Companies that are looking to build a long-term reputation and a sustainable business both online and in the bricks-and-mortar world will usually consider only ethical (or “white-hat”) SEO methods to promote their company online.
Of course, there are always those in it for a quick buck who will employ unethical methods to achieve top rankings in the search engines through “black-hat” SEO, but then their business models are not about building a sustainable business.
They simply want a quick profit and then move on to the next website so they are not concerned about short-lived rankings and potential penalties from the search engines.
But despite constant algorithm changes designed to outsmart the black-hatters and Google giving away as little information as possible about the factors influencing their ranking algorithm, unethical methods continue to flourish and still, unfortunately, produce top rankings.
SEO Factors & Ranking Influence
Using mass, automated link submissions and link farms to rapidly build up backlinks does work, at least in the short-term. Various experiments on the effects of un-ethical link-building have been done by the likes of the submissions guys at SEOMoz that show a substantial short-term benefit.
But should those businesses taking the ethical approach be unduly worried? I think not – just as there are plenty of examples of unethical SEO methods working there are also plenty of examples of ethical ones.
A question I am often asked is “Why is such-and-such a company ranking ahead of us?” Sometimes a competitor’s site might not be as well designed as your own (from the human perspective); the competitor might not appear to update their content or blog as frequently and have substantially fewer links.
But always, in my experience, when I do some analysis to check out the competitor’s optimisation, a much clearer picture emerges of why a certain site is ranking better than another – it is often simply that they have better quality links and better content.
Ethical SEO Strategy
I always love to use the example of a site I optimized that had 200 links and outranked by several places a competitor that had been around for much longer, had a slicker looking website and 3,000 links. (I know it’s not ALL about the links but…)
If you’ve tried a bit of SEO and not seen great results you might be tempted to think it is only large companies with large budgets and well-known brands who can achieve results ethically.
Certainly there has also been plenty written about Google’s bias towards favoring brands, but I have worked with a small start-up company who have achieved great success in their competitive, niche market with good, ethical SEO plus a large dose of hard work and commitment. They have achieved this success by constantly striving to improve their site.
The company is a UK-based specialist training company – less than 3 years old and they, themselves, have attributed their online success to ethical search engine optimisation and being committed to building up their online presence and authority.
Building Good Content & Quality Linking
Their SEO strategy is based around good content and high-quality links – with the content enabling them to gain the links so they are a classic case of a site following Google’s guidelines. This is done in a number of ways:
- Publishing content as articles through the usual reputable article directories
- Writing and distributing press releases
- Producing unique content for their own blog
- Writing unique content for external blogs in their field
- Actively building up human relationships to source unique content from external contributors
All of this effort has ensured that the company are now Number 1 in Google nationally and internationally for a range of keywords with high traffic. In some cases they dominate the Top 5 positions and frequently rank second after related not-for-profit organizations.
For a training provider that started out with just two founders in 2009 this is a great example of ethical SEO at its best and an example of just what can be achieved on a modest budget with the right sort of SEO strategy.
It just takes determination to succeed – one of the founders uses a helium balloon analogy for optimization – you keep pumping gas into it and eventually it will take off. Personally, I like listening to the old reggae classic by Althea & Donna as a motivational theme tune when I need reminding that perseverance will produce top rankings – do you know the song I mean?
Invest in Long Term SEO Building
But on a more serious note to all those small companies out there concerned about whether they will ever achieve one of the top 3 positions in Google and whether they really can compete successfully online against rivals with much larger budgets – it really is possible with the right SEO and the commitment to drive a campaign forward.
Too many companies seem to give up once they have reached Page 2 of the search results for a few keywords but the benefits of that last push are enormous. Sitting in the Top 3 for a wide range of keywords will increase your visitor numbers by a massive margin compared with position 10 for just a few keywords.
My client is just one example of an ethical approach to SEO on a modest budget being highly successful – why not leave a comment or share your own examples of small businesses on modest budgets competing with, and outranking, well-established websites through the use of ethical SEO?
Image Credit: Gianina SEO