Fast progress or professed guarantees on your search rankings could mean that you’re working with a Grey Hat SEO agency. And though you may be seeing a big boost to your search visibility right now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s sustainable. Or that you won’t get into serious trouble. Grey Hattters use techniques that are discouraged (and often penalized) by major search engines. Google and Bing actively seek out websites using these tactics in order to demote them in organic search. Here are a few signs you may be working with such an agency.
- You’re seeing a significant increase in traffic but not in sales. Grey Hat SEO companies don’t just trick search engines — they also tend to mislead their clients. One tactic that they often use revolves around creating links by using “Private Blog Networks”. This is often referred to as link farming and is frowned upon by Google, so could open you up to the risk of a Google Penalty.
Grey Hats may be able to produce traffic, but this doesn’t necessarily correlate with revenue or activity that’s useful for your business. With a White Hat SEO company, you’re focusing on conversion rates and other metrics that are important to your business. For example, there’s a trend called referral spam; it skews your website’s analytics and needs to be addressed. Otherwise, you may think your website is doing great when in fact the traffic is bogus.
- They’re producing filler or lackluster content. Grey Hatters often focus on guest blogs, spun content, repetitive content and similar tactics. Essentially web content is created simply to fool search engine bots rather than attracting people who are genuinely interested in your product or service. This will ultimately work against you, as it won’t build your website’s authority or brand awareness. A legitimate SEO company will focus on long-lasting content that has value for your current and prospective customers.
- The agency doesn’t mention they are using techniques contrary to search engine quality guidelines. We’ve found that many Grey Hat SEO firms don’t educate clients on what they do and how they adhere (or not) to webmaster quality guidelines. A legitimate agency will make sure to draw the line between what’s allowed and the impact of each technique used. Here’s what Google says about SEO services: “While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google or even the removal of your site from our index. ” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
- Your Grey Hat SEO agency makes extreme promises regarding performance. Creating a comprehensive SEO campaign takes work. There are two main ingredients for organic search: content and links. It’s impossible to guarantee extreme increases in performance as there are many variables (e.g., competitive landscape). White Hat SEO is slow and steady. It’s less risky and should be viewed as a long-term marketing strategy.
- You’re experiencing roller-coaster results in organic search. One month your website traffic has a fabulous spike in Analytics. Then, it begins to dwindle and eventually becomes a trickle. Nothing has changed. Your Grey Hat agency continues to work on your site. What’s the likely culprit? An algorithm update was released, specifically designed to foil a Grey Hat SEO technique. FYI – Google releases hundreds of changes to their search software every year. And your website has just paid the price.
Is Working With a Grey Hat SEO Agency Worth the Risk?
I’ve seen too many websites suffer from unethical SEO practices. Often business owners or marketers don’t realize they have been working with a Grey Hat SEO agency. It’s so much easier to repair the damage before catastrophe strikes — such as a manual penalty from Google. If you’re responsible for a website or managing a digital marketing agency, I highly recommend that you read Google’s quality guidelines carefully. Then ask questions. Not sure what to ask? Here are at least seven that should make your list.
Did you know that when a website is penalized, the owner is responsible… not their agency?
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