The savviest marketers know that in today’s world, it’s all about SEO.

Companies spend millions and millions of dollars annually in an effort to rank at the top spot for competitive keywords.

There’s a good reason for this. Being on the first page of Google is a highly coveted position. 92 percent of all traffic goes to the first page.

Unfortunately, this highly sought after first-page ranking has led some marketers to employ some not so ethical SEO strategies in order to remain on top.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Google’s no dummy. And Google is not afraid to slap you with a penalty.

Even one penalty can have a majorly adverse affect on your business.

In March 2006, BMW manipulated the search results to rank for the keyword “used car.” They redirected users to their regular BMW page once they clicked on the search results link.

Google responded by removing their site from the search results for three days. Today, this penalty would result in a traffic loss of over 71,000 users.

Now, this penalty may not have a catastrophic impact on one of the largest car manufacturers in the world. But if your business is small and you rely heavily on SEO traffic, one small penalty can lead to a tarnished reputation. This could result in a major loss of potential customers.

So how do you avoid these detrimental penalties and maintain ethical SEO? Read this article to find out the top tactics to avoid!

Keyword Stuffed Content

This is probably one of the most commonly known no-no’s when it comes to implementing ethical SEO tactics.

Many theories abound about the exact right amount of keywords to place in your site. Don’t get hung up on exact numbers too much.

Instead of worrying about exact keyword numbers and placement, focus on writing content for users, and not search bots. The natural placement of keywords will soon follow.

Also, don’t be tempted to throw out hot-button keywords in your copy in an attempt to garner a larger audience if those keywords have no relevancy to your content. Don’t worry about the trendiest search keywords of the day. Stick to ones that you actually want to rank for.

Unoriginal Content

Nobody likes a copycat- especially not Google.

Creating original and engaging content is one of the most important tactics for nailing the ethical SEO game.

If you buy articles from a writer, you’ll want to make sure they didn’t just spin a competitor’s article and pass it off as their own.

And, even when your content is unique, make sure it’s not duplicated within your site- Google isn’t a big fan of this either.

Tools like Copyscape and Copygator make for some good unique content quality control.

Buying and Swapping Links

If SEO was a black market, quality links would be the hottest item sold.

Yes, Google loves it when your site contains quality links. It’s their number one ranking factor. But they don’t love it when you use sketchy tactics to acquire them.

Purchasing links is a major violation of Google policy, and should never be done.

And while swapping links with fellow business owners may seem innocent enough, make sure you’re not overdoing it. Google will certainly penalize you for too many link swaps with the same site.

Instead of buying and swapping links, focus on creating high-quality content and promoting your site so it creates natural backlinks. 

Linking to All the Wrong Places

Google’s not stopping at buying and swapping when it comes to link penalties.

They’re on a mission to make sure you earned your ranking by linking quality links to quality sites. Here are some of the most common blunders businesses make when link building that you need avoid in order to maintain ethical SEO:

Penalized Sites

Don’t associate yourself with any sites that are currently penalized by Google. If you’re unsure whether or not the site is on Google’s naughty list, talk to your SEO service provider to help them weed out the bad eggs.

Shady Sites

Even if they aren’t penalized, avoid linking to hacking, porn, or malware-ridden sites.

Broken External Links

If a site has said goodbye to the web, then it’s time for you to say goodbye to that link. Google cares a lot about user experience, and linking to a bunch of 404 error pages isn’t doing your users or your ranking any favors.

Homepage Links

While linking to your homepage isn’t technically against ethical SEO practices, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it the right way.

Acquiring more links to your homepage won’t help your site rank higher because Google doesn’t rank websites, it ranks pages. It’s best to stick to linking quality content within your site, and not the homepage.

Links to Sites in Another Language

This penalty goes along with Google’s mission to reward sites that create the friendliest user experience possible. For most people, that means reading all of their content in one language.

Hidden Links

Don’t be a modest when it comes to displaying your links. Links should never be the same color as the background of a page or button. This has suspicion written all over it in Google’s book.

Not Enough Outbound Links

Don’t let all these penalties scare you from using outbound links altogether. Make sure Google knows you’re sharing the love by linking to content of a similar standard.

Ethical SEO Tactics Conclusion

Clearly, there’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining ethical SEO practices.

After reading this, you may feel like there are penalties around every corner and that the Google SEO police are really out to get you.

But, fear not. If you’re overwhelmed, contact an SEO expert who can help you avoid these penalties and stay ahead of the competition.