Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “5 SEO Shortcuts to Avoid.”

Search engines are programmed to reward relevance and popularity, and are striving to algorithmically determine quality as well. Ecommerce sites are programmed to sell product to customers as efficiently as possible while offering a positive brand experience. Ecommerce sites often strive for quick search-engine-optimization wins, which can be easily mistaken for SEO shortcuts that should be avoided.

Companies with little brand equity may be able to afford to try shortcut solutions that could work well in the short-term but can be exposed and penalized as time goes on. These companies tend to have hundreds of domains that they can test on, push the limits on, and then abandon if they burn down. Most ecommerce sites can’t afford a model like that. Companies that value their brand equity need to avoid SEO shortcuts that can potentially result in search-result dampening or even getting banned from search results entirely.

It’s critical to remember that organic search marketing is entirely dependent on organic search engines and their definitions of value and quality. It doesn’t matter how fantastic the product is, how hard the company tries or how earnestly the marketing team wants to succeed in SEO. The search engines make the rules.

It’s up to site owners to decide whether to play by those rules for slower growing, long-term success or to look for a way around the rules to short-term success and higher risk.

But which strategies are high-risk shortcuts that should be avoided? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but as Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts said recently in an interview with SEO industry leader Eric Enge, “The main thing is that people should avoid looking for shortcuts. In competitive market areas there has always been a need to figure out how to differentiate yourself, and nothing has changed today.”

Read the article in full and all FIVE TIPS at Practical eCommerce »

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