In the first part of this series, we explored SEO tactics that many online retailers are implementing within the body content of their site. These “black hat” tactics, whether the retailers know it or not, were previously used years ago by search marketers and are now considered spam.
Here, let’s focus on common hyperlink SEO strategies that will also result in penalties from Google.
Links that don’t stand out from the surrounding unlinked text are considered hidden. This includes hyperlinks that are the same color as the background of the page, not underlined or that originate from the odd period or dash.
Many online retailers try to hide links because they want to control the shopper click path or minimize the distracting look of hyperlinked text within a paragraph.
The best solution is to map out a sensible (and visible) click path for your shoppers. Shoppers are more likely to stay on your site longer if they’re able to easily navigate and explore.
If the look of embedded links in content bothers you, then implement micro-navigation menus specific to the page.
If you’re a site owner, you’ve more than likely received an email from a webmaster offering to put your link on their website if you’ll return the favor.
This is web spam, and you shouldn’t participate in swapping links because often your link will be one of many various links on a webpage called /links.html.
Many online retailers seeking SEO services are told they need to buy backlinks from link brokers, directories and content syndication services to increase their page rank. The theory is that “higher page rank means more rankings.” What they’re really saying is, “Trick the search engines into believing your site has more authority than it really does.”
Google’s Penguin algorithm is quick to figure out the difference between a paid link and a link acquired because of genuine admiration or partnership. A Penguin penalty (not a manual spam action) will usually look like a slow erosion of traffic volume.
To remedy a link penalty, contact the webmaster to remove your paid link from their site. Ask blog owners and press release sites to add the “rel=no follow” tag to links pointing to your site. Also be sure to keep an updated Disavow file.
If you want more link participation in social media, create meaningful online conversations about your company and products, use an editorial calendar to stay on top of your social media efforts and engage with your customers and business community. There’s nothing quite as viral as goodwill.
Whether you’re a search marketing old-timer or newbie, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all the spam practices Google recognizes. You don’t want to repeat past mistakes (even if they weren’t yours).
I like to point online retailers to the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines, as they’re most thorough. These guidelines cover all spam tactics — old-school and new-school — disliked by Google.