I've Prepared the Following Section to Help Business Owners (like YOU) Understand How SEO Works and How to Protect Themselves from Being Taken Advantage Of. It'll be the Best 10 Minutes You Spend Today.
Understanding SEO Services
Are you wanting more customers for your business? There are many ways to market products and services online and off-line. For many businesses though, their customers mainly come from people searching for their products or services on the internet. Search engine optimisation is the process of optimising a website so that it shows up when customers are searching online using a search engine like Google. In this SEO Guide, I will discuss everything you need to know about Search Engine Optimisation.
Advertising in Search Engines
Search engines like Google make money by selling ad space. Currently, it is common for Google to display ads in the top 4 positions of a search engine result page (SERP). Each time a user clicks on one of the ads, Google charges the advertiser a fee. Google will still charge this fee even if the user doesn’t buy anything! This means that business owners who pay for these ads can end up spending a lot of money and not getting enough business from it to cover the cost of their investment. Of course, paid ads like this can also be very effective and can make it possible for a business to scale quickly. It can be tricky to achieve this and more often than not, business owners will stop their ads after a few weeks or months just because they aren’t seeing enough of a return to justify the expense.
Below the ads at the top of the SERPs, there are other websites listed – usually 10 per page. These ten listings, referred to as ‘Organic’ results, are free listings that Google shows for the benefit of the user. These websites are not paying for ad space. In fact, they get many customers from people using Google to search for the services and products they offer. They don’t need to pay anything to Google when a user clicks on their website. Would you like your website to be displayed in front of potential customers all day every day and never have to pay anything to Google for it? Having your website in the top 10 listings on page 1 is like having your business situated in prime commercial real estate and not having to pay rent for it!
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How to Get to Page 1 of Google
Getting your website listed in the top 10 is not easy. Since these are free listings, Google has created a very complicated set of rules to judge and grade each listed website. These rules make up Google’s Algorithm. Google uses ‘bots’ to inspect each website regularly to see how it measures up to the rules and how it compares to other websites in the same category. Google’s algorithm then assigns a rank to each website in that category. The websites that follow the rules the best get a higher rank. The sites ranked in the top 10 are the ones that Google chooses to display on page 1 of the SERPs. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a website so that it follows Google’s rules better than other sites in the same category.
Doing SEO requires a clear understanding of algorithm that Google judges and grades websites by. The tricky thing is that Google is very secretive about what their specific rules are. This means that to really understand what helps a website get a higher ranking, much research and testing is required. Having a lot of experience and a knowledge of how websites and search engines work is also necessary. Just like any trade, search engine optimization needs to be done by a specialist.
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Common SEO Mistakes
Search Engine Optimization is a specialist field. Some business owners presume that anyone with a knowledge of IT, computers or websites are able to do SEO. This is not true! Web designers and IT companies usually outsource their SEO projects to a SEO specialist, taking a commission in the process; or, they attempt to do it themselves which can lead to disaster.
Another common mistake is comparing apples to apples. This just doesn’t work in the SEO industry. Business owners have succumbed to the spammy emails and pushy sales tactics of overseas marking companies selling cheap off-shore SEO services. These off-shore companies have zero accountability, and their ethics are on a similar level. Repairing the damaged caused by unethical or out-dated SEO practices can be a very long road to recovery. There are even reports of much more malicious tactics being used that have left business owners with no option other than to start fresh.
What Does Google’s Algorithm Look at When Ranking Websites?
Google’s algorithm looks at these main areas when determining the ranking of a website:
- the quality and quantity of optimised content on the site
- the website’s health, speed and mobile compatibility
- the quality and quantity of relevant and authoritative incoming links
- the number of relevant visitors coming to the site
- social signals (likes and shares)
In a perfect world, the world that Google would like us all to live in, is one where a site naturally is built very well, has amazing content that authority sites choose to link to, gets shared by visitors on social media and brings lots of traffic in. This ‘perfect world’ happens on occasion, like when there is an Aldi special buy that draws lots of attention.
Unfortunately, for most business owners in the real world, they don’t have the time to build out amazing content. There aren’t authority sites in their industry looking to link to them. Customers couldn’t care less about what the business is doing on Facebook, let alone share anything from the website. And there is no way to generate viral traffic to their website.
The goal of search engine optimisation, in the real world, is to make a website more attractive to Google than the websites that it is currently ranking in the top 10. Approaching SEO in this way makes ranking on page one much more achievable.
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Winning with SEO Precision and Power
In theory, the approach to SEO is pretty straight forward. It begins with using various SEO tools to gauge the strength of all websites that are currently ranking in the top 10. After the technical analysis is complete it can be determined how much work will be required to out-perform those websites.
Key goals of the SEO campaign will be achieving precision with the content optimisation and building the power of the website with authoritative incoming links.
How Long does SEO Take?
Getting a website ranked in the top 10 for a major search term is a great achievement. The downside is that it takes time- usually several months. Then again, it all depends on where a website is ranked before the SEO starts. In some cases, a small tweak could move a website to page one of the SERPs overnight!
In most cases though, it is a long-term goal with long-term wins. In any case, ranking increases will be seen throughout the course of the campaign. Some improvements could be seen within the first 24 hours of changes being made.
Business owners may decide to pay for Google ads while they are waiting for the SEO to take effect, or they may use other forms of advertising, such as word-of-mouth. There will be very little, if any, business from the SEO campaign until the website reaches the top 10.
How Much Does SEO Cost?
Search engine optimisation requires specialist know-how, various analysis tools, years of experience, and a budget for building authority with relevant backlinks.
Typically, a SEO specialist will charge around $150 per hour for their time. This fee has to cover the cost of their time, as well as the the third-party tools and services they use to supplement the campaign. These overheads can be quite high.
Possibly the most expensive part of SEO is obtaining quality links from authoritative websites. High-quality content needs to be developed and usually a publisher fee is also required. For example, to get one link from a website like Forbes.com could cost over $2000! In most cases though, backlinks can be obtained for $200-$500 each.
How Long Do I Have to Pay for SEO?
Once a site ranks in the top ten, on-going maintenance is usually required. This maintenance involves on-going website updates and linking. The reason for this is owners of competing websites will be trying to get their websites ranked in the top ten. Without on-going maintenance, rankings will inevitably start to slide. In any case, the cost of SEO maintenance will usually be less than the initial monthly cost to get ranked.
How to Identify Shady SEOs
SEO is often referred to as a ‘murky world’. There is very little transparency, many conflicting views, and no regulatory body. In many ways, SEO is still like the Wild West! There are lots of SEO cowboys who recklessly use unethical SEO practices with the hopes of quick and cheap wins. These types of approaches usually involve some kind of brief website optimisation and a cheap and nasty automated link building machine. When things go South, they blame their failure on some Google update or spin some other rubbish.
There are many good SEOs out there though, and these are the ones who are getting results. Due to the many horror stories circulating around about negative SEO experiences, here are a few common signs of shady SEOs.
Many SEO agencies don’t tell their clients what they are doing. When asked, they say they use confidential techniques that they can’t share. While this may be true, the question remains – what loophole are they trying to exploit? Likely, it is not an ethical method and will not have lasting results. In any case, there should be some transparency with what they are doing each month. If there is zero transparency, their only secret is likely that they are not doing anything.
Many digital agencies are artists at pitching upsells as necessities. They may try to convince you that you need to get a new website, a Facebook marketing campaign, or regular content developed each month. All these things can help support an SEO campaign, but 9 times out of 10, they are not necessary to get ranked in the top 10. A good SEO specialist can work with just about anything. There may be other reasons to buy upsells like these. For instance, the poor design of your current website could be affecting conversions and a new website would help get more sales. But if they try telling you it’s necessary for SEO, then get a second opinion before making the investment. In the case of a new website, if the transfer isn’t done properly, all rankings could be lost. (It happens – a lot)
Jack of All Trades – Master of None
An agency that claims to be specialists in everything are usually specialists in nothing. You will get better results by going to a specialist for each aspect of your marketing. Search engine optimisation is a highly-specialised field and the success of a SEO campaign comes down to the person working on the project. Big digital marketing agencies will have click-bait articles and ‘trip-wire’ lead generation tactics (there’s a “big gorilla” down south that does that), slick sales staff on commissions, and a bunch of interns or junior staff doing the actual work. Once locked-in it can be hard to get away, and their fine print protects them from any liability for the carnage that results from their lack of skill. In other words, use a specialist that has experience and proof of great results. Don’t let them convert you with vague testimonials which represent agency results. You want to know exactly who is working on your SEO campaign and what results they personally have achieved in the past.
There are a number of digital agencies which are unskilled and unscrupulous. They prey on the ignorance and innocence of hard-working business owners. They attempt to get control of all digital properties, convincing their clients that it will be easier if all properties are managed by just one company. They want to build the website, host the website, manage the domain, the Google properties, and do the SEO. Once they get control of everything they can lock the business owner out and hold everything to ransom if the business owner ever tries to leave. If the owner does pay to get control of everything again, the cost is usually very high. Once a client moves on, the agency will then remove much of the linking they did for the client’s website and redirect it to a competitor to try and sign them up, or they will setup another website in the same industry and point the links to that. These SEO pirates are everywhere in the industry.
SEO Techniques – The Good, the Bad, and the Shady
Most SEO specialists hold their strategies pretty close to the chest. Since SEO is unregulated and forever changing, each SEO professional is trying desperately to stay ahead of the curve and on top of Google algorithm adjustments. There are, however, a plethora of common techniques that have been used over the years and are likely familiar to all in the SEO community. Some techniques have been tried and tested for years and still work well. These techniques are referred to as ‘white-hat SEO’. Others were developed to exploit loop-holes in the algorithm and are referred to ‘black-hat’ SEO. Most SEO specialists use a mixture of white-hat and black-hat SEO – although few will ever admit it. Google has forced SEO consultants to include techniques that are clearly manipulative. In many cases, using a white-hat-only approach will mean that a site never ranks in the top ten. Google’s algorithm actually rewards black-hat SEO, sometimes more than white-hat SEO.
The skill comes in balancing the use of black-hat methods with white-hat methods, and having full control over them so that they can be removed or adjusted when Google stops responding to them. Get this wrong, and a site could land in big trouble and may never fully recover.
Here is a list of common SEO linking methods:
Private Blog Network (PBNs)
It’s common knowledge the backlinks are a fundamental aspect of SEO. Without links, most sites will never rank. Getting backlinks is really tough sometimes and it can cost a lot of money. Each week there are thousands of domains that expire. Some of these domains have already had years of use and already have backlinks coming to them. Introducing the PBN! SEOs will buy these expired domains and then setup mock websites on them. Then the website will be used to link back to a client’s site. Some SEOs have thousands of websites in their network. Some rankings are supported purely with links from PBNs.
Automated SEO Software
Many SEOs have found using software to create thousands of backlinks to be effective. This kind of linking is rarely done directly to a client’s site as it is quite dangerous. However, these automated links are sent to social properties that are already linking to the client’s site. Clearly, creating thousands of backlinks at the push of a button is a black-hat method. Nowadays, Google is getting very good at identifying these kinds of automated links. They are being used less and less due to diminished results, and in most cases, negative results. If you’ve ever heard of Web Spam – links like these are a classic example.
The SEO world is currently in the era of the guest post. Due to the demise of PBNs and the seeming ineffectiveness of other SEO methods, Guest Posts are really taking off and are branded as white-hat SEO. Guest Posts are articles that are written for legitimate websites owned by others. The articles contain a link that points to the SEO client’s website. These links are usually powerful and relevant. Google’s algorithm seems to respond well to these high quality guest post links. The problem with Guest Posts is that many agencies are submitting articles to the same list of sites, and this is causing them to become a little bit spammy. Since these guest posts are paid for, clearly manipulation is involved. So technically, Guest Posts are a black-hat method. Having said that, they are the whitest black-hat method available. Google will find guest posts very hard to disqualify from their algorithm.
There are certain links that Google expects a business to have. Google understands that businesses like to have their profile listed on various blogging platforms and business directories. There are hundreds of platforms and business directories that businesses can use to showcase their business. Most of these properties will allow a backlink back to the business’ site. These kinds of links are not manipulative – they are just branding and online exposure. The good news is that many of these platforms are high-quality and trusted by Google.
In summary, there are various SEO techniques that are well known in the SEO community, and many more than are listed here. The rabbit hole gets very dark and very deep indeed. Usually, achieving success with SEO depends more on knowing what not to do rather than trying to do everything.
How to Protect Yourself from SEO Bullies
Protecting yourself and your business from digital abuse is vital. Many business owners wouldn’t know where to start. Here are some basic things that can help protect you:
Own and Control your Domain Name
Never let a digital agency take over everything. Buy and control your domain name. You can give them access to the domain registrar to make changes to Name Servers if needed, but never let them transfer your domain name to their domain registrar – especially if they own the registrar! Never let them register a domain on your behalf. If they register it they will own it.
Host your Website Elsewhere
Host your website with a third party not with your web developer or SEO company. You can give them access to your cPanel or hosting if they need it, but don’t let them convince you to move your website over to their hosting. Whoever owns your hosting has ultimate control over your website. When you host with a reputable third-party hosting company, you can easily just change the cPanel or hosting password when you change SEO providers.
Choose a Reliable Website Platform (CMS)
When getting a website developed, you want to make sure that the website platform is one that is easy to work with. Some web developers insist on using their own content management system (CMS). The problem is that you could end up stuck with that developer forever because nobody else knows how to work with their code. Or, they may try to sell a ‘premium’ platform saying that it is more advanced. Advanced platforms are just complicated platforms – rarely better than standard ones. Many websites are built on the WordPress CMS these days. WordPress has various issues, but the pros out-weigh the cons by far. WordPress is relatively easy to use and just about any developer in the world knows how to work with it. Even business owners who know little about web development can do basic things with WordPress. SEO agencies also like WordPress because it makes the optimization of the site easier. Some SEOs won’t take on a client if their site isn’t on WordPress.
Whether you choose WordPress, Wix, Big Commerce, Shopify, Neto, Squarespace, or other mainstream CMS, you should be okay. Avoid custom platforms as well as clunky platforms like Joomla and Drupal. (The sound of these two is enough to make any SEO guy shudder)
SEO KPI ROI – LOL OR OMG
To get an idea of how ROI could be estimated, let’s look at a local example here in Brisbane.
Imagine a web design company wants to start selling SEO services here in Brisbane. They employ a local Brisbane SEO consultant to do market research to find the best performing keywords. The research reveals that the best keyword to go after is ‘SEO Brisbane’ with 3600 average searches per month.
If they ranked their website on page one for SEO Brisbane they could expect at least 360 of these visitors to come by their site and at least 18 could be expected to sign up.
Keep in mind though, that this case study is not entirely realistic. The SEO industry’s keyword search volumes are mostly made up of SEO agencies checking their rankings, not customers looking for SEO services. The irony of it all is that many business owners don’t know what SEO is or how to find it. They know Google – but they don’t know the term ‘SEO’. So the service they need to rank in Google is a service many potential customers don’t know how to find. SEO agencies still compete to rank for those keywords because it’s a sign that they know what they’re doing and that they are better than the rest. At the end of the day though, Google can only rank 1 site #1, and any agency ranked in the top couple of pages should be pretty good. It costs a lot of money for an SEO company to maintain a top ranking for a keyword that brings in little business. However, the case study above still shows how ROI could be calculated in just about any industry.
Get Ranked, Not Spanked
Getting a site ranked in Google naturally carries some risk. Google’s algorithm triggers a range of algorithmic and manual penalties for both on-page and off-page SEO.
A website will get penalised by Google (aka ‘Spanked’) if there is too much keyword optimisation on a page. This is especially true if a page is optimised to rank in a certain geographic location. In these cases, having the city name in the page is important for SEO, but if overdone, Google can apply an over-optimisation penalty and the site will drop.
A website can also be spanked for spammy linking, or even too many keyword anchors. There are many things that could trigger an algorithmic or manual penalty which will result in rankings tanking.
There are a number of very public updates to Google’s algorithm that have resulted in sites losing rankings overnight. Let’s learn about some of them:
A Day at the Google Zoo – Understanding Google Updates
Many of Google’s updates have animal mascots – hence the reference to the Google ‘zoo’. If you’ve lost rankings in recent years it could be because of one of these updates.
The Panda Update: This update was no cuddly little bear – it was more like Kung-Fu Panda on steroids. This update was applied in February 2011 and was aimed at sites with low-quality content. Before this update, many SEOs knew they could get good rankings by keyword-stuffing their pages and filling sites with lame content. Google wants to provide the best UX for users of their search engine, and having horrible content rankign on page 1 was damaging their reputation.
The Penguin Update: Don’t confuse this update to be anything like the cute little animal – it’s more like the evil Penguin from Batman. The Penguin update, released in April 2012, targeted sites using spammy backlinking methods. So many sites got hit with this update it’s not funny. In fact, many aged sites that are ranking now are actually sites that had no SEO done to them before 2012. Penguin used to be applied and reassessed only a few times a year. This made it really difficult for webmasters to know if they had done enough to be released by the evil Penguin. However, Google later made Penguin run in real-time. This means that a site that has been Penguin slapped can be recovered much faster than before.
The Humingbird Update: This little fella was released in 2013 and was made to target content quality, similar to Panda. The difference is that rather than just attack poor-quality content, this update focused on natural language usage and contextual meaning more than individual keywords.
The Possum Update: This update was actually named by the SEO community – not Google. This was a major update that landed in September 2016. It was aimed at local business rankings – specifically rankings in Google Maps. It was called the Possum update because it seemed like some businesses’ map rankings had disappeared. Google hadn’t removed them, instead they were being filtered out of the results, playing dead.
Other Updates: There are a number of other notable updates from Google such as Rank Brain and the Fred update.
Here's More Information on my SEO Services and Processes
On-Page SEO is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. Without proper on-page optimisation, a site will not rank well. If a site is under-optimised it may not rank as high as it could if optimised properly. If a site is over-optimised it could get an algorithmic penalty and get stuck on page 2 or 3 of the search engines.
There are many parts of a website that need to be fine-tuned such as:
- URL Structure
- Content Structure
- Performance (Speed and User Experience)
- Meta Tags
- Schema markup
The on-page SEO is always the very first thing we do when launching an SEO campaign. However, it’s very unlikely that a website will rank purely due to on-page SEO. Off-page SEO is also needed.
Off-Page SEO is the process of building authority for a website. This authority is built up using backlinks. A backlink is made when one website links to another. I use a range of methods to acquire safe and ethical backlinks from powerful websites. As the authority of your website increases, your rankings will increase too.
I build backlinks using the following sources and methods:
- Premium Media
- Press Releases
- Social Properties
- Guest Posts
- Business Directories
Building backlinks the wrong way is the main cause of ranking penalties. My SEO methods are safe and effective because I use high-quality linking sources combined with the right anchor text ratios.
SEO Authority Link Building
Some companies already have an optimized website, and simply need link building. Using Webgator to build up your website’s authority is a great choice. Our methods are safe, scale-able, and powerful. Before we begin the back-linking campaign, we do a complete audit of the current links that are pointing the site and examine the anchor text ratios. With this data we can form a linking strategy.
The back-links we acquire vary depending on the strategy we are using. Since not all back-links are built equal, and some are much more costly to acquire than others, we simply work along with whatever budget you give us to work with.
There are several reasons why you should use Webgator SEO Brisbane to manage your back-linking:
- We are experienced SEO specialists with a great track record
- We don’t use shady or automated back-linking strategies
- We use a technical SEO approach
- Our back-linking strategies are safe and powerful
- We can scale up or down depending on budget and KPI goals
If you are interested in using our back-linking service, you can purchase them directly from us in whatever quantity you need.
SEO Penalty Removal
This type of penalty appears in the Google Search Console (AKA Webmaster Tools) under ‘Manual Actions’. It means that a Google employee has visited a website and found that either the backlink profile is spammy or the website itself is misleading or unsafe in some way. These types of penalties point us in the right direction so we know what needs to be done to get the penalty removed.
This type of penalty is the most difficult to solve as we don’t know for sure what has caused it. It could be over-optimisation on the website, spammy backlinks, or a bad anchor text ratio. Since there is no notification from Google regarding an algorithmic penalty, we need to do some research into the health of the site to see if a penalty is likely being applied to the site.
I suspect a site has an algorithmic penalty if it:
- is an aged site (at least 1 year old), and
- already has enough content, and
- has a backlink profile which seems more powerful than the sites ranking above it, and
- has already had SEO done to it, and
- can’t get past page 3 for the target keyword
My Penalty Removal Process
Removing a penalty can take as little as 1 week or as long as many months – it just depends on the extent of the damage and how quickly we can locate the issue. Once the issue is fixed, and the site resubmitted to Google, it can take a few weeks for the rankings to start improving again.
Do you think your site has a penalty? I would be happy to help you with this. Simply fill out the standard quote form and indicate your concerns in the ‘additional information’ section.
If you’re looking for a real Brisbane SEO Specialist to handle your SEO campaign, please get in touch with me. I’lll do up a video analysis of your website and give you an idea of how much it will cost to do SEO on your site.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you!