Small business marketing requires that companies don’t run afoul of Google

Traditional advertising can present significant challenges to smaller organizations that want to increase their brand awareness. Without a sizable marketing budget, it falls to small business owners to find alternative methods to reach and engage with consumers. That's why inbound marketing has become so popular in recent years, and how search engine optimization has become the standard method of spreading the word about a product or company.

However, it is easy for companies to fall into common traps that SEO strategies present. Google engineers work to ensure that their search engine is bringing users the best content possible, but crafty programmers and writers are constantly trying to undermine this process. Ultimately, Google has decreed that publishing unique and timely content is the best way to reach the front page of search results, but that doesn't stop people from attempting to get around the company's algorithms.

Here are some of the tricks that a small business owner might convince herself will allow a website to rise to the top without following the rules. Unfortunately, Google itself has made it known that its methods are specifically designed to counteract them.

Hidden text
In the wild days of the internet, when it was a frontier on which inexperienced users and programming elites wandered side by side, it was not uncommon to come across an amateurish, superfluous web page . However, such pages might still receive a lot of page views if for no other reason than they were crammed full of keywords and phrases that were related to popular search terms.

Such sites were created by design and took advantage of Google's primitive method for collating search terms and results. Since the internet's infancy, search engines have made concerted efforts to weed out such pages, so there's no use in trying to get away with it. More importantly, users have become experienced and can recognize a poorly-made page when they see one.

However, many companies think that they can get around this by being devious. Putting white text on a white background, setting text's font size to zero and hiding words and phrases behind images might seem like good ideas, but Google understands how such tricks work and actively penalizes such practices.

Cloaking
With a halfway competent programmer on hand, it isn't difficult to create two different faces for a website. One will be shown to search engines and is responsible for their results calculations, while the other is what people who log on are treated to. The former exists largely in the HTML code that comprises a website's guts, while the latter might be in the form of an animation or set of images that Google is actually able to understand.

By packing a site's metadata with juicy keywords and hot search terms, page designers might think that they're pulling a fast one on Google. They should think twice, because search engines are on to their games and will punish them accordingly. Companies should always be what they appear to be in order to appeal to both customers and search trawlers.

Affiliate programs
Some organizations, acknowledging that their abilities to generate content are limited, throw up their hands and join affiliate programs. This sort of arrangement involves receiving copy from an outside source that is likely supplying the very same text to other sites at the same time. Google acknowledges that this can be a good way to increase the value of a site, but it is crucial to avoid relying entirely on affiliate content.

Make sure that such contributions are both limited and completely germane to the additional content on a company's home page. It should only be used as supplementary data, and never the bulk of what a website offers.  

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