Black Hat SEO — The Honey Trap for Small Business Owners

Black Hat SEO — The Honey Trap for Small Business Owners

If you know your Western movie tropes, you know how the symbolism works: The guys in the white hats are the good guys. They do things the right way, even if it isn’t easy. The guys in the black hats are the bad guys. They do things the easy way — and it always seems as if they’ve got the upper hand because the easy way does work — for a while.

But the guys in the white hats always come out on top in the end because — sooner or later — the bad habits of the guys in the black hats come back to haunt them.

Well, search engine optimization (SEO) has its black hats and white hats, too. And just like in the movies, you’d better place your money on the guys in the white hats to win because those “black hat” SEO tactics are doomed.

What is Black Hat SEO, Anyway?

Good search engine optimization techniques take time. The algorithms that Google uses are complicated, sophisticated structures and they aren’t easily fooled — especially for long. However, there are SEO methods and companies out there that promise things like “SEO hacks to boost your rankings overnight.” They know the tricks that will temporarily fool the search engine crawlers into providing you with a higher rank in the search engine results pages.

But these kinds of results won’t last. Not only that, they can harm your business in the long run.

What are Black Hat SEO Tactics?

It might be easiest to define black hat SEO by explaining what it isn’t. Black hat SEO isn’t good content that actually helps the consumer or viewer learn something, discover something or feel entertained. Black hat SEO isn’t the process of carefully building quality backlinks and a strong foundation through your social media networks. Instead, black hat SEO consists of:

1. Keyword Stuffing

Taking a particular keyword and filling up an entire page of content with those keywords in random, irrelevant places. The text usually feels like spam and the reader feels cheated — because it is spam and they are being cheated.

2. Doorway Pages

These are pages that just link you to more pages full of irrelevant content and links that don’t mean anything to the reader. They’re confusing, frustrating, and — again — more spam. They create a lot of backlinks, but they’re basically useless to the viewer.

3. Buying Backlinks

There are all kinds of websites that will sell you a backlink to your site — but when they have no relation to what you are offering, the connection is hollow and they aren’t earning you any kind of quality leads or connections.

4. Cloaking

This is the practice of delivering content that’s geared to the spiders that search engines use to crawl the web and put pages in categories, without regard to the actual people that might be reading those pages.

What are the Dangers of Black Hat SEO?

We called black hat tactics a “honey trap” because what it does seems like a sweet deal at first. The shift of focus from the end-user to the search engine can give your business a temporary boost in the search engine results page that feels great — until:

1. You Get Penalized by Google

Well, frankly, all the search engines will eventually penalize you, but Google can be particularly rough. Just like the bad guys in a Western movie, your short-sighted antics can get you kicked straight out of Dodge City in the end. Once Google catches on to your tricks — and it will catch on — your website can be dropped really low in the search results or banned entirely. Good luck finding customers then.

2. You Lose Credibility With Your Clients

As a small business owner, you need the trust and respect of your customers or clients if you want to grow. You aren’t going to gain their allegiance with a lot of spam. You need to be seen as an expert in your field — not another annoying website they have to sift through to find anything of value.

3. Your Return on Investment Will Plummet

Quality content really is king — and that’s been the rule in online marketing from the start. You can get a meteoric rise overnight from the money you pour into black hat SEO, but your long-term search engine results page rankings depend on the quality of the content you’re putting out there. Eventually, you stand to lose more than you invested.

4. You Can Lose Your Current Customers

Think about your own buying habits for a second. What happens if you start going to a website that becomes unwieldy, full of spam, and difficult to navigate? You bounce right out of there and search for a similar product or service elsewhere. That’s exactly what’s going to happen to your business if your customers see your pages filled up with spammy black hat SEO content.

Wrapping it Up

As a small business, you definitely don’t want to end up penalized for bad, black hat SEO when you’re putting out a good product and delivering good service. You simply can’t afford to forget that your online presence is very much part of your overall reputation these days.

Yes, white hat SEO takes time. It doesn’t promise — or deliver — immediate results. But it does build your business a solid foundation on the internet and a social presence that will help your business grow and define itself. The guys in the white hats always win — trust us.

How to Add SEO to Your Website for Maximum Impact

How to Add SEO to Your Website for Maximum Impact

Many people think of SEO as content to improve rankings and, more specifically, the keywords you add to this content. This is only partially correct. Whereas content and keywords are a major part of SEO, there is much more to optimization. For the best results, you need to infuse SEO into your entire site.

1. Change Your Approach to Keywords

Instead of looking at keywords in isolation, think about search intent. Choose topics according to what kind of information users are seeking. With intent in mind, choose appropriate search queries — rather than performing keyword research first and then fitting content around the terms.

In addition, use better keywords. Whereas long-tail keywords do see better performance, too long is ineffective. For this reason, you should keep terms to no longer than four words.

2. Increase Inbound Linking

Publishing great content and expecting users to find it is a recipe for disappointment. You need to take action to improve the visibility of your content. One way to do this is with inbound linking. The trick is to find people who are willing to link to your content.

Run a few Google searches using your main keyword plus “best resources,” or something similar. Use the results to gather the contact details of bloggers and industry experts with popular online articles. Send each of them a short message, mentioning your content and asking them to check it out. There’s no need to directly request them to link to your post — if your content is relevant and high quality, it is beneficial for others to give you an inbound link. After all, it will improve their SEO, too.

3. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Good news for those struggling to meet their content publishing goals: there’s no need to be posting new content constantly. Google does not use publishing frequency as a ranking factor. Quality of content is far more important.

One thing you do need to focus on is releasing longer pieces of content. This will give you the chance to delve deeper into topics — to show the full extent of your knowledge and present yourself as an expert. Plus, you’ll be able to answer a number of queries in a single post. Both of these contribute to better SEO.

4. Delete Duplicate Content

Duplicate content could be negatively impacting your SEO. If your business is in quite a specific niche, it is easy to run out of ideas and start covering the same topic more than once. This is a particular risk for sites that have existed for many years, as you may have forgotten what content you covered before.

In addition to manually looking for similarities, use a tool like Moz to crawl your site for duplicate content, titles, and meta descriptions. If just a title or meta description is a duplicate, replace it. If a whole page of content turns up, delete it. Be sure to add a 301 redirect to send users to the other page.

Alternatively, in the case you do need duplicate content for some reason (such as it also appears on another site, like LinkedIn), add a canonical tag. This will stop Google flagging the content as a duplicate.

5. Speed Up Loading Times

This year, the Google algorithm will start giving even greater weight to the loading speeds of websites. The simplest way to increase speed is to run a test to locate problems on pages and then delete the slow-loading elements. Images are a common culprit — aim to keep them under 200 kb.

Another thing to do is enable accelerated mobile pages (AMPs). They improve the experience on mobile devices by telling browsers to load content before media elements. AMPs also require less mobile data than regular optimized pages.

SEO is far more complex than performing keyword researching and creating quality content. A successful SEO strategy will take every aspect of your website into consideration. By including all the above in your strategy, you’ll be on track for optimizing traffic, leads, and conversion rates.

Facebook vs. Google Local Search: What Your Business Should Focus on

Facebook vs. Google Local Search: What Your Business Should Focus on

Most of us know Google as the head honcho of the online search. So much so, that we’ve just started using the word “Google” as a verb to describe looking something up on the internet. It seems as if nothing and no one could compete with them.

Now, with the Facebook update to their mobile app, local businesses will greatly benefit. Instead of Google Local, potential customers can now use Facebook to locate said businesses, making it easier for them to interact with potential customers.

A Brief History

Facebook has been a reputable directory site for keeping business pages for over the past decade. Before, however, the only people who could really discover your business this way were mutual connections or perhaps with brand awareness.

In 2014, they launched an updated version of their Places directory, changing the game and becoming real competition for Yelp and FourSquare. While they receive over 1.5 billion searches per day, they’re not quite up to par with Google’s 3.5 billion, but that’s still a notable amount.  A huge part of this traffic increase, is due to Facebook’s redesign, allowing pages to work like an actual web page. Rather than being transferred to a different site, you can do it all right there from a mobile Facebook page.


Let’s chat briefly about the features Facebook is offering, which have elevated them to become a serious player in the local search game.

  • Actions: Users can simply tap on a straightforward selection of action buttons, like allowing you to directly book an appointment for a car service, order food right to your door, send a message and much more.
  • Recommendations: This is also an important feature, providing a bit more social proof than a simple “like” would. When a user taps on the recommendation button, a Facebook post will be created on their timeline. That means that instantly, their connections will be able to see this, which could instantly pique their curiosity in your business.
  • Events: This feature has made it much easier to sell events and bring people to your venue with less effort. You have the ability to create the event, and feature it to specific users. You can sell tickets right from the events page, making it more convenient for those interested. If a user clicks “interested” in your event, then their friends and family will instantly see this, as well.
  • Jobs: We predict this will be expanded on in the future, but this tool is excellent from distracting you from viral videos and memes and getting you a potential job.
  • Local: This is perfect for attracting more potential customers from the Facebook app, not only to discover your business, but bring them to your events page. This particular update has had the biggest hit to Google’s local search features.

Pros and Cons of Facebook

First, let’s talk about the downsides. We know that as time goes on, pages are seeing a drastic decline in organic reach. That means that one must get creative with how they’re investing their time and resources on Facebook. Constantly working to combat the decline in organic local reach can seem frustrating.

The list of pros are pretty straightforward. First, you can add in the “nearby” filter into your search, like “restaurants nearby.” This will provide you with a list of relevant business results along with their ratings, location on a map, and which of your friends have visited/liked/provided a review of the page. The inclusion of this “friend data” as previously mentioned, provides great social proof for consumers, boosting the likelihood that a user will go to your business.

From there, you can filter results to be sorted by relevance, popularity, price, and rating, as well as those that are currently open. Keep in mind that the highest-ranking spots are awarded to those with the most active Facebook pages and that have accurate and complete information listed.

Perhaps the biggest advantage Facebook has over Google in this regard, is that people are familiar with using Facebook. Most of us are on the platform daily, and know how it works and where everything is located. In addition, it adds a bit of a human factor in, when you can directly interact with businesses from your personal account.

Should We Forget Google?

Definitely not. As of now, Google still has the vast majority of traffic for local searches, which means it’s still very much relevant. Google won’t be disappearing anytime soon. However, we highly recommend getting your Facebook page in proper shape, because with each update it seems that the platform is slowly taking over the reins. The huge amount of users, combined with the comfortability most have with Facebook makes it a fair competitor, if not the future.

Facebook easily represents Google’s most important competition, and a user-friendly way to find what you’re looking for. While we can’t say you should rule any out at the moment, definitely place focus on both, with the intention of Facebook taking over.

Give it a Change: Fresh Website Content Boosts SEO Results

Give it a Change: Fresh Website Content Boosts SEO Results

Getting on the first page of Google is extremely challenging and takes quite a bit of tweaking before you start to see real results.

SEO has evolved into a complex process. An essential component of that is quality content. Google’s latest changes to algorithms over the past four months show that the search engine is focusing more on quality content over keyword density.

A recent study states that 2019 will create more data than the previous 5,000 years of humanity. Google knows this and prioritizes the more relevant and practical information over the rest. It does so by focusing on the best content first. As a search engine, it is their job to provide searchers with links to the most relevant information, and one way to do this is to filter out the outdated and old content from the more relevant and ‘fresh’ content.

So, if you’re looking to improve your ranking on Google, it’s a good idea to fill in any gaps in your website’s content with more relevant and actionable text.

What is Fresh Content and Why is it Necessary?

Creating fresh content is the process of updating the information you currently have with more relevant and practical information.

Information tends to get obsolete faster, and what’s relevant today won’t be relevant next month — thus there is always a requirement for new information, aka fresh content.

There are differences in how often content should be spiced up or produced. For instance, current events broadcasted by BBC today won’t be the same as those a week from now. BCC updates their ‘current events’ almost every hour and thus needs fresh content. But BBC is a news site; it needs to produce content more often. Similarly, websites that offer products and services need real-time and relevant content to remain competitive. However, for industry-specific sites, producing content two times per week or two times per month is enough to keep the site from becoming stagnant for SEO purposes.

Best Ways to Produce Fresh Content

There are clear signals you can send to google to show your website is ‘fresh’ and deserves a higher ranking. For simplicity, I’ve broken them down into the following steps:

1) Produce More Evergreen Content

If you find yourself having to create fresh content more often, it’s because you are most likely producing thin content. This gets obsolete much faster.

Evergreen content is content that by nature stays relevant year-round, forever. Content that stands the test of time tends to be more practical and actionable. For instance, offering unique insight and expertise on any given topic backed by research and results is more effective than a simple ‘tips and tricks’ listicle.

Other ways to produce evergreen content is by creating content that visitors are continually looking for. Content like frequently asked questions (FAQs).

2) Update Old Content:

Updating old content is just as crucial as producing new material. Neglected and old content tends to die down and all your hard work and energy poured into creating it will go to waste. Thus, it’s a good idea to occasionally go back to old pages and articles and revamp them. Create new resources and make additions that will make them more practical and useful in today’s world.

Research your industry’s latest innovations and write about them. Learn about the latest ideas through webinars, news feeds, competitor web pages, and other online sources. Visit sites like the Manta blog for more resources, or The Academy. You can also set up email feeds with “Marketing” as a keyword to get tailored feeds to your email about the latest marketing news across different services like Gmail and Yahoo.

3) Regularly Update the Main Pages:

When was the last time you glanced over your ‘about page’ or ‘contact page’? It’s probably been a while, and by now your pages are likely irrelevant to what you currently offer. Moreover, your visitors frequently visit those pages. If they aren’t well-maintained and accurate — they won’t trust you.

You can reach out to companies that focus on small business expert services to help with marketing efforts, content and SEO.

4) Consistently Produce Quality Content

People often populate their websites with too much content. Unless you’re a news website — you don’t need to post as often. Consistently publishing twice a month maintains that ‘freshness’ Google likes.

5) Utilize Multimedia

Content that has a diverse mix of multimedia (images, audio, video) receives special privileges. Besides being easier to read, they also perform much better on search engines. Likewise, articles with a mix of multimedia tend to receive more engagement. So, it’s always a good idea to add multimedia and increase the diversity of your content.

Final Thoughts on Fresh Content

Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of fresh content, it’s essential to make it a routine and implement it. The goal here shouldn’t be only to update your content for SEO. Instead, focus on updating your website in a timely manner that benefits users.

Remember, updating content isn’t just about being ‘fresh’ and relevant, but instead being useful and practical.

The Importance of Branding for SEO Strategy

The Importance of Branding for SEO Strategy

Branding is so much more than a memorable logo. Consumers love their favorite brands far more than most marketing departments realize.

Brand Loyalty

With an internet full of similar products to choose from at a mere touch, consumers build an emotional connection to a specific brand. This allows them to quickly determine which of those similar products deserves their money.

Once that emotional connection develops, 77 percent of customers will stay faithful to a brand for 10-years or longer. And 61 percent will actually go out of their way to purchase from that brand.

Good branding touches the mind and heart of the consumer. It lets you build the value of your business through your reputation. Done correctly, good branding makes your products instantly identifiable and trustworthy to consumers.

But branding can also be leveraged into better results on search engine pages. The connection between branding and search engine optimization (SEO) is something you can’t afford to overlook.

How are SEO And Branding Related?

The relationship between branding and SEO runs deep. A well-developed SEO campaign can improve your brand’s image and reach. Good branding can, in turn, improve your ability to catch the consumer’s eye on those search engine results pages (SERPS) and gain more clicks.

Brand recognition also helps you climb higher in the search results because consumer recognition and trust help you rank higher with Google. It’s a cyclical process that gradually pushes your brand’s reach outward toward new consumers and untapped markets and upward in the rankings on search.

Do a quick search for any product or service you use, and you’ll notice that the top of your search results is dominated by names you easily recognize. That’s because Google rewards brands that consumers trust and consumers trust what they recognize and know.

When consumers think “cola,” they don’t think about Coke or Pepsi, not RC, even though RC is cheaper and tastes similar. When consumers want their taxes done, they think TurboTax or H&R Block, not TaxSlayer, even though TaxSlayer can get the job done.

Consumers certainly put thought into their searches, but they’re also operating (at least partially) on emotion and instinct. Emotion and instinct tend to make people reach for what is most familiar. What is most familiar is the basis of brand recognition.

Since Google is increasingly focused on making its search engine operate the way that the consumer’s mind operates, brand recognition and trust naturally play into the way that search results are displayed. In turn, the prominence of any particular brand in search results often increases consumer familiarity even further.

Improve Your Branding to Boost Your Search Results

Developing a logo for your company and a set of colors for your webpage is only part of your branding. You also need to focus heavily on the customer experience you deliver.

That means making sure that your brand’s core values (the things that distinguish you from your competitors) are highlighted throughout your website and on every social campaign. What you represent should be reflected on every page. The places you choose to promote your brand and the influencers you use should also correspond well with your brand’s image.

Branding is also the experience a user has on your website. You can’t ignore the importance of functionality. Users will quickly grow frustrated with slow loading times, cluttered pages and broken links. Competence and authority are hard to convey if your pages aren’t easy to navigate.

Encourage Brand Recognition Across Platforms

Brand recognition can turn your business from “just another company” into a trusted consumer partner and a household name, ensuring your future. Working with an SEO partner like Boostability is an excellent way to make sure that you have a solid social media campaign strategy that promotes your brand and good content on relevant blogs and websites away from your own site.

An SEO partner can also help you incorporate the right long-tail keyword strategy, incorporating your brand name, as a way to build additional brand awareness and recognition.

Visual content is also indispensable to branding success. Create and promote visual content that not only delights and informs your consumers but reinforces the overall visibility of your brand through the use of your logo, fonts, and colors. (Take a look at anything put out by Target, Coke, or Apple if you want great examples.)

Don’t overlook the importance of local search, either. Increasingly, people “consume on the run,” and Google search results on a smartphone take geography into account. This is the case even when the user doesn’t include geographical data in the search.

Part of your SEO and branding joint strategy absolutely needs to be focused on building those local markers and local links back to your page, increasing customer reviews, and becoming a community resource.

Final Thoughts

An SEO strategy needs to be focused on your brand to be successful. Every social post, every influencer, every piece of content that you put out should reflect your brand both visually and substantially. The more familiar your brand is to consumers, the more consumers associate your brand with reliable service and quality content. You’ll climb higher in search results. Your logo is ultimately a type of visual shorthand that reminds consumers of everything that your brand represents whenever they see it.