Ethical SEO Techniques: White Hat Vs Black Hat
But what does the colour of a hat have to do with SEO? Well the coloured hats are metaphorical for good vs bad, or in other terms search engine approved and non search engine approved.
A SEO tactic is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines guidelines and involves no deception. Essentially this means your site should be built to provide the visitor and search engines with useful, legitimate information which is presented clearly and is easy for the search engines to index.
There is a saying in internet marketing that “content is king” and this is the cornerstone of white hat SEO. There is nothing more valuable you can do to optimise your site for search engines than offer unique well written content. Therefore by doing so, you improve your own chances of ranking well as a search engines aim is to provide the most appropriate website for any given search to the end user.
The major benefit of white hat SEO is that it’s free, the majority of the work such as making the site easily crawlable, pages well structured with well distributed keywords and well placed internal links can all be considered and implemented in the design stage. Leaving such (still free) methods as link building and article writing for after.
As a basic rule with white hat SEO if you follow Google’s guideline of how to construct a website you can’t go far wrong. The only drawback with playing by the rules is that to reach the elusive top spots of the rankings can mean investing a lot of time and effort.
Which is where Black hat SEO comes in as some webmasters aren’t prepared to wait months even years in some cases to rank well. Therefore they attempt to ‘trick’ the search engines into ranking sites and pages based on illegitimate means. Whether this is through the use of doorway pages, hidden text, interlinking, keyword spamming or other means they are meant to only trick a search engine into placing a website high in the rankings. Because of this, sites using black-hat SEO tactics tend to drop from these positions as fast as they climb once it is noted the search engine underhand methods are at play.
Below are brief descriptions of the major black hat techniques used as it can be useful to be able spot these techniques. Creare in no way uses these techniques and does not advocate using these techniques because it can only end in tears for listing of your website.
Keyword Stuffing – This is probably one of the most common techniques of search engine spam. Essentially this is when a webmaster or SEO places a large number of the targeted keyword phrase in the page in the hope that the search engine will read this as relevant.
Hidden text – Text that is set at the same colour as the background or very close to it. While the major search engines can easily detect text set to the same colour as a background some webmasters will try to get around it by creating an image file the same colour as the text and setting the image file as the background. While undetectable at this time to the search engines this is blatant spam and websites using this tactic are usually reported quickly by competitors and the site sandboxed by the engines.
Cloaking – Is a method of presenting different information to the search engines than a human visitor would see. There are multiple methods of doing this but they are being discovered all the time. Even if you were to discover a method that currently works you still run the risk of a competitor discovering it and reporting you leading to an inevitable blacklisting.
Doorway pages – pages added to a website solely to target a specific keyword phrase and provide little in the way of useful content to a visitor. Generally the content on these pages provide no information and the page is only there to promote a phrase in hopes that once a visitor lands there, they will then go to the homepage and continue on from there.
Redirects – Redirecting, when used as a black-hat tactic, is most commonly brought in as a compliment to doorway pages. Because doorway pages generally have little or no substantial content, redirects are sometime applied to automatically move a visitor to a page with actual content such as the homepage of the site.
Duplicate Sites – When affiliate programs became popular many webmasters would simply create a copy of the site they were promoting, tweak it a bit, and put it online in hopes that it would outrank the site it was promoting and capture their sales. As the search engines would ideally like to see unique content across all of their results this tactic was quickly banned and the search engines developed methods for detecting and removing duplicate sites from their index.
There is a consensus that black hat SEO techniques are unethical, the ideas and content they promote certainly can be but to describe the techniques themselves as unethical depends on which school of thought you are from and how much you like to push the boundaries.
However, as mentioned several times in this article the implementation of a black hat SEO techniques may result in short term gain but overall it would be a poor choice to implement them. Like the saying goes “cheaters never prosper” and you’d be much better off playing safe, following the rules and guidelines of the search engines and employing white hat techniques if you wish to run a successful, long term, online marketing campaign.