Common SEO Risks: To Take or Not to Take

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Business success stories often focus on risk taking—the actual careful preparation and the fast beating I-don’t-know-if-this-will-work heart part of the story, however, is usually kept under wraps. It’s important to take risks in business, but risks don’t always pay off. Being nervous is natural, but being unprepared doesn’t usually get you where you want to go. Before you take a risk in business, you should consider whether or not that risk is one you should really be willing to take. Some SEO decisions might come to you in the spur of the moment, but having a little bit of background information on some choices you might have in the future will help. This doesn’t mean you won’t be taking a risk, it just means you’ll be taking a calculated risk (only the best kind).

SEO Risks Worth Taking

Taking a risk essentially means going for something that has the potential to go wrong. Now of course everything has the potential to go wrong if not planned properly, but with risks it’s tougher to plan. It’s more of a leap that you just think will go well.

For those of you who have followed my writing, you know I’m a traveling writer. I like to think of it this way: When I jumped off the bridge in New Zealand with a bungee attached to my waist—it was a planned decision. When I went cliff diving in Thailand and looked down and thought, “it doesn’t look that far,” that was a risk (and one I recommend). The same idea goes for SEO.

There are many different aspects of SEO that leave one to wonder what’s going to happen, and a lot of the time that’s completely OK. A few of these risks include:

  • Hiring a writer with no SEO experience. This is something that often trips people up, but as a writer, I don’t believe that it should. Writing for SEO purposes or writing about SEO is different than what someone might have learned in journalism classes, and it might be more difficult than personal blogging, but that doesn’t mean a writer can’t do it. Take a chance on a good writer and give him/her good training. It could be well worth it in the end.
  • Changing your website design. People are often afraid to change their website design because it can have some bad SEO affects (scare away readers, confuse search engine bots if something goes wrong with the source code, losing link juice, etc.). However, website design is something you can change back and it is something that can succeed if done right. If it’s something you’ve been thinking about for a while but are scared to try, it’s usually a risk you should be willing to take.
  • Hire a social media expert. This can definitely be risky because it’s such a new position. Many people think they can be a social media “expert” because they have social media accounts. This is not the case, and if you get someone that doesn’t understand how social sharing works for business, you could lose out on time and money. However, this position is quickly growing, which means more qualified candidates are also to come. Interview carefully and understand that social media is something that someone can make a full time job. Soon, this will be common practice.

When it really comes down to it, it’s all about determining the risk versus the reward. If you take a risk and the failure isn’t going to hurt you as much as the reward will help you, or the failure is something you can reverse or recover from quickly, you’re in the clear. For example, if you hire a writer who knows nothing about SEO, you might fail and have a few pieces of poor content out there associated with your company that you’ll have to go through and delete. If you succeed, you could have a great writer on your hands before anyone else realized the potential.

SEO Risks to Avoid

In some cases, it’s not worth it. You might feel impulsive and get that whole “no risk, no reward” mentality pumping through your veins, but that excitement will surely end when you see something go wrong. Below are a few risks you might be tempted to take that will undoubtedly get you down:

  • Outsourcing SEO Copywriting. There are quite a few things that can go wrong with outsourcing SEO copywriting—improper English, plagiarism, double outsourcing, etc. Although you could get lucky and with research you might be able to make it work, I generally recommend trying to hire in-house so that you have more control. Sometimes when it comes to outsourcing anything you have to sign into a contract, which can get messy if things go wrong.
  • Cloaking, negative SEO, and keyword stuffing. This should go without saying, but some companies are still trying to take these types of risks. The industry leaders call these “black hat” SEO tactics because Google hates when companies try and do this. It might seem like a good idea at first, but rest assured that Google will find you, penalize you, and make it hard for you to recover. You can learn more about black hat tactics here.
  • Development issues. It can be tempting for a company to try and work with the source code of a website. You might want to set certain tags up so that your content is indexed on other websites, so that link juice remains when you switch domains, etc. You read these things online and they seem like a good idea; however if you’re not a developer it’s harder than it looks. Messing with the coding of your website can get costly, so it’s really not a risk worth taking. Spend the extra cash and find someone who is very familiar with that type of work.

What are your thoughts on different SEO risks? Are there any other quick decisions you’ve had to make in the past? If so, what were they and do you think you reacted correctly? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

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Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro

Online Content Editor/Writer at HigherVisibility
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a... Read Full Bio
Amanda DiSilvestro
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  • Benjamin

    Good post. Now only if more customers understand the risks of outsourcing.

  • Sergey

    We use textbroker for SEO optimized content and they are quite decent, they are also getting better every time we use them.

  • Deepanker

    And what about my mistake

    I changed permalink of a my blog having more than 1500 posts? Webmaster tool shows both URLS as duplicate meta description and Duplicate title . I used 301 redirect properly. so many 404 are also there while page is redirecting properly

    Can this be a reason for Panda slap? If yes then How to fix it

    • Vikash

      Deepanker, you should request for url removal through webmasters to get those old links noindexed. Since they are already indexed, google can treat them as duplicate.

  • Donna

    Excellent article. Many sites have been affected by panda recently. It really does pay off to study up on the on site optimisation these days. That is what l am doing now. I have seen quite a few sites hit position 1 with no back links at all.

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      Excellent and thank you for reading! I do think backlinks are becoming more and more important, but that doesn’t mean that ranking without them isn’t a plus 🙂

  • James

    What do you mean when you say negative SEO is a risk you should avoid?

    How can you avoid it if it happens to one of your sites? Or do you mean actually doing it to one of your competitors in which case how is that a risk?


    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      Exactly–I mean doing it to one of your competitors. I think that some businesses actually see this as a good thing. They think, “I will point spam links to my competitor’s site in order to make my site look better.” This is a huge risk because although it might sound like a good idea in theory, doing this can have your site severely penalized by Google. With the new disavow links tool, you’re sure to get caught faster than before! Hope that makes sense!

  • Tom

    Good points. I long for the day when people stop turning to me and stating that they can buy 5,000 dofollow links a month for the same I am charging for a couple of articles!

    • Patrick Wagner

      I totally agree with Tom – there are still too many websites benefits from large link buying and link schemes. I’m expecting Google to clamp down hard on these before the end of the year.

  • Tory Reiss

    The best is when people use elance and pay for some random SEO from India or Pakistan because its half price. Then they call an organic SEO to fix it and end up paying

  • Alvin Brown

    Personally, I’ve been able to find success in outsourcing content but with REALLY STRICT barriers in place . Some, not all, barriers are taking the responsibility to give short and concise topics and details to write about, not blindly accepting content and posting, edit content and make it my own writing style and voice, and use plagiarism tools such as before payment is made, In addition, I also make use of Google Authorship. There are many more to list, but these are the ones I suggest when someone makes inquiries about outsourcing content.

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      Always great to hear a personal experience. I definitely think outsourcing can be successful, but you’re right, you have to be very careful and put a lot of thought into how it is going to work. Thanks for reading!

  • Rick

    That is some great information given there, I’ve actually used some of the questions when engaging with SEO consultants. And it is excellent, it helps me to understand the expertise of the SEO consultants. Thank You1