Most people who have websites know that they need to optimize them on at least a basic level. The way that many people begin to work on this is by making sure that meta tags and keywords are in place, descriptions and keywords are used. Other basics are things like using title tags for each page, alt tags on the images. Using a sitemap to help the searches crawl your site, and indexing everything just so, those are all constructive, basic means of utilizing appropriate SEO. Of course, you're not going to get penalized if your SEO firm uses these things, as they are safe to use.

However, there are a number of things that will alert you to a search engine optimization technique that will get you penalized. It won't be the search firm that loses out, it will be you so it is important that you know what you're looking for. Initially, SEO firms that claim things like being able to get you the top rank on Google, or firms that won't tell you their techniques should be seen as red flags. However, here are a few techniques that some are still trying to use but should be avoided.

Link buying is one of the biggest debates in search. Some people think that it is okay to give your rankings a boost, others do not. This is done usually by buying links on high traffic, high rank and authority sites, therefor boosting your own site's rank. Now, depending on where you stand as a business or as a marketer buying links can be either a good thing or a bad thing.

However, Google's Matt Cutts is of the opinion that it's not a good thing and has been very vocal about making an issue out of it. So, whether right or wrong, the search engine of choice, which has already spanked a number of business websites for what it sees as bad business says this is bad business. Definitely something you want to avoid like the plague.

If you do decide to go this route, or you know that your SEO is going to, there may be something that you want to know. There are good ways to do it and there are bad ways. Purchasing a bunch of links is usually a quick boost but also a pretty effective red flag. If you decide to buy links, the best thing to do is to try to make it look natural. Contextual linking within different blog posts makes more sense, allow them to flow a bit more naturally. A bunch of links all with the same anchor text? Forget it, you've got an SEO who is engaging in something that is going to be penalized in time.

Another thing that people still do but they should be avoiding is hidden text. This is a very big problem- and while your potential clients and customers may not be able to see that text, the bots do see it- and you will get a penalty for it. Working with source code, those search bots are paying attention to many things, one of which being text that is the same color as the background. It isn't an intelligent way to get more keywords into your site, it's something that you have got to be very careful about and avoid. This is one area you really have to be careful and pay attention to your own source code. If you don't have a very secure site, spammers can also exploit that, and put spammy hidden text in there- and so, whether you hired someone to do it, whether you knew they were going to or not, whether it was just a spammer taking advantage of the vulnerability- you'll get penalized. The bots really don't care who did it or how much you knew about it, so it pays to be vigilant.

Author's Bio: 

Brian Waraksa is founder of Raxa Design, a Houston SEO firm. Brian has been in advertising and marketing small company branding since 2002. Feel free to follow Raxa Design on Twitter.
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