Even if you haven’t watched it yet, you’ve probably heard about the sci-fi series Westworld on HBO. Based on the 1970s film, the series is set in a wild west-themed park populated by realistic, intelligent robots where wealthy guests can play out any scenario they like, no matter how depraved.
The show explores questions of morality and of course, consciousness. When they enter the park, guests can choose their own clothing, including whether they’d prefer to wear a white hat or a black one, a none too subtle indication of their intentions.
SEO professionals make much the same choice when determining their inbound link strategy. They can choose from black hat or white hat techniques to build inbound links as well as for the rest of their marketing strategy.
To put it simply, white hat SEO uses techniques which abide by Google’s rules, especially as far as content is concerned. Black hat SEO, by contrast, uses methodologies which color outside of the lines.
Black Hat SEO
People who use black hat SEO are the bad guys of the internet, using techniques which break the rules in their efforts to achieve higher search engine rankings. Some techniques which fall into the category of black hat include:
This is the practice of using keywords which are unconnected to your content. For instance, suppose you have a website about woodworking. Using a phrase like “Jennifer Lawrence would love these woodworking tips” might sound good, but it’s irrelevant clickbait which doesn’t give your real target audience any benefit.
Automatically generated content
Whether it appears in the body of your text or in comments on a blog, readers can immediately recognize bot-created content. While there may be a relevant keyword or two in there, the content itself makes no sense and is of no use whatsoever to your readers; fortunately, search engines are now also sophisticated enough to tell the difference.
Doorway pages are basically phony landing pages which are stuffed with keywords to be highly visible to search engines. Once a searcher clicks the link, they are redirected to a separate page which is rarely, if ever, relevant to the content they were looking for in the first place.
Cloaking is a purely deceptive technique which aims to give search engines and visitors two very different sets of content. The idea is to trick search engines into having sites show up in searches where they would never normally be displayed.
This is a classic black hat technique which consists of hiding links or text in content to improve search engine ranking. This may be text which is white on a white background, text with a 0 font size or hiding links in small characters like hyphens.
These are called black hat SEO for a reason. They run afoul of Google’s rules and such, there is a lot of risk inherent in using them. Sooner or later, they will be detected and sites can be penalized or banned from Google’s index entirely for using them.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO techniques are what the most successful sites use. It’s a common sense approach which emphasizes making sites rise up the ranks by being more useful to readers. The following are some of the methods that the SEO good guys use to get noticed:
Creating content that people want to read, link to and share is the best way to drive traffic. Content needs to be well written, interesting, relevant to your niche and of course, original.
Effective keyword research and use
Keyword stuffing may be a black hat technique, but using keywords properly and in the right amount is valuable. Every site should use a small, focused set of relevant keywords and phrases. If you’re not sure which to use, there are a variety of keyword research tools out there, but start by thinking about words or phrases you’d use to try to find your own site. Single words are OK, but long tail keywords which are more specific about what your site offers are usually more effective.
Links to your site are seen by Google and other search engines as a vote of confidence in your site. Links mean that someone likes your content and over time, this can increase your own ranking. However, not all links are good, so focus on building back links from relevant sites which also offer high quality content.
Internal link structure is also important, but don’t overdo it. Two or three links to pages located deeper in your site is all you should need.
This is the text that appears below the title of your page in search results. Write this description for readers, not search engines. Make it useful and don’t worry about trying to cram all of your keywords into your meta description.
The goal of white hat and black hat SEO may be the same, but the methods they use are very different. While black hat SEO can sometimes yield fast results, these are short lived and Google gets better at finding and penalizing these sites every day. That’s why white hat SEO techniques are an overwhelming favorite with marketers and SEO professionals. The results might not happen as fast, but they’ll last, since they emphasize building your site’s audience naturally while staying on the good side of Google, a company that no site can afford to alienate.
Category Search Engine Marketing