It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for the followers of Harold Camping, the evangelical broadcaster who predicted that the world would end last Saturday. While I’m more than pleased that the human race seems to have avoided the apocalypse, many of his followers spent their savings and gave away all of their worldly goods in preparation for the “rapture”, in which Jesus would return to Earth and true believers would be swept up to heaven.
So how does the end of the world have anything to do with SEO? (Unless your site got hit by Panda, then you’ll have felt that end of the world experience before).
White Hat Rapture
It seems as though the world of SEO has its own rapture story entwined into its very core and that using the unfortunate fate of Harold Camping’s trusty followers could provide a timely lesson in how best to succeed at SEO.
Scanning the various blogs, articles and forums that proliferate the web will show the avid search engine marketer the good, the bad and the downright ugly of SEO. There are any number of ways to game the system and there are fierce lines drawn between those who use underhand tactics to fool Google and those who are passionately loyal to the codes of conduct laid out in their terms and conditions.
It is those who stick unwaveringly to the white hat approach who apply most to this idea of SEO rapture in that they, like the followers of Mr Camping, are waiting for the date where the almighty will come down and offer the ultimate reward for true believers. In the case of the whiter than white hat preachers, that reward is search engine success at the expense of their more black hat competitors who have profited up until now.
Has the Date Been Set?
Unlike those who believed that the world would end on 21 May, the white hat believers do not have a fixed date, but they remain confident that the day will occur when Google will reach down from the skies and reward those true believers with first page rankings while casting everyone else into the abyss of search engine obscurity.
While all of this makes for an entertaining read, what truth is there behind Google’s own rapture date and how should you be marketing your website effectively?
Much like the end of the world prophets, the date when Google will punish those who violate its conditions keeps on moving. Although there has never been a date set in stone, every algorithm change brings with it more people who are convinced that the end is nigh for the link spammers, but it is a date that keeps moving further and further into the distance.
So how should you market your website successfully without risking a fiery end at the hands of Google?
The key is in variety. If you don’t keep up to date with what even the darkest of web forces are doing then you risk being left out of the loop. See what others are doing and apply a more sustainable method of using those techniques to benefit you.
Above all use your common sense. If you see somebody using methods that look really risky then steer well clear, but used in small doses, some of the more “grey hat” techniques can yield some positive results.
Don’t base all of your marketing on the same one or two techniques and always experiment on sites that aren’t going to cost you money if you get penalised, this will help you to develop an array of marketing procedures that will leave you less exposed next time Google changes its algorithm.
Variety is the key so don’t place all of your faith in Google eradicating your more shady competitors. If you end up waiting for that day of white hat rapture, you could, like the followers of Harold Camping, be waiting for far longer than you expected.
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About the author:
Alan Grainger is an in-house B2B web marketer and manages the SEO for The Promotional Gifts Company, a leading UK specialist in the promotional products sector. He writes articles exploring the issues faced by the B2B web marketer, giving an “in the trenches” view from an in-house SEO department.
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