In my recent posts covering Penguin and Panda I’ve given examples of some of my sites that have been penalized by Google’s “updates”.  Those of you who are new to SEO, who have fallen for the marketing of SEO companies that promote themselves as pure-white-hat, or who may not understand how competitive business works, may be wondering why you should listen to someone who is getting penalized by Google.  Here’s why you should, and equally important, why you shouldn’t be listening to those who have never been penalized.

Knowing Where the Line Is

Getting a site penalized means you’ve pushed too far.  You’ve stepped over the line.  If you’ve never stepped over the line, then you likely don’t know where that line is.  But many of your competitors do.  They’re doing everything they can to beat you, and that includes going right up to the line, sometimes crossing over.  They may have test sites they use to find out how far they can push, and other sites where they push less.  Or they may have multiple sites using different levels of promotion.  But a good competitive webmaster has done the tests, and knows what works, what doesn’t, and how far he or she can go.  If you have no idea where the thresholds are and are far behind them, you’re never going to outrank your competitors.  And these days with more ads and Google verticals (from Google Shopping to YouTube to local) above the fold in every search result, if you’re not at the very top of the results you might as well be nowhere.

You’ve got a choice.  One option is to only promote your site the way Google tells you to, while your competitors do the same in addition to going above and beyond that.  The result is, they’ll out rank you.  They may end up getting sites penalized over time, but new sites doing more than what you are willing to do will always take their place, leaving you effectively nowhere.  Or, you can learn for yourself where the thresholds are, and get close enough to be in the game.  It can be argued, with solid data to back it up, that the risk of following Google’s guidelines is greater than the risk of going beyond them.  It’s the risk of perpetual obscurity.  Your awesome site will never be found because it’s always being outranked by those who do more.

Google’s Guidelines Are Not Laws

Some SEOs equate anything that goes against as evil, as breaking the law.  Aside from the fact that Google is one of the worst violators of their own guidelines (not to mention that ), these aren’t laws at all.  They’re primarily designed to make Google’s job easier and your job harder.  More and more, Google wants you to do their work for them.  Don’t get sucked into thinking there’s anything wrong with going beyond their guidelines.  You should be making a risk vs. reward calculation.  There are consequences to everything.  If you push too far, you may get penalized.  But if you don’t push at all, you’ll never be found.  So rather than looking at Google’s guidelines as laws, you should view them in light of your own risk vs. reward calculation.

The Cost of Compliance

Is it possible to rank well without going beyond Google’s guidelines?  Of course it is.  A better question however is, will it be profitable?  You can spend your time reaching out to hundreds of webmasters, begging for links, and getting a couple in return, while your competitors buy twice as many for half the cost of the time you spent.  Who’s going to be able to sell their products for less?  Who’s going to have more time to spend creating high quality content?  While you’re spending most of your time trying to promote your site the way Google wants you to, your competitors are taking shortcuts that leave them with more time and money to spend on their business.  You should be promoting your site to other webmasters, interacting in your community, making people aware of quality content on your site, etc.  But if that’s the only thing you’re doing, it’s highly likely your competitors are ranking their sites with a lot less time and/or money spent.

Advice From Those Lacking Experience

You’ll find people all over the web, both so-called SEO experts and hordes of webmasters on SEO forums, trash talking “black hats”, people who buy links, or otherwise go against Google’s guidelines.  But those people are almost always either trying to sell you something (in the case of the SEO “experts”) or are not running a full time, successful web business.  They may be consultants for big brands, that are going to rank anyway regardless of what they do.  Or they may be companies running on venture capital money rather than funds from their own successful businesses.  If they don’t know where the thresholds are, they’re not going to be able to tell you what you need to do in order to rank in a way that makes you money.  On the other hand, those that have been penalized and know where the thresholds are…they can tell you how far to go, and how far not to go.

Did you find this post interesting or useful?
If so, be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the next one!
Your Email:
Delivered by