I was particularly intrigued that Business Week listed a company set up to game the search engines as one of their “Most promising startups”. If you have been developing domains for any length of time, you probably have come across techniques designed to game Google or other search engines.
There is a constant war between the search engine companies and the black hat SEOs. Usually systems to game the search engines are kept relatively quiet to maximize their life time before the search engine companies detect them and tweak their algorithms to block them. So it is interesting that this company is so open about playing with search engine rankings.
Blogging for the search engines
It is no secret that a blog can help in search engine rankings. Well written blogs can attract visitors websites would not normally get. With fresh keyword rich content, a website can be more competitive in rankings for keywords essential to garner organic traffic. Blogs, at their core, are written with readers and not search engines in mind and usually reflect an enthusiasm for the subject.
Blogging for keywords
Compendium Blogware however encourages website owners to go to the other extreme and set up many blogs, each designed to target certain keywords, all linking back to the core website. Their customers pay an average of $6,500 a year to Compendium for 50 blogs. “This causes a rethinking of business blogging strategy away from a few, authorcentric blogs and toward many blogs that are narrowly targeted to individual topics based on the potential customers keywords.” says Chris Baggot, one of the co-founders.
The technique is really a play on an old technique called link farming. A link farm is any group of web sites that all hyperlink to every other site in the group though there are variations on this. The links and their anchor text helped boost search engine rankings for particular keywords and even today modified link farms have their followers.
Business blogging at its best is a way to reach out to customers and put a human face to a company. It can provide a way to announce new products, provide help, collect feedback and generate enthusiasm for that company’s products. It’s purpose is also to engage customers and encourage repeat buyers. A brand’s quality and positive image can be greatly enhanced by a well written blog.
So imagine you now have these 50 blogs set up for your company. Can you generate good quality content consistently and engage potential customers on 50 blogs simultaneously? But Compendium have thought of that and suggest you get your employees to do the blogging. This could probably work well if you have a company full of expert writers and communicators but to find 10, 20 or 50 great bloggers in even very large companies is a major stretch. So this technique produces large volume, low quality blogs designed with keywords and not customers in mind. How does that reflect on your brand and corporate image?
Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization or SEO has its place, don’t get me wrong but when communication tools are misused to game the search engines, then you devalue your brand and customers. Basing rankings on such techniques means you always have to worry about whether the search engines will change their algorithm and your website tanks in the rankings because the technique is obsolete. Go to any webmaster or SEO forum and you will see hundreds and thousands of posts from website owners wondering why their website has been penalized or fall down in the rankings. Dig a bit deeper and you will see how they focused on SEO techniques almost exclusively.
Get the balance right
Blogging is a powerful tool that has its place and yes, it can help in search engine rankings but it needs to be done well and with real live potential customers in mind as well as search engines. Can a startup based solely on one SEO technique survive? Probably yes, given that there are still paid directories making money on the web but it is a precarious existence with a market that can constrict at any time with changes in search engine algorithms.