SEO Strategies and Scams

Nov 06, 2007

You've seen the (unsolicited) ads: Your website on Google page one search results for $99--Guaranteed!

I'm sure you wonder how they do it, what services they offer, and if they have any tricks that might actually be valuable for you. Well, before you fork over $99, the basic trick is that you are banking on the fact that a search will be for a specific keyword, phrase, or phrases.

When a given search phrase includes your brand, you may have improved your chances of attracting potential clients and customers. When the search is your brand, those chances might be a lot better. But you will get those improvements if--and only if--your brand is known independently of the SEO trick.

When the phrase generically describes your products, you are very likely to increase your traffic and your rate of conversion of visits to real sales. But if--and only if--web surfers are likely to enter that particular phrase. The content you offer about your product is key, but so is understanding how people will search for products like yours, so you can match keywords on your site with their searches.

Gaming the System and Playing Nice
Part of the game the SEO scammers play is to find popular keywords and embed them in your web pages. It's called keyword stuffing. Don't get me wrong, however: If the keywords are really in your content, this is quite legitimate.

To show you how to play the game, without charging you a penny, let's develop a strategy for a hypothetical SEO provider who wants to attract more clients:

First get yourself a Google AdWords account, which provides an analysis of your web pages, telling you its most popular keywords that appear to be relevant to your page. Our new site will want to include obvious terms like search, optimization, SEO, keyword, etc. (Note that an SEO expert would help you to use those keywords in meaningful ways in your content.)

SEO scammers will take this to the extreme, by assembling odd combinations of these keywords until they find search phrases that return your website on page one of the search results. They may embed the selected phrases in your pages, sometimes making the font white on a white page, so they are not visible to people browsing, but are seen by the search engines.

The engines give highest weight to visible elements like the page title, the first and second level heading text, and the opening text of a paragraph. They will read your meta="description" tag. They will be especially happy if your site has a robots.txt file and a sitemap.xml file to tell them what’s important and changing frequently on your site. And they have a special place for domains with the keyword in the name.

The Name Game
So next we look for a clever unregistered domain name as our company name, say How did we come up with this? First we enter a candidate name into Google Search. If we find one that produces no search results, we will be unique. SEO-123-GO produces no results as I write this column, but it will be very different a few days after this column appears. As EContent's site pages are highly ranked and crawled frequently by the engines, SEO-123-GO will soon be in the Google database.

Since names are so low cost, I actually purchased and will put up a web page with this article. I will add links to my other articles and websites and a few resource links to great SEO reference pages. You will be able to see that Google will list it first in search results for the unusual site name.

Google has monetized the lexical space with its AdWords program, which sells keywords and phrases to the highest bidder for placement in Google search results. But, and this a big but affecting the cost of your AdWords campaign, Google charges you based on the "quality score" of your web page. Quality score is Google's judgment of the relevance of your page for those searching the target phrase.

Google is being responsible to its true customer base, not advertisers but those using the Google search engine. Google makes trolling for customers with bait and switch keywords very expensive. And if they decide you are keyword stuffing they may actually de-list your site

So it is best to find a good playbook to optimize your site, instead of trying to game the system. Just follow the best practice advice in books on search engines like David George's ABC of SEO, Fredrick Marckini's Search Engine Positioning, or SEO for Dummies by Peter Kent.

The bottom line is to create sites with valuable content full of the keywords you might purchase as Google AdWords. They will cost you more than the $99 the scammers charge. But just keep experimenting until your purchased words produce more sales (profits actually) than they cost you. Your best search result is a better bottom line.