Old Internet marketing has a way of coming back to haunt Web campaigns. You've probably heard of black hat tactics. We avoid them because the short-term gains they offer can quickly deep-six a previously successful website by getting it banned from Google. The really scary thing is that old Internet marketing tactics don't have to have been black hat, illegitimate tactics in order to get you into trouble, months or even years later.
Paying for links to build up your website's online credibility with Google is now against Google's Terms of Service. The problem is that your SEO (search engine optimization) company from many years ago could have paid for links across the Internet before Google outlawed the technique. Despite their age, and despite the fact that their creation predated Google's penalty, old paid links, along with several other outdated techniques, can get you into trouble if the Google police find you holding the bag.
Google is eager to rid its search engine results of websites that may not really deserve to be listed according to its algorithmic standards. The Google Webspam team is constantly on the lookout for websites that break the rules, and they've made it quite easy for an SEO company working for one of your competitors to report suspicious activity connected with your website.
If the Google Webspam team sees illicit SEO techniques used in connection with your website, one of two things will happen:
1. They will penalize your website and will send a notification of manual action to you via Google's Webmaster Tools.
2. Your website will suddenly disappear from Google's search engine results with no explanation whatsoever.
Either scenario is catastrophic and can take a long time to recover from.
The best way to avoid a penalty from Google is to get rid of bad links and other prohibited SEO tactics before they are discovered by the Google Webspam team. The Webspam team may not even be the cause of a drop in online visibility. All Google has to do is change its algorithm to better weed out tactics that give artificial boosts, and your website's rankings can plummet.
So, how do you remove old tactics if you, the dentist, aren't even aware of whether or not they are in play in your Internet marketing? Unfortunately, there's no easy solution. It takes in-depth analysis of your website's current incoming links to find the biggest problems.
You'll also need to scour your website for antiquated SEO no-nos like hidden text and outgoing links that could associate your website with a bad crowd of other websites that Google believes to be spammy and misleading.
On-going monitoring of your incoming links is also critical. Even if you eradicate every malicious or spammy incoming link that exists today, tomorrow 300 new instances of those old links could pop back into existence. This happens because, on the Internet, things are rarely truly deleted.
Websites such as Archive.org's Way Back Machine house copies of websites that have long since changed or gone offline. They do so as a service to provide the Web with a memory of sorts, which can be helpful. Unfortunately, it means that old webpages, along with their links, can be resurrected and repurposed. Your dental practice can be collateral damage when this happens if your SEO company of yesteryear was using spammy websites or articles for link building purposes.
For so long, Internet marketers have preached the importance of content. Even Google has agreed, yes, quality content is what we're looking for. Spammers have taken notice, and are overturning every rock in sight trying to find content that they can use for free, to make money selling ads, links, and other online tchotchkes. Can you stop them from doing this? No, not really. Only after the fact, which makes scouring the Internet to keep your Internet marketing squeaky clean even more important.
Whenever possible, it's best to try to get a bad link removed from the Internet when it's first discovered. Unfortunately, doing so is not always feasible or practical. In these cases, your SEO person needs to disavow the links using an online tool that Google created as a means for businesses to let Google know that a link exists, but you want nothing to do with it. Google will then remove any association between that link and your website, whether that association exists now or whether Google didn't even know the link existed, but might have come across it in the future and come to a potentially negative conclusion about your Internet marketing in light of the perceived affiliation.
Disavowing links can be tricky. If your website relies on spammy links to maintain its top position on Google and your SEO person disavows them all, your website will disappear from the view on Google. In these cases, gradually replace the bad with good. The process can be arduous and consequently, very expensive. The alternative of having new patient flow someday slow to a trickle because your website vanished from Google results is even more costly.
In a way, the process of maintaining an Internet marketing campaign is not unlike oral hygiene, or screening the body for cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. Early detection and regular check-ups are critical.
Working to restore a website's rankings after the damage has already been done is much more difficult and can take so long that it's sometimes better to start over. There is no overnight, easy fix. A proactive approach is much safer and more effective.
Tell your Web company that you want to make sure that you don't have any links going to your website that Google might deem spammy or malicious. They should be able to look into this for you and follow up on any bad links that they find. If they are unwilling to do so, it's a good indicator that your campaign isn't as comprehensive as it needs to be and it might be time to make a change.
About the Author
Jonathan Fashbaugh has been working with dentists on their marketing for ten years. He is the president of Pro Impressions Marketing Group, holding a degree in Digital Media Arts from Full Sail University. He has written many articles about website design and search engine optimization. He has also taught Internet marketing courses at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. You can learn more about Jonathan and Pro Impressions at https://www.proimpressionsgroup.com.