Fatal strategies to sink your shop site into oblivion

Fatal strategies to sink your shop site into oblivion

If you’re reading up about how to get your ecommerce website higher in the search engines, you need to be very careful about what you’re reading. How up to date and relevant is the advice that you are reading? That’s because in the past year (and more importantly in the last few months) Google has waged war on many of the pillars of traditional search engine marketing. Under ranking formula updates code-named after animals like Penguins and Pandas, their changes have obsoleted many of the frequently used search engine marketing tactics of many search engine companies.

This means that even if you have a search engine optimisation (SEO) company doing the work for you, you should be reading the latest thinking and really understand what is driving rankings. That understanding will not only help you keep your supplier in check, but it will also help you ensure that your other marketing efforts are complementing your search marketing. Integrated marketing tactics that all work together lead to a more cohesive message going into the marketplace.

Playing by the rules in search engine marketing speak is known as using “white hat” tactics (white for good). If you don’t play by the rules, you risk turning your website into a modern day version of the Titanic.

So what are the tactics that you should definitely avoid?

Trading for links is at the forefront of Google’s war on spam, and understanding what types of paid links the search engines are targeting will help you choose places where you wish to list your business.

What Google is trying to stamp out are websites offering links to “anyone who asks”, with no quality control on who is listed and who is not. Blog sites with “sites of interest” where the sites listed aren’t interesting or endorsed by the content owners of the site would be classic examples.

Buying a link on these sites where a listing is essentially open to anyone could lead to issues for your search engine rankings. This is because the site will list anyone no matter what the quality of their website: from sleazy porn sites, to casinos, to spam software providers. If too many “bad” sites list on a website alongside yours, you are effectively tarnished by association because that link just won’t count. Which can ultimately hurt your search engine ranking.

When evaluating a site you might want to be on, you should look at:

  • Whether the listing is free or paid AND
  • Whether there is any quality control on the site AND
  • Whether humans actually use the directory to find things.

The complicating factor is that not every link that you pay for is necessarily bad if there is an element of quality involved in obtaining that listing. For example, a high quality business directory offering a featured listing (that is subject to a quality review before being accepted) would be an example of a link that could help build your business profile that might not be frowned on by the search engines – as you couldn’t get the listing if you didn’t deserve it. You’re paying to apply for a site review to be considered by the business directory. It’s not a given you’ll get in, or get a featured listing.

Meta tag keyword stuffing

This is not a linking technique but an obsolete tactic worth mentioning.

In the old days, search engines used “keyword meta tags” to find out what to expect from a page – to help them index it. So you wrote your page and then put the main things your site was about (kind of like an index) into the source code of the page so the search engines could index the page more effectively. Unfortunately, this facility was heavily abused by some marketers who did not understand what this tag was for – they filled their keywords full of with every possible variation of the search phrases that people might use to find their site.

The main search engines do not even use meta keywords at all, they index the actual content on the page. So there’s no point to using this tag – it’s a waste of time.

Image tag keyword stuffing

Another place shop owners stuff keywords is into the “title” tags and “alt” tags on product images. Just don’t do it is the strongest advice we can give!

Offering rewards in return for links

Incentivising others to link back to you, or denying you access to all of the site’s features if you don’t is a violation of Google’s Webmaster tools according to the latest statements made by Google’s John Mueller via their Webmaster Forum.  Some payment gateways and search engine marketing companies use techniques like this (offering you discounts in return for links, or requiring a permanent follow link back to their website in order to use their service) so watch out. It won’t help you, and ultimately it won’t help them either.

Exchanging links

Even if you’re not paying for links or being incentivised for them, an agreement to exchange links between websites (once the rage in search engine marketing) is no longer very useful. Often the other site you are linking to has no direct relevance to your site, and the website owner might not even know who you are. If you are going to exchange links, make sure you have a business reason to do so: for example, between industry partners, or sites that you run.

Getting all your links from the same (type of) place

If all your links come from the same website then the diversity of links to your website is not considered to be very high by the search engines and those links will ultimately count for less. You now also have to consider the spread of your links in terms of the types of sources they come from. If all of your links come from blogs, and nowhere else then your link popularity is also considered to be less by Google which can also count against you. You can’t just get links from the same type of place (be it directories, blogs, social media, news) any more. You need to seek to build your profile from a number of places.

Getting links from low quality places or from unrelated industry websites

There’s no point in getting 10,000 links from a “link blast” you saw advertised on some web page or from a search engine marketing company. It won’t help you. The volume of links doesn’t matter any more, it’s the quality of those links. One link from the home page of an industry association would probably count for more than all of those 10,000 links. You’re best off to look for links that are relevant to your industry.

Using the same words on your links

If all your links have the same sentence structure and same words on the link, then it’s pretty obvious to the search engines that the point of the link is not a co-incidental referral of the site by the site’s owner, but a deliberate attempt to improve search engine rankings. If links to your site are not varied in terms of the words used and sentences that surround them, then those links run the risk of not counting towards your final tally of relevant links, and therefore ultimately affecting your rankings.

Experts seem to believe that somewhere around your target search phrase comprising no more than 60% of the words used in the total number of links back to your site as an acceptable number. But as stated at the top of this post, you need to keep up to date, as this could change at any time. If it changed to a maximum of 50% tomorrow, how would your site be affected? Only Google knows the exact weighting at which their ranking formula will start devaluing your site, so you are best off playing it safe and varying your link texts widely.

Useless comments in blogs

There’s no point in putting in a comment on a blog that is only there to boost your search engine rankings. Google can detect those now, so don’t waste your time with dodgy programs that can create tens of thousands of profile links and comments on blogs you haven’t read. If your comments make sense and are relevant then they’re valuable and your link could count, but blogs that accept comments from anyone no matter who they are and what they say are as useless to your marketing efforts as paying for links in bad places.

Posting articles on low quality article directories or blog networks

A popular method of building up links to your site used to be writing an article about your topic area and submitting it to article directories that would publish your article with a link back to your site many times over. The total directory therefore had little substance or value, and with no editorial guidelines came no editorial quality. This technique is a waste of your time and just a way for you to spend some time writing an article that will never give you any real benefit.

By a similar token, blog sites that accepted posts without any relevancy to their site’s topic or any quality control before publication were recently heavily penalised by Google.

By all means write articles but post them to quality locations or submit them to actual publications with high traffic, where you can be properly attributed for your effort.

So where do you find out what you can do?

One great places to find out more about ethical “white hat” link building strategies for your online shop (besides this blog) is to hear it from Google themselves via the Google Webmaster Academy. If you haven’t already I suggest you try that out.

Ozcart Ecommerce

Ozcart has been in business since 2006 and is an online, hosted shopping cart that you can use for your current or new online store. We offer so many features for the same low price. In fact, we are addicted to adding new ones to ensure that we remain one of the best choices for a shopping cart. https://ozcart.com

No Comments

Post A Comment