Ninjas are way cool - I get it.
But they're also assassins - and is that how you want to lead your marketing efforts - by assassinating Google's quality control mechanisms? I hope not - because it's an act of futility - and quite frankly, a waste of perfectly good ninja skills.
Yet, there are still people out there offering ninja-like SEO campaigns, and worse, folks are still out there asking for them... some even by name.
Okay, so why exactly is that scary?
Simple. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and friends are not requiring ninja skills to comply with their quality control algorithms. They are not as mysterious as many would have you to believe. In fact, Google is overly open about what their programmers are focusing on and the reasons WHY. See for yourself HERE.
If it's so easy to see, then why bother with the ninja stuff? Okay, it's not ALL bad. I think many ninjas are coming around to the idea that they should be focusing on helping businesses determine whether they're following protocol, but for some strange reason, black-hat SEO marketing experts everywhere continue to push their agendas - leaving a trail of tears in the process.
Let's talk about those agendas, because they can have horrible consequences that don't go away.
10 Things That Scare Me About "Ninja" SEO Marketing Experts:
Like I said earlier, not everything "ninja" is negative, but it's a term in digital marketing that often refers to the propagation of the negative aspects of SEO. I HAVE seen plenty of self-proclaimed ninjas offering quality digital marketing solutions - but that's a different class - and many still have those 1 or 2 black-hat items on the menu.
Look out for these 10 issues to separate the good from the bad and ugly.
1. Keyword Density
There are tons of plug-ins offering the RIGHT keyword density measurement tools (saying the others are wrong, of course), but what does that even mean to you as a business? Our friendly search engines are trying to remove the robotic element tied to the search process. They very much focus on humanistic qualities - so if your blogs and web pages are 99% focused on keyword density, the quality of the content IS going to suffer (more myth busting in our SEO ebook HERE).
And what is it doing for you anyway? Yes, you want your keywords to show up on your pages. But repetition does not equal higher ranking... not anymore. In addition, by having too many in there, you can be penalized for "keyword stuffing." And here's the kicker - short-tail keywords are more likely to repeat because they can be apart of a long-tail keyword too (ex: "Marketing" vs "Marketing agencies in Orange County."
Instead of focusing on how many times your words show up on a page, pay attention to developing quality content that happens to include them.
Google states, and I quote ,"We fight spam 24/7 to keep your results relevant." If the most powerful search engine on the planet is fighting spam, and you're spamming, don't you think the odds are a little stacked against you?
Nobody likes spam anyway, so in addition to tripping the penalties, it will drive away the visitors you do get faster than you can say the word. Best of all, people are becoming desensitized to it, meaning, that those pop-ups aren't getting a tenth of the attention as they did in the past. Because of that, folks are stepping it up with 10 times the volume. So, think about it - if you're doing the same thing, you're competing with a tidal wave of others already spamming in front of you!
3. Overdressed & Over-complicated
Your ninjas will bring too many unecessary tricks to the table. The search engines are not trying to complicate the process, but if you're intending to skate over the quality control mechanisms, you can bet your bottom dollar that you're going to need a grappling hook at some point or another.
But if you're falling in line, and focusing on building value-driven content around basic logical parameters, there's no need for any gimmicks... like some of the other ideas we're going to talk about.
Why is that scary? Because, as a business owner, anything that wastes my time, drains my most valuable asset - my own personal sweat equity. It's the same thing that causes my stomach to churn when I am spammed on LinkedIn by a supermodel representing some lead generation firm - or when I accidentally pick up the phone when I'm called by a robodialer.
You ever notice how ambiguous the language is on Ninja sites? They talk about ROI and increased traffic, and this and that and the other... but there are very little supporting references behind it. I saw one recently that said they'll use their "top secret" tools to analyze your site and let you know if it's working properly.
I need more transparency than that. I want to see and touch the tools that are being used to measure my success.
5. Fighting for Glory, not ...
I was reviewing a ninja site recently that showcased a mass "ping" tool that is supposed to expedite the indexing processes on the different search engines. I've seen a couple of these, actually. Just seeing the word "mass" made my skin crawl - I can't imagine a scenario where the person driving THIS ship is going to develop anything that makes sense for ME.
This is not about developing good content, is it? It screams, "Let's short-cut the process." Well, guess what? Google, Yahoo, and Bing will find you regardless, and they'll find you right away. I've seen blog posts show up in search results in a manner of minutes, and I have only indexed my site once - in the beginning - which I understand was even unnecessary. (takes me back to #3 - overdressed)
But it goes even further South, as it was followed by an explanation about how it makes it easier to index high volumes of links developed through software designed for linkbuilding (*shudder...) - which brings me to number 6.
6. Linkbuilding software
This is quite possibly the most dangerous thing you can do for your site. Link-farms and pyramids lost their bite several years ago when Google finally put their foot down, and said, "enjoy the panda and penguin" And then again when they said "enjoy 2.0..." and so on.
Now, if you have bad links pointing to your website, you could be severely penalized, maybe even banned until you remove the bad links. And it's not a simple process to rectify. They can take months or even longer to clean up - and when the search engines catch on, they won't let you see the light of day again until they're fixed, which may mean going back to the folks who built the bad links and asking their permission to remove them.
To make it worse, many are scamming their former clients, and actually charging them $$$ to remove the bad links they were paid to build! That's right, so you paid to get them there, and now you'll have to pay to get them removed.
7. Smoke & Mirrors
Why do you suppose so many ninja SEO marketing experts focus on visitor volume more than anything else? Does more web traffic have any correlation with more revenue? Well, yes and no... You can't generate paying customers with your website if nobody visits your website.
However, there is a LOT more to generating viable leads than having web traffic - like a lead conversion path and REAL visitors.
Link-farming can often show fake results. Buying Twitter followers does the same (they're not real people). Those who focus on web traffic will often times deploy bots to do the work - so the people visiting your website aren't actually people. They're fake. But it goes even further! Sometimes the clicks to your website ARE people ... who are paid to click on your website - and don't actually have any interest in being there.
Conversions can't happen when the results are fake. They just can't.
8. Short-sighted & short-tailed
Ranking for keywords seems to be the most important driver for many ninjas - and a lot of them are still offering "instant" results - which tells me right away that their tactics hit on one or MANY of the more devious, black-hat methods.
Real SEO takes time, and since customization is the word of the day, you really should be focusing on long-tail keywords. They may not drive as much traffic overall, but the resulting visitors will be more relevant.
Think about how many searches the word "shoes" gets every month (more than half a million according to Hubspot's SEO tools). It's highly competitive, and you'll see quite a variety of results. But if you're selling shoes for cheerleaders, you should focus on keywords that specify that. "shoes for cheerleading," "youth cheerleading shoes," and "cheerleading shoes for kids" are all lower in traffic, but they are much more likely to produce visitors that are actually interested in what you have to sell. And they aren't nearly as difficult to compete for.
9. Where's the blog?
This one really confuses me. Where's the beef to the SEO marketing strategy without a blog? It's quite possibly your best option for building an online reputation and therefore your keyword ranking AND valuable inbound links.
Think about it - The web is becoming more humanistic. Blogging continues to rise in the rankings because it caters to that very element. In addition, your blog, unless marked otherwise, is indexed, and all of the juicy SEO properties it brings will elevate everything it's connected to.
On top of that, if you do it well, others will share your posts for you, and possibly even link to them from their websites - which is one of the ways you build REAL links that actually matter.
10. They can't spell
I know it's risking to write about - spelling... grammar... punctuation - because I'm opening myself up to all sorts of scrutiny by the trolls. However, it should be noted how poor these elements are on some of the ninja websites I reviewed.
SEO is rooted in keywords. Spelling the words correctly really ought to be a priority, but grammar and punctuation shouldn't be forgotten. Google cares about the quality of your visitors' experiences. They measure it in many ways, and if people are bouncing and click-through-rates are low, a lot of the time it can be attributed to poor language skills.
I've been in b2b sales & marketing roles for a long time, and this very issue will destroy your best opportunities in the blink of an eye. As a disclaimer, I know plenty of brilliant people who struggle with grammar and spelling, but when you go to a website, you expect the language to be proper. When it's not, it makes the company look uneducated.
And again, misspelling your keywords can make it more difficult for Google to send traffic your way. Maybe if the ninjas were less focused on tricking the algorithms, they could spend more time with spellcheck. (I really hope I don't have too many misspellings in this post!)
There is no doubt it - Ninjas are way cool
I grew up with the Ninja Gaiden video games. I was a ninja for Halloween on many occassions. And the comic book hero I developed in 8th grade, The Fist, was essentially a ninja with a bionic arm and an affinity for explosions.
But I think SEO needs a more straight forward approach than what many ninjas are still for some reason offering. They're fighting a losing battle, and they're up against some pretty stacked odds.
I promote organic marketing at every level - and SEO is one of the most important areas to apply such a hard-fast rule. So, let's put away the bo-staff and computer hacking skills, and put together a strategy that celebrates the genuine article. Your business deserves it!
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