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Indians have long been branded as guys associated with Black Hat techniques, but just like a coin has two faces, there are both good and bad pictures of the Indian SEO scene. In my experience, the stereotypical Indian SEO professional is considered someone who has little absorbed information about search engines whose only expertise lies in spammy link building, and is desperate for answers that could guarantee better search engine results. Now this stereotype isn’t something I believe exists, it is something that I was made to believe in. So what happened of the good Indian SEO guys? Well, we will get to that soon, but first let’s take a look at how we Indians were bitten by the search engine bug.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO remains a fascination among most of the contemporary digital natives, and we as Indians have particularly established our niche in this area. The magnetic force of being the front-runners in cracking a code, which the entire world is after, has driven the lives of many of us involved as SEO professionals.
This code, many times conveniently referred to as the ‘Google Search Algorithm’, has obsessed Indians for more than a decade now, and personally I have known a few who had confessed living and breathing SEO 24×7, even during their sleep and dreams. However, after Panda and Penguin, most of them lost their sleep. But that is completely another matter and falls out of context here.
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Like most businesses, SEO arrived here as an industry that demanded and thrived on cheaper resources and a big number of computer savvy individuals with limited skills. Moreover, outsourcing has been long used and considered a vital factor for increasing the bottom line of business. Indians are known to be hard working with good enough grasp on English and above average intelligence. This somehow enabled us to engage businesses and build strong professional relationships with top outsourcing countries.
Coming back to SEO, and I’m referring to the period 2005-12, during which India had evolved, or rather turned into a data entry hub with thousands of companies outsourcing convenient labor for directory submissions and spammy link building. It must be noted that this wasn’t exactly considered spam back then, and was kind of pretty basic thing to do. I’m sure most Indian SEOs would agree with this.
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The ‘Bad’ Black Hatters
It is evident that the very foundation of our SEO industry was laid on an extremely delinquent concrete, which most of us know is extinct now. They brought several Internet-based businesses down after Google unleashed relatively cute sounding animals- Panda and Penguin, ironically with underlying nuclear-grade power. Most SEOs would chuckle or even ridicule this, if I say I know guys who are still doing directory submissions. Sadly, it is much true and still rampant.
Both experienced and new Indian SEOs were being chided for employing Black Hat techniques, such as link will, link exchange, doorway pages, sneaky redirects and many others. The situation went out of hand when one guy found a loop hole in the search engine algorithm, and the entire industry would seize the initiative and start spamming with all guns blazing.
The ‘Good’ Indian SEO Guys
So while Larry Page and Sergey Brin were determined to make Google ubiquitous in the true meaning of the word, the forward Indian SEO enthusiasts started making sense of many a great things that were bound to happen in future. It seemed that Google was moving towards outgrowing the web, but we started accepting this only after the last and final brick was nailed in the foundation.
Modern SEOs upped the ante and had stormed the digital marketing avenue in email & social media marketing and analytics, besides content creation, management and marketing. The reason guys like Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot and Neil Patel, founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, resorted to inbound marketing could be credited to Google itself. For instance, it is very likely that both Shah and Patel chose inbound marketing as their key business denominator because they had envisioned that social signals had the potential to influence the code. This gave them a real and highly intimidating edge over other digital marketing natives, and rest as they say is history.
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It must be noted that Shah and Patel did this while based in US, and this begs the question where did we (based in India) were doing at the same time. Well, I’d like to confess that we Indians were impatient and before the wicked hour, this impatience got upgraded to desperation. As I mentioned before, while Shah and Patel laid the foundation to their brilliant business ideas, we here were aimlessly running after rankings and search spam.
The ‘Ugly’ Indian Desperation
Content marketing is that emerging industry where India could establish a major foothold, I’m not sure how exactly and when it will happen, but am sure it has the right mix of talent and will power. Sometimes our desperation has its pitfalls as well, and more recently the blog post of Geraldine DeRuiter, called Pitch Me, Baby, One More Time: I Reply to More Spammy Requests. If you go through this seriously funny piece, you will understand the Indian desperation I am trying to convey so desperately!
Of the three examples Geraldine quoted in her blog, two were from the humble land of my native country, and I’m pretty sure first one was Indian (going by the crooked English). Geraldine used to receive a lot of guest post pitches, and one Sunday she grew fed up of the futile attempts of anxious bloggers and decided to teach them a lesson in her own way. Hence, the onslaught of endless selfies, bare chested Jeff Goldblum picture references and ridiculing began, although in lighthearted manner.
Another recent instance caught my attention, and it came through Matt McGee – Editor-in-Chief at Marketing Land & Search Engine Land. I believe just like Geraldine, Matt used to receive a lot of guest post pitches (Come on, he has big reason as well!) – somewhere till the extent that he became annoyed with the word – guest post. Now for the funny part, Matt received a friend request on FourSquare from an Indian guy called ‘Guest Post’ with an image of a girl!! WTH.. right?
If Matt hadn’t been kind enough to share this on Twitter, we wouldn’t have the chance to learn or laugh about the girl or a guy (still confused!) active on a location-based social networking website and profile name – Guest Post. Don’t forget the reactions– they are equally funny!
It goes on…
Connecting the dots…
So far we have discussed the Bad, the Good and the Ugly Indian stereotypical images in the SEO community, and I’m sure you’d have amazed with the ethnic diversity we have. However, jokes apart – the Indian scene has its highs and lows just like anywhere else in the world. Both Black and White Hat SEO companies are realities of this industry, and tagging Indians as sole practitioners of Black Hat techniques is just wrong and ridiculous.
The new-age India-based digital natives and SEO professionals have moved on and have adopted sophisticated and widely recognized optimization practices. Furthermore and I’m proud of the fact that we have finally started thinking from the consumer point of view, instead of search engines. We have finally accepted that content is not only the king, but is the queen, knights and pawns and everything. Content marketing is that emerging industry where India could establish a major foothold, I’m not sure how exactly and when it will happen, but am sure she has the right mix of talent and will power.
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Sometimes the great Indian desperation has its pitfalls as well, and I’m referring to the practice of cold pitching for guest posts, unnecessary dissection of rumored search algorithm parameters, and pathetic outreach attempts and response likewise. It must be noted that many India-based SEOs emerged as game changers in the industry and helped several big businesses in establishing a powerful online foothold. However, most of them restricted themselves within their work-sphere and turned into successful entrepreneurs. They can be called our silver lining and I know if they came out more often and addressed their audience openly, the stereotypical Indian SEO image would wither away quickly.