Search engine optimization practitioners often claim that SEO is part science, part art. To the uninitiated neophyte, the intricacies and jargon can be overwhelming and hard to understand. Algo Who? SEO is an Internet marketing strategy with the primary goal of driving high quality, high volume traffic to a website, courtesy of a high search engine result ranking.
Villains and Heroes
Black hat SEO and white hat SEO are terms tossed about like, well — hats! The implication can be one of villains and evil shenanigans. But these metaphorical terms refer to the purity of the methods used to improve the ranking of a website, based on how the specific search engine defines “pure and ethical” in its terms of service. In most cases, that search engine is Google.
White hat tactics comply with the practices deemed allowable by the search engine, and black tactics violate them. That’s a bit simplistic, and perhaps more true in years past, but generally black hat techniques are employed by people interested in short term, quick results and monetary profit. They employ deception, manipulation, and fraud of some sort and create a frustrating experience for the site’s visitor. Black hat SEO methods are inorganic tricks designed to drive search engine traffic to a site.
Systemic SEO abuse reached a pinnacle a few years ago, so in 2012 Google stepped in with some corrections known as Penguin. The algorithm update was designed to identify and penalize websites in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Black hat SEO tactics that manipulated the number of links pointing to a page (“link schemes”) in order to artificially increase the search engine ranking were now detectable. If Google discovered these inorganic links, the sites risked banning (de-indexing) or heavy penalties and fines.
Doing it Wrong
What exactly do black hat SEO techniques look like? You are probably familiar with a few because they can be incredibly annoying when stumbled upon:
Keyword Stuffing – Loading a webpage with irrelevant, inappropriate, and out of context keywords or numbers to manipulate a search engine. AKA “spamdexing.” Google offers this example:
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog comment spam – You’ve seen these nonsensical, clearly automated, random comments. They usually include a link back to the spammer’s site and inane comments like “Cool site” or “I’ll be sure to be back often, you’re really onto something here.”
Link Farms and Paid Links – Purchasing or exchanging reciprocal links with other sites that have no relevant connection to the original site.
Doing it Right
White Hat SEO complies with all of the search engine’s guidelines and ensures that the written material indexed by the search engines is exactly what a human visitor to the site sees: original, dynamic, quality content. That’s where hiring exceptionally creative blog content writers comes in!
Keyword research and analysis ensures that effective, relevant words are incorporated into the site’s content, not unrelated jargon. Appropriate linking is done within the site to other pages on the site. External links to trusted sites contribute value, and relevant, quality sources linking back to your blog are beneficial.
Google rewards sites in compliance with these simple guidelines by ranking them highest in search returns, ensuring that visitors experience “a great user experience and fulfill their information needs.”
Laura W looks horrible in hats of any color.