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Good and Bad Sides of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Good and Bad Sides of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Sep 27 2016

The 'dark art' of search engine optimization (SEO)

Now that Star Wars has recently been rebooted, I can't help but think of Search Engine Optimization's light side and dark side - that is, good and bad SEO practices. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has an interesting reputation. I am no longer surprised to hear people express their rather dubious opinion of how someone can purposefully get a website to the top of search results.

As if doing so were accomplished by some mystical, nefarious “trick.”
I get it. It does seem strange. And what doesn’t help is the fact that it’s not exactly uncommon for people to have experience with an SEO marketer who:
  • Seems little more than a shady salesman
  • Only exaggerates the impression of SEO as a dark art in hopes of making an impression
  • Positions himself as the technological expert, babbling on in techno-jargon that most people don’t’ understand
True story: When I was first introduced to an SEO marketer some years back and asked the marketer how he did it, he replied, “I work my magic,” and then proceeded to spew out a slew of terms I had never heard.

Case in point for all of the bullet points above. It reminds me of an insecure student I went to college with who tried to impress people by regurgitating strings of “academia hot words” in contexts that made no sense.

And while in-depth SEO does require some very specific technical knowledge, it's not exactly shrouded in mystery.

Philosophy of the SEO light side

The light side of SEO holds ranking highly in search results as a “byproduct” rather than the end goal. Quality SEO practices drive for three things:

  1. SEO marketing is a sustainable, long term online marketing strategy
  2. Ranking highly on search results is a product of connecting relevant people to relevant content
  3. Basically, the best SEO practices are all high quality content management

Things like writing quality blogs, creating interesting infographics, engaging social media management, and so forth.

Quality SEO practices acknowledge that there are no quick fixes, that good SEO practices *always* take time, and that if done right the search engine results will speak for themselves – it is why SEO is profitable for many businesses.

Good SEO practices also don’t need to “worry” about changes in SEO because good SEO practices do not cater their strategy to Google’s algorithm.

Philosophy of the SEO dark side

It’s unfortunate that companies DO have to be wary – there ARE SEO companies with very substandard SEO practices that end up hurting companies. Such companies have three very basic philosophies:
  1. Rank highly on Google search results by whatever means possible
  2. Figure out and exploit Google’s ranking factors
  3. Get to #1 search result ranking as soon as possible
It is for such practitioners that Google has to continually sharpen its algorithm and try to penalize dark side SEO websites. It is also why some articles are quick to decry the "truth" about SEO as purely a manipulative practice, while totally ignoring the other side of things.

A good example of the dark side is several years ago when “dark” SEO practitioners were “back link stuffing” – which means that they were putting links to their website on as many other websites as possible, regardless of the quality or relevancy of such sites – in order to very quickly trick Google into thinking that site was:
  • Popular
  • And an authority
Of course, when Google changed their algorithm to penalize irrelevant link stuffing, the unfortunate victims whose external SEO company was using this tactic to keep them afloat at high search ranking were penalized into irreparable oblivion – indeed even banned from Google’s search results.
Talk about years of wasted money. Such companies had to totally begin anew.

Viewing SEO simply as a means to be #1 will inevitably always lead to problems later on. It may quickly skyrocket results momentarily, but quality SEO is a long term strategy and the dark side will always come back to haunt businesses.

Telling the difference is simply a matter of asking questions and seeing where the values line up.
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