Some call it a question of ethics; others just call it business. The discussion is raging online and in marketing conferences around the world, but what exactly are black hat SEO and white hat SEO, anyway?
White hat SEO is the angelic version of optimization, that is, it employs only techniques as recommended – or at least, not barred – by search engines and their ever-changing guidelines. Typically, results in the form of more traffic and higher profits take anywhere from three months to a year. With this type of SEO, there is no fear of your site being banned by search engines.
Black hat SEO, on the other hand, is the impatient fraternal twin of white hat SEO. It utilizes techniques specifically banned by search engines like hidden text and hidden links. Some call this spam. Others call it business savvy. Whatever you call it, if the search engine gurus figure out your game then the gig is up and you’re blackballed. That means that you could type the name of your company and your name and business address into the search box and your site still won’t come up.
It basically breaks down like this: White hat SEO focuses on marketing and the text on a site, updating with keyword rich, informative articles that benefit their clients and build a solid following over time. Black hat SEO focuses on technology and IT tricks to get a ton of traffic right away.
The important thing to consider is what your goal is. Do you want high traffic or do you want high sales? With black hat SEO, you may get immediate results as far as visitors to your site but do these visitors want to buy what you have to offer? If not, who cares if they end up on your site? White hat SEO is more interested in targeted traffic, attracting the kind of visitors to your site who are actually looking for you and are ready to buy your products or services. Over time, your traffic and sales rise together as you build up a following through word of mouth and repeat customers.
So what’s all the fuss about? Mostly, the rules. White hat SEO follows them meticulously. Black hat SEO follows the numbers instead. Those who take the time to research and follow the rules are irritated by those who achieve high search engine rankings without taking the same pains. However, black hat SEO proponents point out that search engine requests are hardly laws and therefore doing what they like is far from illegal. It’s in this discussion that the white hat and black hat merge to become a grey hat.
In fact, white hat fanatics might charge that those who write articles specifically to utilize keyword repetition are manipulating the system and are dabbling in black hat SEO. The less fanatical may point to links as a grey area. Search engines don’t want links on a site purely to drive traffic. However, if links are related to the content on the site, then that’s okay. But what about those sites where there are paid links that have nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the site they grace? Paid links as advertisements are white hat. Paid links purely for driving traffic, black hat. True motivation of the webmaster? Grey hat.
When it comes down to it, everyone who utilizes search engines in hopes of gaining top rankings are going to use optimization in order to climb to the top of those rankings. If motivation is the only concern, then it is an issue of politics that need not take up your time. Just know that if you use technology, link farms, and other banned resources that are designed purely to drive traffic and you get caught, you will be blacklisted from the search engine. If it’s worth the risk to you, then do what you have to do. The choice is yours.
Black Hat SEO – What Never To Do Or Get Banned
While there are many legitimate skills in SEO there are also those that can work but if you get caught using them the results can be disastrous. When search engine optimization became an issue many techniques were employed because at that point the search engines used a much simpler algorithm. As these tricks were used to exploit the simpler algorithms they were also served to make them more advanced. Let’s look at a few tricks.
Cloaking and redirects are methods whereby you show one page to the search engine but a different one to the visitor. A redirect merely brings visitors to one page and then sends them to another page by refreshing the page with one on their site. Cloaking involves fooling a search engine’s indexer into thinking that it is something else and getting the indexer to send false information back to its boss.
Other techniques involve overloading metatags with keywords or even hiding keywords in plain site on the webpage. A variation on this technique is to shrink the keywords so that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.
Using unrelated keywords is another trick especially when combined with the above mentioned tricks. By using unrelated keywords in this manner you can drive traffic to your site from multiple sources.
Using an overly optimized landing page can also work. This is not the same thing as a legitimate landing page. In this case you use any and all methods to overly optimize a single and use that to lead people to your site. This would involve using all of the above methods for this one page.
The ultimate penalty for using the unscrupulous methods is banishment from the search engines themselves. Be careful when you employ these dark methods for fear of this punishment. Being penalized is one thing but to not even be on a search engine in the first place is your worst case scenario.
Black Hat SEO: Taking The Shorter Route To Online Success
Higher search engine ranking is not achieved overnight. It takes considerable efforts and time to finally get a website to the top of search engine results. One of the most effective ways to help a website establish successful online presence and ranking is search engine optimisation or SEO.
Black & White – The Philosophies of SEO
Search engine optimisation; however, takes time to achieve results. Some web marketers are not open to the idea of waiting for months to achieve the search engine ranking they are aiming for. This is the reason why some of them decide to take the shorter route to high search engine ranking. They do this by using black hat SEO techniques.
Black Hat Search Engine Optimisation Techniques
Some websites copy content from other websites. The search engines are always in the look out for quality content. But writing content can be so laborious and some web marketers don’t want to go through this task. So instead of writing their own content, they just copy from other successful websites. This is a trick that triggers the red flag from the search engines. Oftentimes, it results to search engine penalty.
Another major factor that the search engines are looking for is keyword. A website that is highly optimised for a particular keyword will rank high on the search engines every time that keyword is searched for. Some web marketers want to get the short cut top ranking by using keywords excessively on the website’s pages. The trick is using invisible keywords (they use the same colour for the keywords’ font and the page’s background) so that the keywords will not be visible to the site visitors. Just like duplicate content, this trick is meant to do more harm than good to the website.
Search engine marketing resources never fail to mention about the importance of links. Truly, links play a crucial role in the online success of a website. A website with the most number of quality links ranks top on the search engine results.
Some web marketers participate in link farms or other link exchange programs to inflate their website’s incoming links. The fact is that the search engines are not only after the quantity of the links, they are after quality as well. Links from low quality websites don’t matter much. And worst, if the search engines found out about the “linking trick”, they will penalise the website.
Just like anything else, there is no shortcut way to online success. Top search engine ranking achieved through acceptable search engine optimisation strategies has long term benefits. Black hat SEO techniques will only give short term results and worst it can get a website banned on the search engines.
Search engine optimization otherwise known as SEO is a popular form of search engine marketing. The main goal of which (as its name would suggest) is to improve the ranking of the site in various search engines. An entire industry of consultants has sprung up around the idea of search engine optimization. However, it’s important to note that there are two distinct and disparate methodologies at work when it comes to optimization. In fact the SEO consultants themselves as well as their methods can be subdivided further into two different groups. The categories are best known as “white hat SEO” (which is aimed at improving overall site quality, and increasing the site’s ranking through approved methods), or “black hat SEO” (often use methods such as cloaking and spamdexing to increase rankings. However, using such methods can lead to your site to being removed from search engine listings). Those in the white hat camp charge that black hat methods are not only giving SEO a bad name but are also attempting to manipulate and undermine the search rankings. The black hatters counter that argument by saying that in truth all SEO is an attempt to manipulate rankings, and therefore the particular methods one uses to increase rankings are irrelevant. In other words they take the more Machiavellian approach of using the end results to justify the means they use.
So what more specifically are the methods being employed by the two camps?
White hat methods:
These methods typically involve following the search engines’ published guidelines as to what is and what isn’t acceptable. The advice typically given by the white hat SEO experts is to create more user-friendly content, and not focus so much on the search engines. That is if your site is well put together and presents something users need it will naturally climb in the rankings. Also by making content that is easily accessible to the search engines spiders it will be properly read and therefore properly indexed in the search engines. The white hatters are needed most often because a webmaster has made critical mistakes in either the design or the set-up of their websites, inadvertently “poisoning” them so that they will not rank well. The SEOs then attempt to discover and correct these mistakes, which may include unreadable menus, broken links, temporary redirects, or simply a poor navigation structure.
Here are a few examples of SEO activities which the search engines find acceptable:
• Using a reasonably-sized, accurate description meta tag without excessive use of keywords, exclamation marks or off topic terms.
• Optimizing tags, titles and other parts of the code as necessary
• Using WordTracker or a similar database to find popular and relevant keywords and phrases to use for your site.
• Monitoring the various search engines to ensure that your URL gets indexed
• Increasing the amount of unique content on the site.
• Writing quality content for the website visitors instead of the search engines.
Black hat methods:
Whereas the white hat methods follow search engine guidelines “Black hat” SEO methods to try to improve rankings by any means necessary. Most of these methods are disapproved of by the search engines, typically because of their deceptive nature, but also hamper the ability of the search engines to provide quality content to site visitors. Search engines often penalize the sites they discover using black hat methods, by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from the search engine results altogether. These penalties are usually applied automatically by the search engines’ algorithms, because the Internet is too large to make manual policing of websites feasible. However once they are discovered, search engines may take action against those found to be using unethical SEO methods. Take for example Google’s removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany in February 2006 for use of these practices.
One common black hat method is known as Spamdexing. Spamdexing is the promotion of irrelevant, chiefly commercial, pages through various deceptive techniques and the abuse of the search algorithms. Unfortunately it often gets confused with white hat search engine optimization techniques, which do not involve deceit. Spamming involves getting websites more exposure than they deserve for their keywords, leading to unsatisfactory search results. Optimization involves getting websites the rank they deserve on the most targeted keywords, leading to satisfactory search experiences.
One example of spamdexing is link farming. Link farming can be basically defined as any group of web pages that all link to every other page in the group. Another common practice is listing popular keywords in fine print or in the same color as the background so they can’t be seen by users.
So how can you tell the difference between Black and White SEO practices?
A very easy way to distinguish between the two is though the amount of time involved in getting the desired results. White hat SEOs use methods that produce results slowly over time and only after a good deal of effort has been put into the site. Black hat SEOs offer you quick and easy results most, if not all, of which will obtained through deceptive practices.