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How to Tell the Difference Between SEO’s Black and White Hats

How to Tell the Difference Between SEO’s Black and White Hats

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a critical consideration when building a website. After all, higher search rankings bring in traffic, which is exactly what you want your website to receive - otherwise, what's the point? There are, of course, different tactics one may implement to improve their position in rankings, with varying degrees of moral standing. These practices are divided into two subsets, white hat and black hat tactics.

Black Hat SEO strategies ignore the human element that is involved in SEO, focusing only on exploiting loopholes in search engine algorithms . These tactics are against the rules set by search engines, and will usually have an end result of the website losing search ranking or, in extreme cases, being banned.

Practices classified as black hat SEO efforts include:

Spamdexing - repeatedly using unrelated phrases to fool search engines into giving content higher relevance.

Invisible Text - including keywords on a page that are indistinguishable from the background, and are therefore illegible.

Keyword Stuffing - including long, somewhat nonsensical strings of keywords in bodies of text.

Link Farming - Purchasing followable links from unrelated websites known as link farms.

Link Spamming - creating links that provide no value in post on forums/comment areas on other sites to link back to your site.

Despite black hat practices being very effective in the short term, the risk of penalization or de-indexing is too great for any webmaster seeking to be active in the long term. A much wiser approach for any SEO strategy is to focus efforts on implementing a white hat SEO approach.

White Hat SEO tactics focus less on exploiting search engines and more on the experience of the user, with content accessibility being the main approach to reaching a higher level of optimization. Therefore, these tactics rely upon the quality of the content posted, judged by relevance and readability. People link back to content that they think their audience should see, so naturally if your content is good, it has a higher probability of being linked to. Ultimately, white hat SEO serves as the backbone of solid inbound marketing.

White hat best practices include:

Linking Out (with Caution) - providing links in your content to high-value, reputable sources that are relevant to the content that you have written.

Keeping Content Fresh - rather than writing content once and leaving it untouched and going “stale,” search engines prefer content that is kept up to date, or added to on a regular basis with newer, fresher content.

Participating in Link Building Activities - from simply producing content of high quality and caliber to networking with other content creators to cultivate relationships (such as guest blogging activities) that develop links, these activities are necessary to create a wide portfolio of link-generating sources.

Being Newsworthy - by this, we simply mean doing something significant enough to garner some attention from news outlets that results in a story that can be linked back to your site.

Length of Domain Registration - while this theory has never officially been confirmed by Google, the idea is that the domains that have been registered for longer periods of time show intentions of being around longer, which in turn makes sites look more authentic. While Google has been cryptically mum on the subject, most SEO strategist have seen better performance from those with domains registered for lengthy periods of time, typically 5+ years.

Third Party Business Listings - these serve multiple purposes. Firstly, being found in more than one place on the Internet presents more channels your prospects can use to find and interact with your business. Secondly, the more synchronized your business is displayed in all of these locations, regarding its address, your services offered, and other variables, the easier it is for search engines to understand you and what your market is. Lastly with that sense of understanding, the more authentic your business looks, improving the likelihood of search engines giving it a higher ranking.

While white hat SEO does show slower results, the risks that come with black hat tactics make white hat the much more preferable approach to collecting search engine results. In addition to this, white hat results (if properly implemented) have a much longer shelf life than those associated with black hat tactics.

Regardless, there are no promises in SEO, so if someone says they can rank you #1 for something in search results, they are most likely lying, or using black hat techniques that will inevitably result in your site being demerited or banned. Be sure that your SEO provider is using the proper techniques, and focused on the long haul, not the short term!