Since the dawn of the search engine, the people of the Internet have battled it out to be the top Dog of their specified search. It’s inevitable that companies want to be the most popular among their competitors, why wouldn’t they? More popularity = more sales, it’s a simple way of looking at it. However, there are different ways to aim for the top spot, or spots, in search engines’ rankings.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO can be used to get a quick paycheck on the internet, but it’s the wrong way to do it in the eyes of the search engines. These methods are usually designed to manipulate and deceive algorithms, rather than work with the guidelines search engines recommend. There’s plenty of different ways to go about doing this, but I’m going to discuss the four big ones that are used the most to attempt to get you and your website to the top of the pile.
We generally do not recommend sites use these techniques, if aiming to build a long-term business. We will also seek to find any occurrence of these techniques in our SEO audits, so that we can remove them before search engine penalties occur.
This is the process of surrounding your website with links from other websites around the internet, often full of ‘thin’, poor quality content, solely for the purpose of earning some link benefit. This technique used to work very well, until recent algorithm updates from Google in particular began to penalise sites using this technique. Often this results in websites with ‘unnatural’ links from these sites being penalised too, as they are viewed as a manipulation attempt. The ‘penguin’ Google algorithm updates target sites attempting to manipulate links to gain rankings, and so I advise sites not to utilise these techniques, if the goal is to build a long-term business.
The clue is in the name really, it’s the process of adding as many keywords as possible on your website in order to attempt to draw more searches and hopefully more traffic to your page. Often it’s immediately obvious to the user, when certain phrases or words are repeatedly used in paragraphs of text on a website. This technique, again, used to work quite successfully, but search engine algorithms have progressed, and little evidence now exists of these types of techniques bringing any benefit. Often these pages get caught out by the search engines as they are using a spamming technique, something that is increasingly easier for search engines to identify.
These pages are designed purely for the search engine “spiders” (bots) to pick up on, not for the users of the website. In a nutshell, these pages technically don’t exist. The spiders crawl through pages searching for data that have a high amount of useful information in order to make sure they rank highly. But because these bots can’t read the page like a human can, they only analyse the data based on the algorithm for popularity. These doorway pages are an attempt to trick the spiders into thinking they are full of information and will be useful to users, however the user is shown different content.
But as the search engines develop, their bots are developing with them, and search engines are now able to detect when doorway pages are used. Search engines will block the page from ranking, or remove the website altogether from search engine indexes when this type of technique is discovered.
This black hat SEO technique involves taking content from other websites without their permission in order to boost the traffic on your website, as the content stolen is popular on other websites and has allowed that website to boost its position on the search engines pages. Usually the content is changed around ever so slightly by rewording and reordering the content so that the plagiarism is unnoticeable. It usually contains links that the Marketer is trying to promote. It can also contain pop up ads in the text that are an attempt to monetize the “new” content. This technique is starting to be noticed by the spiders as although the content is changed round, the bots are still able to find its origins via the algorithm updates that Google is constantly. Among issues with copyright and potential legal issues, content scraping can also get your website penalised by search engines. This is a technique we especially do not recommend, and we always urge sites to ensure they have permission to use all content, including text and images, featured on their website.
White hat SEO techniques
On the opposite side of the black hat techniques, we have white hat SEO techniques, these techniques are designed to follow the rules that the search engines have in order to rank higher on their pages. Whilst they take longer to show benefits, they boost success in the long term, and white hat SEO is generally regarded as having one of the highest returns on investment, as a marketing technique. Companies using only white-hat techniques are highly unlikely to be penalised or removed from the search engines. Here are four techniques of white hat SEO that will ensure you reap rewards for years to come.
People want good quality information; it’s as simple as that. The search engines know this and try to capitalize on it in order to give this information to their audience. Content is one of the biggest factors in gaining organic rankings. The more unique your content, the more valuable it is deemed to be. Picture yourself as a customer looking for a pool table, there’s a website with a paragraph of text and a phone number to call, and a website that displays a variety of pool tables with links, deals and a contact number. Which are you more likely to go to?
Websites tend to have links from other websites, and this spiderweb of linking throughout the world wide web is heavily relied on as a trust signal by search engines. Some websites have ‘good’, relevant links, from related websites. Some have links for the sole purpose to attract more traffic, but these rarely have any relevance. For example, a website selling cars may have a link to a car insurance firm; this would be noticed by the search engine and would therefore be highly regarded by it as it has informative links that relate to the website. The website selling cars would then move up the search engine results, think more about the quality of the links rather than the quantity. Search engines generally advise that links should never be exchanged for any benefit, such as other links, money or gifts, and all links should appear naturally.
Link baiting is the process of creating interesting content that will persuade people to link to your website. The types of content can vary, from news stories to highly informative articles. Some websites have even gone as far as to create sensationalist posts in order to attract attention. This is not similar to scraping, the black hat SEO technique, as the content is purely original and crafted by the company itself, rather than being copied from another website and having the words rearranged. This kind of content creation is usually created for many SEO reasons, and content marketing is widely regarded as a very successful technique.
Keywords and titles
Whilst search engines rarely make use of certain keyword placements anymore due to their abuse over the years, they are not completely redundant. Search engines tend to pick out the over saturated key word websites and remove them. If you stick to the script and only use informative key words without over-stuffing, ensuring your page is user-friendly and answers the users’ questions, search engines will reward this as you’re complying with what they ask. The same goes for titles, if your title matches your content and is informative and easy to find, you’ll receive much more traffic than a title that doesn’t match your content. The title is a declaration of what the content should be about, if that’s what yours is, you have very little to worry about.
Whilst black hat techniques are good in the short term, they never last with search engines developing and getting smarter they’re beginning to identify these techniques as soon as they develop making it almost impossible for people to get away with making some quick money. Personally we recommend and specialise in white hat techniques, as we know these to have the most benefit in the long-term.