Search giant Google recently informed small businesses about the dangers of employing a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) agency that violates Google’s business listing quality guidelines. Business owners are busy people, and there are countless 3rd party agencies managing webpages.
The vast majority of these SEO agencies use fair and rule-abiding techniques and strategies to help manage their clients’ online presence. However, there are some SEO agencies that might be breaking the rules, which can ultimately hurt a company’s listing within Google rankings. Even though Google refers to them as Business Listing Quality Guidelines, they are actually rules.
Breaking of these Google Guidelines occurs for many reasons – let’s have a look at a few of the most predominant ones.
Ignorance of Google’s Rules and Guidelines:
Since small business owners are at an obvious disadvantage here, there truly is no justification for anyone who bills themselves as an SEO to be ignorant or unaware of Google’s rules and guidelines. Google certainly makes it hard for SEO’s to keep up with its algorithm changes, but it’s the job of an SEO to be aware of them. An SEO that isn’t well-informed of changes within Google, is like a lawyer not staying current with new laws. Either is completely unacceptable.
Therefore, any SEO agency that claims the capability to manage a successful Local SEO campaign, should know and understand all the policies and guidelines involved. This includes a complete understanding of data management, location prominence, best practices for “local search” and, obviously, up-to-date knowledge of Google’s rules and guidelines.
Misinterpretation of the Rules and Guidelines:
A misinterpretation of the rules is slightly more forgivable, since Google doesn’t always make it easy to understand what it’s talking about. The way in which Google conveys its changes have been extremely vague in the past, and in many cases has little meaning to anyone outside of Google.
Luckily, this has improved significantly. Increasingly more guidance is now being given by Google. Nowadays, Google are much more transparent with regards to what data it wants to see on your website, in order for it to rank well. Also, SEO’s are getting even more advice in online SEO forums, so they should know where to get clarification on Google updates, and should be able to find the answers to their clients’ questions.
Some individuals are prone to the devious behaviour of finding SEO loopholes. They like to think that everything is up for negotiation and often believe that rules are made to be broken. These dodgy individuals plague the SEO forums, relentlessly questioning everything.
Google is constantly closing many of the perceived loopholes in its rules and guidelines. Google is also placing more emphasis and time on communicating with businesses and online marketers to clarify their rules, so that the rules are not too “open for interpretation”. This helps SEO’s to understand what is permissible by Google, and what is not.
It’s been estimated that about 80% of the queries for local business are made on Google, which makes ranking high in Google enormously attractive. As a result, some businesses are so desperate for new customers, they will risk breaking Google’s rules to do so.
Some SEO agencies specialise in working with these types of clients and are therefore continually playing a game of cat and mouse with Google, in an effort to get their clients ranking well for local search queries. Whilst these practices are against Google’s guidelines, it’s not illegal. Although, these businesses risk losing their Google business listing and having their account suspended. Also, their website may lose all its ranking potential and might even be removed from the Google index.
As long as the client is aware of the risks involved, the SEO is simply providing the services their clients want of them.
To help to prevent this, take the time to do thorough research:
- Ask for and assess the SEO agency’s references.
- Establish how long the SEO Company has been in business.
- Search online for reviews and comments about the SEO Company you are interested in.
- Check the SEO company’s website to see who and where they are.
- Avoid SEO agencies that won’t reveal their SEO techniques to you.
- Avoid any SEO agency that sends unsolicited emails offering SEO services.
- Avoid ANY SEO agencies that guarantee a #1 ranking in Google.
As with anything - if something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.