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Pirates of the Internet – The Curse of Black Hat SEO

The world of SEO. It’s a competitive environment with individuals, companies and other advertising agencies trying to one up their competition. In such a fierce marketplace, rest assured there will always be people looking for the cheapest solution possible and devise strategies to cut corners and cheat the system. A few weeks ago we took a look at the different ‘mindsets’ our company uses when approaching SEO: The Science, and the Art.

Pirates of the Internet. White hat SEO vs Black Hat

Within these ideologies, however, there emerges yet another approach or philosophy – The ‘White Hat’s’ and the ‘Black Hats’.

Today, we’re going to take a look at these 2 approaches many online advertising companies follow (whether they advertise it or not) and how they can positively – or negatively – affect your sites rankings.

What is “White Hat” SEO?

White Hat SEO is all about creating great content for your users. The effects of quality white hat SEO will produce tangible results that can last for years to come, and will keep website visitors AND the search engines coming back.

White Hat Techniques

  • Create Great Content. The most difficult, but the most important of them all. Use videos, pictures, games and anything your creative mind can think of to create something different. Fresh, unique content will keep your users AND the search engines coming back for more.
  • Usability. Make your site easy to navigate for your users. Pretend like search engines didn’t exist for a moment. Ask yourself, “How can I lay out my products and services to best benefit my customers”? What types of navigation can you provide that will assist them in their journey and persuade them into viewing more content and spending more time on your site? The more time you spend focusing on your visitors experience, the better your site will perform in and out of the search engines.
  • Use of Search Engine friendly tools. (Sitemap, Custom 404 Page, 301 Re-directs, Robots.txt files). This is the backend mumbo jumbo that the average Joe tends to overlook when building a website. This stuff is better left to the pro’s, because apparently, we know what we’re doing.

Agencies that focus on the substance and usability of a website and make the content easy for the search engine spiders to index, typically achieve the best results (though it’s the most time consuming and expensive).

What is “Black Hat” SEO

Black Hat SEO is loosely defined as techniques companies use to achieve higher rankings in the search engines using unethical strategies. Black Hat SEO attempts to ‘trick’ the search engines into to thinking that you are an ‘authority’ or your subject matter, and thusly award you with higher rankings.

While Black hat SEO can be a risky proposition (after all you are generally bending or breaking the Search Engine’s rules), this type of SEO can also result in poor user experience for the surfer, and will present content differently to search engines as it would to its web visitors.

Black Hat Techniques

  • Keyword Stuffing. Filling your content, meta title, or meta description with a long list of keywords. Are you sure you’re an Edmonton Plumber in Edmonton servicing Edmonton Residential Plumbing and Commercial Plumbing Edmonton? We thought not! Adster tip of the day – DON’T DO THIS. This will eventually get you sandboxed (thrown out) by the search engines.
  • Cloaking. I can’t believe people still do this, what is this amateur hour?! Basically, cloaking or ‘invisible text’ is just what it sounds like. Filling your website with keywords and changing the font color to match the background color of your website.
  • Fake Doorway Pages. These babies are pages that are never intended for a user to see. They act as a ‘fake page’ in an attempt for search engines to rank their page higher. Just … don’t even ask.

Unfortunately, these shady, pre millennium era methods of SEO, well, they CAN still work – temporarily at least. Google has been making tremendous strides with their latest algo update, Penguin, however there are always agencies and shysters looking for a way to game the system.

What to do?

For many businesses, being at the top of Google’s natural search results can mean 10’s or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of new leads and customers every year – does it make sense that these coveted positions could REALLY be attainted for a mere one time payment of $199 or $49 a month?

We know not every business can afford thousands of dollars for internet marketing. If you don’t have the budget to do it right, your best bet is to not do it at all. Why spend money focusing on Black Hat SEO strategies and run the risk of getting your website completely banned from Google’s Search Engine Results. Either start small and focus on things that are in your control (like creating great content for instance) or hire a company who has the right tools and experience to give you the results you need