Is your website a hidden SEO hub for sneaky links?

Don’t let your dental marketer exploit your website!

mistake signHere at Dental Media we have many years of SEO experience within our team and we’ve seen quite a lot of “dodgy” SEO tricks come and go. Google is now a lot more capable of finding and penalising sneaky tactics and consequently most of the SEO community has stopped trying to deceive the search engines.

However, this isn’t the case everywhere unfortunately and even well-known companies within the dental marketing community are still trying to get away with techniques which are well outside of Google’s publishing guidelines. So much so that being caught would almost certainly result in the website concerned being demoted or possibly even excluded from the search results.

These types of tactics are never good, but if the companies concerned have full knowledge of the risks and it’s their own website at stake, then so be it. Google will likely catch up with them in the long run and their competitors will ultimately benefit. However, where the SEO company uses techniques which risk their clients’ websites, it’s a different ball-game and completely unacceptable. But we still see it going on and it’s quite widespread.

Bad back-links

Perhaps the biggest risk to a website and one which can attract Google ranking penalties really quickly, concerns bad back-links. Good back-links are still very useful for boosting search results for a website, but poor links can have the complete opposite effect. Too many “bad” links pointing at your own site from third-party websites can result in a very punitive Google penalty and even drop your site right out of the rankings. The problem here is that “cheap” SEO services will still try this and sail too close to danger when linking to your website. Sometimes they get away with it for several months, but eventually Google catches up and your website tanks.

So what do you look out for in this particular case? Unfortunately it’s not something that an inexperienced person can monitor in real time as you need to be able to differentiate good links from bad. You also need to know how to track which links are pointing to your site and often this requires special software to assist. Without these resources or knowledge, you can only really monitor your search engine positions and web traffic – if all is progressing but then suddenly takes a turn for the worse, it is likely that Google dished out a penalty, very possibly related to the (poor) quality of the links pointing to your website. The key here is to really do your homework and evaluate the track record of the SEO supplier you propose to use. Seek independent references, as the SEO company will only tell you about their successes, not their failures!

But it’s not just poor quality back-links that can attract Google penalties – there are lots of other factors too. If you add “sneaky” content to your website, for example hidden pages stuffed with keywords, then you can also expect to be penalised when Google catches up with you. This sort of thing is easier for the layperson to spot than bad back-links and here are a two examples we identified and cleaned up for new clients recently.

Hidden pages

These are sometimes known as “doorway” pages and some SEO’s will still try to deploy them to gain traffic for different configurations of certain keywords. Often these will not appear in a website’s navigation structure but are still available to Google. The idea is to act as a doorway for users to click on in search results and from where they can access the rest of your website.

We recently had a new client transfer to us from a well-known dental website and SEO company and were shocked to find many pages of this type hidden within the website structure. The client had no idea they were there, but this and other questionable tactics were clearly causing issues as the website concerned has recently plummeted in the search results. We are currently re-working the client’s site and helping to clear up poor links to help his website recover in Google. You can spot this type of risky activity in a couple of different ways. Firstly try a search in Google on your full website address – this will show you all of the pages Google has indexed. If your website is built on a content management system (CMS) and you know your way around the admin system, check out the page structure to see if all is as expected. In either case, if you spot pages which you didn’t expect, then you need to start asking questions!

Hidden links to third-party websites

This is another tactic which may surprise you as it uses *your* website to link to other websites without your permission. The target sites for the links are typically other clients of the marketing company you are using! External links of this type, particularly where they are deployed on mass or covertly, will bring your problems if they are discovered. Even if they remain undetected, they can dilute your own SEO efforts. So please scour your website for hidden pages and external links which you have not approved.

Summary

If your website is being managed for you by an digital dental marketing company, you need to take an interest in what they are actually doing and if it’s always in your best interests. Some SEO companies will take every opportunity to use your website assets for their own gain or to try to sneak quick (but risky!) wins in the Google ranking stakes. But it’s simply not worth it.

If you suspect activity of this nature is happening on your website and you need an experienced eye to take a look, please contact Dental Media on 01332 672548 and we’ll be pleased to help.