Why you should avoid spammy local SEO tactics?

There are a lot of business owners out there that are all too eager to take advantage of shortcuts to see their online presence bloom. And they are often willing to take this step at the risk of losing the value their website already possesses. Despite the majority of professional SEO agencies that advise businesses to avoid spammy local SEO tactics, certain companies will ignore this advice. And the results of this can be quite devaluating for them. That is why we will use this article to explore the reasons why your business should avoid spammy local SEO tactics.

The negative impacts SEO spam tactics can have

Time to audit the notion of spammy local SEO tactics
Let us help analyze the risks of spam SEO tactics

Whether you are running a location-based or service-area business, the goal of gaining visibility for your website can be daunting. Service-area businesses might have it more challenging since most don’t have a physical presence in the areas they service. And so, a lot of businesses will be looking to invest in local SEO tactics that will give them the opportunity to grow their online presence. However, some will be far less patient, looking for shortcuts and hacks to help them gain the upper hand over competitors. And there will always be those marketers that will be more than glad to accommodate such needs.

There are certainly less reputable digital marketing agencies and freelancers that will be more than willing to help with black hat SEO. On the other hand, most of them will not be inclined to warn you of the risks of turning to SEO scams. Fortunately, we are not of the same mindset. Our team understands and has seen many times just how hurtful spammy local SEO tactics can be. Over-optimizing your website, stuffing your content with keywords, misleading customers – it can all damage the reputation of a business.

6 spammy local SEO tactics to avoid and why

When it comes to ranking as a location-based business, Google has a tendency to reward companies that offer value to customers. Whether through content or products/services that a company provides, it is essential for it to be relevant to their market. And when it is, search engine algorithms will recognize it as a well-earned presence. Then again, there are always wrong turns that a business can take in its need to attract crowds to its website. So, let’s see if we can’t help you avoid the most common of these black hat local SEO approaches by explaining them.

1. Using cities or zip codes to stuff the footer with keywords

This was a commonly used practice for a long time because SEOs believed that having a rich presence of keywords in the footer would help websites rank higher on SERPs. And the thing is that it did bring about positive results in the past. But as usual, Google eventually figured out the game plan and came up with an algorithm update to neutralize it. Today, websites that attempt this type of manipulation through their footer have very little to gain and a whole lot to lose.

  • Google has specifically stated in its Quality Guidelines that loading a webpage with irrelevant keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s rankings “results in negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking.”

What is the alternative to this plan?

If you are a location-based business, you will want to point out the different locations that you serve. By creating a custom section on your homepage or a separate page listing those locations, you can get that point across. And you can do so without antagonizing Google or risking stuffing your footer. If you want to boost this approach even further, convert those lists of locations into links leading to separate pages with unique content, optimized for each location.

2. Setting up GMB pages for locations where you do not have a physical presence

Person working from home
Creating GMB profiles for physically inactive locations can cause more harm than good.

Whether we’re discussing paid advertising or SEO strategies, individuals will always look for ways to win against the system. When it comes to ranking for local keywords, businesses (service-providers, in particular) will turn their focus on Google My Business (GMB). And among the many spammy local SEO tactics that used to bring in value, there was one that exploited the features of GMB profiling. By creating pages on your GMB account for neighboring towns and cities, you can gain more exposure and expand your target audience. Unfortunately, one of the essential factors here is to have an actual active office location in the city you listed. And this is where black hat SEO took its toll.

Companies used to practice using P.O. Boxes, family homes, and virtual offices to gain a foothold at certain locations. This approach resulted in thousands of false empty business listings that Google is trying to clear up to this day. And so, it has since introduced guidelines when it comes to ranking your business on Google Maps. Office locations that lack the presence of staff during work hours are not permitted on your Google My Business listing. Therefore, any attempts to rank higher in neighboring locations through false GMB pages will backfire and negatively affect even your actual location.

What is the alternative to this plan?

Having a well-organized Google My Business account helps your business a lot, but only so long as you follow the guidelines and focus on quality rather than sheer quantity. Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) consistency is one of the most important local ranking factors. Rather than attempting to rank in neighboring cities with false listings, make sure that your active location has all the information it needs to offer value in the eyes of Google.

3. Creating spam self-reviews and shaming competitors

Businessman clicking on virtual online reviews icons.
Self-reviews and competition shaming is an unprofessional approach to business.

It is no secret that modern consumers are more dependant on company reviews than ever before. And it is also no surprise that there are those that are willing to take advantage of this fact, especially when you take into consideration how much attention Google is giving to the notion of positive reviews. So, what do companies with black hat SEO tendencies do – they create false five-star reviews for their business while leaving no-comment on-star reviews for their competitors. The goal is obvious by itself – dominating the competition through review rankings.

Fighting against such tactics can be challenging given that Google is still lacking a way to identify and penalize spam reviews. However, there are ways to remove bad and unfounded reviews on most listings sites with the right claim. And there is also the option of reporting duplicate reviews or unfounded positive reviews from the same IP address in a limited time frame.

What is the alternative to this plan?

Rather than risking your credibility by stooping so low as to falsify reviews, why not work on earning quality reviews. Customers understand the importance of reviews when searching for products or services – they simply need a push in the right direction. And sometimes, simply by asking kindly for a review, you can secure an authentic review of your business. Consider that each positive review and response helps your business gain favor in the eyes of Google as well.

4. Overplaying the “money keyword anchor text” card

Person looking at landing page for Growing Business.
Avoid spammy local SEO tactics such as money keywords in all your anchor texts.

Anchor texts are the words that serve to describe the link you attach to them. By using exact keywords for the page the link leads to, you can gain additional value. However, at some point, using the exact keywords appears to unnatural and forced, offering no real value in terms of content but rather an obvious ploy to gain favor from search engines. One of the spammy local SEO tactics businesses should avoid here is to limit their use of anchor text to their company and website name or exact keywords.

With its recent updates and policies, Google is claiming that websites should have a higher focus on users rather than search engines. And so, they are inclined to reward websites that create content and optimize primarily for site visitors. In the spirit of that, Google views optimized anchor texts as an obvious attempt at manipulating search engine rankings and devalues such anchors.

What is the alternative to this plan?

Rather than limit your use of anchor texts and risk penalties, turn the tables by using variations. Vary the phrases and texts you use to explain the link to readers and avoid using the exact keywords to do so. Focus on thinking of a phrase that will engage with users and tickle their curiosity enough to follow the link. And make sure to constantly keep your choice of anchor text dynamic.

5. Providing separate call tracking numbers on business listings

Call tracking software
You should avoid using separate call tracking numbers on your business listings.

Building a rich database of citations on industry-relevant business listings can bring a lot of attention to your company. By providing consistency in your NAP (name, address, phone number) information and descriptions of your business, you can help Google confirm your authenticity and award value to your brand. Google cross-checks all the listings a local business has to verify the authority of the business and boost its rankings.

One of the more spammy local SEO tactics that companies tend to use is creating separate call tracking numbers on each of their listings. That way, they are able to track the effectiveness of the listing in question. However, any sign of such inconsistencies can easily lead to penalties from Google and losing the credibility of your GMB account as well. Therefore, it is best to maintain your NAP footprint on all the listings you have online.

What is the alternative to this plan?

Instead of searching for ways to track the effectiveness of listings, focus on finding more industry-related listings that can help raise visibility for your company. You can also use company descriptions on listings to promote relevant keywords that will gain the attention of users.

6. Duplicating content on location pages for your services

Two women copying from the third.
Avoid duplicating the content on your location pages.

In an effort to dominate the search results for multiple locations, businesses will create separate landing pages for each location. And this is a perfectly acceptable approach so long as the content for each page is unique and optimized for that particular keyword. However, one of the popular spammy local SEO tactics that companies turn to instead is copying the content on every page, with minor changes in terms of the city or state name. The side-effect of this plan can take a wrong turn for three reasons:

  • When you duplicate content on multiple pages on your website, search engine algorithms will choose between them.
  • Duplicated content leads to internal competition between your inner pages. That can lead to overall confusion and loss of all rankings.
  • Google will not hesitate to deindex pages or even your entire website if it catches on to your plan to manipulate the search engine results.

The pit of falling into doorway pages

Google defines doorway pages as pages that were created with the intent to satisfy search engine algorithms and not actual users. At some point in the past, these pages used to provide results. However, a couple of updates changes that, bringing value back to pages with unique content that focuses on and is useful to users.

Start working on your local SEO strategy the right way

With the support and knowledge of Digital Dot, you can easily maneuver past spammy local SEO tactics that can prove hurtful for your online presence. Instead, our team can provide you with an alternative solutions that will not only provide positive long-term results but will also protect you against any potential penalties from Google.

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