utilising PR, social media and content marketing; all of which requires the use of unique content to be produced, which is valued more by both Google and customers; whilst also being a more cost-effective approach of gaining links, than paying for them.

By utilising social media, content marketing and PR, businesses are also required to tailor the copy to each social network / publication the content will be used on, meaning that it will be more relevant for each audience – and therefore be considered more valuable.

Another method of enhancing the SEO of a website is to vary the content being used. Don’t always rely on blogs, press releases or heavy text pieces. Videos, infographics and still images on websites such as Google+, Instagram and YouTube are also great ways to gain respectable back-links, which will enhance your SEO without being penalised by Google.

Categories: Blog