For those that haven’t been operating in the industry for years, search engine optimization can seem like an overwhelming undertaking. There’s a lot to understand and the industry is always changing. While this is true, perhaps the most important fundamental difference to understand is the difference between black hat SEO and white hat SEO.
There are plenty of SEO tactics to implement into your campaign, however some are viewed more favorably by the search engines and others are frowned upon. White hat tactics “play by the rules” of the search engines. Black hat tactics don’t. Black hat tactics are cheap ways to try and game the system in order to see results faster. The search engines are smart and black hat SEO tactics will eventually catch up with you and can result in penalties and lost traffic. However tempting it may be, avoid black hat SEO tactics and implement white hat alternatives instead.
Perhaps one of the oldest black hat SEO tactics is keyword stuffing. Keywords are an important part of an SEO campaign. In order to execute a campaign properly, one of the first steps is to conduct keyword research in order to find out how target audience members are searching for the products or services that you offer. The most relevant keywords that have search volume should be naturally incorporated into every page of a website and into content that is published elsewhere on the web to improve visibility and links. The search engine spiders pick up on keywords to determine relevance when ranking websites.
Black hat SEO practitioners try and use this to their advantage and “stuff” as many keywords into the content as possible. While this is bad from a search engine perspective, it’s especially bad from a website visitor perspective. It makes for a poor reading experience and can turn off potential clients and customers.
Another popular black hat SEO tactic is buying links and participating in link exchanges. Inbound links pointing to a website convey trust to the search engines. Links should build naturally over time. If a website grows a quick number of inbound links in a short period of time, that’s a red flag to the search engines. Links should be earned, not bought. They should also be coming from relevant sources. Instead of paying for links from any old site, a website owner should concentrate on creating a link building campaign that is based on getting quality content shared naturally.
Black hat SEO is evolving along with SEO and there are always new ways to try and trick the system. Now that social media is becoming a huge part of SEO and social media brand pages rank in the search engines, black hat practitioners have started launching many different social profiles that each target a different set of keywords in order to get those profiles indexed and ranked for that keyword. This tactic is spammy because it ruins the user experience. People that are interested in the brand won’t know which account to follow. Instead, build up one brand page per social network and optimize it as much as possible. Create quality content for followers in order to build natural social links over time.