Is SEO the magic lamp of Internet marketing?
Of course it is not. And this is a common mistake that many companies make, and that costs them dear.
Marketing itself is rarely a source of certainity. There are so many factors on the table, and some of them change so quickly sometimes, that there are no guarantees that any strategy will pay off. Even more, there is never zero chance of these strategies actually backfiring and ending up being a total waste of money, effort and time.
Internet marketing follows the same rules, but even if it has its advantages -it is much easier to reach a wolrdwide audience instantly through an online media-, it has also its own challenges. Everything is faster in the Internet, even the changes of rules and trends. What worked one day to take you to the top, perhaps the next day is bad words and could toss you from said top to the dark oblivion of not selling things.
Rule of thumb for SEO and other Internet marketing techniques: no guarantees. SEO is always a bet, and you must remember that, because some people will want to make you forget. Scammers and swindlers here and there will try to convince you that they can work magic in no time, take your money and sell you some horrible service instead. Not only it might not help you - it could kind of kill you.
Backlinks, a coin with two sides
Everybody in SEO loves backlinks. And even if you have absolutely no knowledge of how search engine optimization works, it becomes instantly clear that links to your page in other pages are something good. It is webpages around the Internet telling other people to check yours. They esentially seem like a good thing, and in some ways, they are. But in others, they aren't. How?
There was a time around the 2000's where backlinks were the kings of the SEO scene. Everybody wanted them, they were everywhere. And they became a bait for a Google algorythm reorganization when they became a plague of spam. Link building techniques were savage and thoughtless: links here and there, with no connection to the theme of the host website, and no care for keyword stuffing. The quality of many webpages was at risk, and Google developed Penguin, a new algorythm that would evaluate the relevancy and quality of backlinks. They were no longer always a plus to target websites; some of them were even a penalty.
The importance of understanding risk with bad SEO is knowing that many of these companies still work under the old guidelines of backling spam. There is a very interesting -and actually funny- blog called shitty SEO, where people share horribly optimized webpages and teach exactly what is wrong with them. It also has a blog with tons of useful information about bad SEO techniques. While browsing it, you will not only learn a lot or practical knowledge about search engine optimization and how NOT to do it, but you will also have a great time beholding some awful abominations of Internet marketing spawned by equally awful SEO companies. And you will learn exactly what is wrong with them, why, and how not to do it yourself. Remember that, as funny as this is, it is also a very strong note to take: if you are not careful, this could happen to you.
How can you know if your website is being penalized by bad backlinks?
Even if, as we have stated, there are a lot of search engine optimization companies out there which do a terrible job and give you unaccurate information on how your site is doing and what you could do to make it better, there are also great Internet tools to assess your numbers with Google and check how everything is going. If you want to see whether or not badly placed links are damaging your website reputation, and therefore mining your traffic, what you need to do is to run a backlink audit.
There are many link audit services availiable for you to try. They all do basically the same. They search the Internet for all links pointing to your website, check the status of their host pages, and red flag the ones that will actually make Google think your own webpage isn't that great. Most of these tools also have deletion features that will allow you to elliminate those links.
Even if you have never hired optimization services, and therefore you are sure that you have never been scammed, you should give link audit a try. Sometimes, competitors place bad links on your behalf to see your webpage penalized. Give it a try, it always pays off.