Showing up high in Google search results is a goal of many small businesses. But using questionable search-engine optimization (SEO) practices to achieve that goal can backfire on you.
Rap Genius, a site with $15 million in funding that lets users share and comment on lyrics to popular songs, was penalized by Google earlier this week after it was revealed that the company was using questionable practices to inflate its Google Page Rankings for particular artists. Tech industry insider John Marbach wrote about how Rap Genius had started an “affiliate program” and was asking bloggers (including himself) via Facebook to post links to Justin Bieber song lyric pages in exchange for “massive traffic.”
After reading Marbach’s blog post about Rap Genius’s “growth hack” SEO tactics, Google investigated the accusation and ultimately decided to penalize the lyrics site. It no longer appears at the top of Google search results for coveted phrases like “rap lyrics” or “Justin Bieber.”
“It’s surprising to me that RapGenius, a company with $15 million in financing, would openly execute such a frugal strategy for their link-building efforts,” Marbach wrote. “There are many consulting firms and savvy internet marketers that specialize in this work.”
The situation should serve as a lesson to small-business owners. Google is on the lookout for web sites trying to game their algorithms and artificially inflate their search rankings. But if you go too far in your efforts to achieve stellar SEO, you might end up paying for it—and even losing all the search traffic you generated legitimately.
Businesses also need to be careful about who they hire to handle their SEO. Some consultants may be tempted to use dubious SEO practices in order to improve a company’s search rankings and, in turn, boost their own reputation. It’s important to ask any SEO firm you hire detailed questions about what practices they plan to use to drive up your website’s ranking .
You want a consultant who strictly follows Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, which prohibits 12 common SEO practices, such as creating spammy content and adding hidden text and links on your pages.
“If a site has been affected by a spam action, it may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google's partner sites,” Google warns webmasters.
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