Are you tired of receiving unsolicited emails from “local SEO experts” promising to boost your website’s ranking?
Well, buckle up because if one of these self-proclaimed experts promises to use “Black Hat” techniques as if they are a magic solution to your visibility issues, you better start sprinting in the opposite direction. And no, it’s not because they’re wearing socks with sandals or have a questionable mustache (although those are also red flags).
Improving your local online presence is important, and to do that, you may consider turning to a local SEO expert for help. Local search engine optimization experts specialize in optimizing a business’s online presence to improve its visibility and search engine rankings in local search results. In other words, when nearby potential customers pull out their phones and type a service or product they need into Google, they are more likely to see your website listed in the search results.
Sounds perfect, right? Yes and no. There are different tools and techniques a local SEO company can use to improve how your small business fares in search engine results, there is one strategy in particular that a local SEO consultant should NEVER use.
If a local SEO expert uses “Black Hat” techniques in an effort to get you results faster, RUN! It’s time to find another local SEO agency that will help you increase your visibility on the web. Here’s what makes “Black Hat” techniques so dangerous to your business, and the tools a local SEO expert should use instead to optimize your website.
What Are Black Hat Techniques?
Black Hat SEO, or spamdexing, is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexing in order to get faster results when attempting to improve a website’s search engine ranking.
Some signs that a marketing agency is using Black Hat techniques are if they offer to:
- Cloak your site, or show a visitor one piece of content and the search engine something else
- Provide multiple redirects, leaving people to think they are going to one place but are instead sent somewhere else
- Create content farms or thousands of websites filled with inferior content for the sole purpose of creating backlinks
- Use computer-generated content, which often has distracting wording, boring language or numerous typos. The launch of ChatGPT may be changing this option, but the jury is still out on how Google will handle AI-generated content in their search results.
- Keyword Stuffing is when an agency fills a page with similar keywords in an effort to rank in multiple search engines. As a general rule of thumb, the main keyword should only be mentioned in approximately 1% of the total amount of content on the page. So if you have a 1,000-word article, the main keyword should be mentioned around 10 times.
These techniques violate search engine guidelines, though some agencies still use them in order to produce results more quickly for their clients. It’s a huge mistake in the long run to use these tactics. We’ll dive into why in the next section.
Why Are Black Hat Techniques Bad For Business?
Black Hat SEO is a surefire way of giving your website a bad reputation in real life, on social media and with Google. And, while “Black Hat” techniques can give your site some short-term gains, they ultimately will cause tremendous harm to your website’s domain authority.
Here are four reasons why “Black Hat” techniques should be avoided at all costs:
- Penalties: Search engines constantly update their algorithms to detect and penalize websites that use “Black Hat” techniques. When a website is caught, it can result in penalties such as a drop in search engine ranking, lower visibility or even a complete removal from search results.
- Reputation: Using “Black Hat” techniques can harm a business’s reputation and credibility. Customers may view the website as untrustworthy or spammy, leading to a decrease in customer trust and ultimately, a loss of business.
- Short-term gains: While “Black Hat” techniques may yield short-term gains in search engine ranking, the benefits are often short-lived. Once search engines catch on to the manipulation, the website will experience a drop in ranking or removal from search results, resulting in a loss of traffic and potential customers.
- Lack of sustainability: “Black Hat” techniques are not sustainable in the long term. Search engines are constantly evolving, and using black hat techniques means that a business is always playing catch-up to avoid penalties rather than focusing on building a solid and sustainable online presence.
What SEO Tools Should An Expert Use Instead?
A local SEO company will primarily focus on using SEO strategy by engaging in two primary activities:
- On-page optimizations, such as your website design and content
- Off-page optimizations like link building, which is the process of getting external pages to link to your website
Google uses both on-page and off-page optimizations to evaluate your website’s credibility, relevance to a search and the quality of user experience. Local SEO services consist of the following actions:
- Researching and analyzing your website, taking a look at how your website is performing currently
- Looking at other competitors of yours to see what’s working for their websites
- Performing a keyword analysis to see what your potential customers may be typing into search engines
- Optimizing items on your website, such as titles, meta descriptions, keywords and themes, to increase the click-through rate, time spent on page and number of pages viewed
- Determining whether the language on your website is clear, targeted and concise
- Analyzing how fast your website is and if it’s secure
- Taking a look at backlinks and whether they are helpful to your website traffic
- Providing you with regular SEO reports
- Determining what results you can expect with the budget that you have
In addition to SEO, the best agency team will use additional tools like traffic analytics to examine where your traffic (and your top competitors’ traffic) comes from, how it arrives and how long it stays. Agencies should also incorporate heat maps into their analysis. These allow you to understand what’s drawing visitors’ eyes and where they are spending their time so that you can conversion rate optimize (CRO) each page.
It’s also important to consider a local SEO expert who thinks beyond bringing potential customers to your website. The best local SEO agencies will have a plan in place to convert the customers they help bring to your site.
To achieve this, your local SEO strategy should be one component of a complete marketing plan. A comprehensive marketing strategy focuses on five fundamentals:
- Contacts: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology manages contacts and understands the whole buyer’s journey.
- Buyer Personas: It’s critical to know who your ideal customers are so that you know who you are targeting with your SEO strategy.
- Buyer’s Journey: This involves understanding how people go from being strangers to leads to delighted customers who spend more and tell their friends.
- Content: SEO and content go hand-in-hand. However, content must be well-researched and of high value. Once a SEO strategy brings visitors to your website, you need to be able to offer something of high value to move a potential customer along in the buyer’s journey.
- Goals: To make progress, you must set SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
SEO marketing is just one part of a complete digital marketing plan. Digital marketing strategies include everything that encompasses your online presence, from content marketing to email marketing, social media marketing, pay-per-click and SEO.
In other words, digital marketing companies do everything an SEO company does, but as part of a comprehensive strategy. A digital marketing agency also tends to be a larger inbound marketing company that is able to offer you the resources you need to implement a successful marketing strategy, including software that would cost you significantly more if you purchased each license individually.
When looking for the best local SEO company, choose a company that not only has a proven process but takes the time to ask the right questions to understand your local business and audience better. One additional sign that you’re working with a top company is if it uses the same process for its own business.
Bill is the CEO and Founder of InTouch Marketing. Bill drives the vision and direction of InTouch except when England's playing in a soccer tournament, because everything stops!