SEO strategy, the right approach for you and it’s consequences

So you’ve heard of black hat SEO and you’ve heard of white hat SEO and then there’s the middle ground you push the boundaries on what is good practice white hat safe stuff. In case the difference escapes you here’s a brief overview,

The premise with black hat SEO is get ranking at all costs, via things like link pyramids, wheels and countless other service you can buy on certain 5 dollar service sites nowadays. They include link spamming blocks adding to wiki’s and creating profiles on forums that contain very little info except a link with anchor text and possibly the same copied description on another five hundred sites. Unless it’s spun into indecipherable paragraphs which may have started with good intentions but make little to no sense now.

The white hat approach SEO, this includes things like building relationships with other bloggers via commenting, producing link worthy content that people want to share and building a following on social media platforms to help you do it. It’s a relationship based strategic approach that involves finding the right partners in your niche to work with. Working hard onsite to make your pages legible and encouraging interaction and engagement.

The grey hat SEO approach can involve things like purchasing expired domains within your niche with pre-existing links to them and consequently page ranking. Redeveloping the content for the site and then pointing the content to your own site. Effectively this means building a highly targeted link pyramid based on a few specific domains you own and control. It’s hat because whilst you own the domains and produce the content, the specific purpose of these sites is purely to build ranking and therefore not search engine friendly.

So here we are three paragraphs in and I haven’t even mentioned Google, I hate to say but someone has to. when I talk about SEO I generally mean Google or Google properties like YouTube, this is who most SEO’s are targeting and so that’s what we must try to appease. So in case it’s escaped you over the last could of years the big G has got more and more content orientated driving it’s focus away from anchor text and links to greater quality of pages. Everything from page loading speed to bounce rate has a greater place in modern SEO which has led to the growth of the UX or user experience industry.

So now you have the context lets focus on the consequences of each strategy. Black hat can cause a big surge in initial rankings but if/when you get caught out, the damage can take far longer to remove. Get sites that you may not have access to or be able to get hold of to take down negative links is time consuming, I should I made the mistake of testing out some cheap and cheerful SEO tactics on one of my own sites an iPad app review blog. The result big surges in traffic on every post and the initial surge was worthwhile, but the link network got shut down and the rankings never recovered, I’d wasted my time, money and effort for a short term gain before the Google Panda update. Now my approach is more pragmatic, working on producing good content and building a bigger audience, the white hat approach. Personally the grey hat approach appeals but it wouldn’t be something I’d feel comfortable recommending.

A great quote I heard at a lecture only this evening:
“If your business depends on Google ranking, then you haven’t got a business” Ian Hopkins

In the end the strategy you choose will be based on a variety of things from budget to which SEO guy talks the best game the most important thing is to recognise the effect of the strategy you choose. Make sure the SEO’s explain exactly what they intend to do so you don’t get caught out.

Let me know what you think by commenting below.

Using Google Trends to help future proof your business

When you are planning your content, do you consider whether your customers will be as interested in your product in a month a year, may be even three years time. It’s all too easy as a small business owner to loose site of the bigger picture and assume that the products and services we sell today will be as valuable to people in the future.  The consequences can make or break a business so having some understanding of future trends is critical.

Since 2004 Google has shared it’s data on trends through it’s Google Trends service (previously insights for search).

Google Trends Home Page

The process is simple, go to www.google.com/trends/, insert a keyword or phrase and you will be presented with a graph of popularity an upwards trend indicates an increase in popularity, downwards trends show declines and so on and so forth. 100 is the peak point on any search trend shows when it was most popular.

When it comes to keyword research for Google Adwords campaigns, blog articles, website content or planning a marketing video, using the Google Trends tool should be part and parcel of your armoury. We start by using the keyword planner tool in Adwords to define the keyword volumes then once we’ve found the terms that fit our criteria, we move to the trends to see how promising they are over the longer term. 

For example the recent popularity of infographics demonstrates an upward trend and therefore, not only a piece of content that is valuable in itself but also something that appears to have longevity.

There are other benefits to including the indication of seasonal trends. Below is the trend for the phrase “Garden Tools” in the UK you can clearly see the peaks during April and May would signal a Garden accessory company to boost the maximise the spend on there Adwords budget during these months.

There are however some trends that tell you next to nothing in many cases because they aren’t trends, or there is no obvious correlations (in fact trend is probably the wrong word to use in these cases. These tend to be with keywords and phrases with low search volume, so the longer the search term therefore the less searches and the greater the swings and the less obvious the pattern. See below with this search for flyer printing.

The value of trend analysis goes beyond simply keywords to strategic planning and marketing strategies. Predicting how your product will be searched is an art not a science but doing it always pays dividends.

Do you use Google Trends in your marketing and if so how?