(image courtesy MadMagazine)
The SEO industry has many different hats and faces. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still a relatively new field – one that’s been in existence for just a couple of decades – and people continue to push boundaries, explore gray areas, and look for shortcuts to success.
When launching an online strategy, every business and marketer has a choice to make: Follow the rules and trust that a long-term, disciplined approach to SEO will eventually yield desirable results OR skirt the rules and game the system in order to get quick results that push the business forward sooner rather than later.
The former method is the preferred method. But in today’s culture of instant gratification, many marketers unfortunately opt for the less savory of the two strategies and pursue black hat SEO techniques in order to garner a quick return.
As you build your brand and venture into the vast world of SEO, you have a similar choice. But when you dig into the foundational elements of SEO and why certain strategies work, it quickly becomes evident which hat should be worn.
Let’s begin this deep-dive with a look at black hat SEO, which is essentially the process of using hacks and shortcuts to manipulate search engines and exploit weaknesses in their algorithms. While some black hat techniques may be laced with malicious intent, most aren’t evil. Instead, black hat SEO strategies are geared towards search bots first and human readers second. In other words, they don’t care a whole lot about satisfying human readers (which is Google’s primary focus). A black hat strategy would rather find an algorithmic loophole that can be exploited to make search bots salivate.
The exact definition of black hat SEO has evolved over the years. In fact, many of the practices that were common in 2003 or 2006 are now considered black hat. So while nothing is etched in stone, there are a few criteria that generally classify an SEO technique as being black hat.
Marketers that focus on black hat SEO techniques are constantly changing their strategies so as to avoid getting caught by Google and other search engines. Their objective is to stay one step ahead of new updates so they can avoid penalties and continually beat the system. Here are some popular black hat techniques, how they work, and why they should be avoided:
Black hat SEO is no joking matter. Google and other leading search engines despise the use of black hat techniques and will penalize you where it hurts.
If you’ve broken a rule that’s clearly documented, but doesn’t necessarily have any malintent behind it, Google reserves the right to take a manual action against your site. This is where they give you a chance to fix the issue and reclaim good standing.
In serious cases where black hat techniques have been implemented with a clear purpose and intent, Google will actually demote your pages in the search rankings (which results in reduced traffic and conversions). If the black hat strategies have been repeatedly implemented in spite of warnings, your site could even get excluded or banned from the search results. While bans are rare, they’re the proverbial kiss of death.
Okay, enough with all of the depressing talk of black hat SEO. Let’s take a slightly more positive angle and look at the healthy side of the industry: white hat SEO.
White hat SEO is everything that black hat SEO is not. It consists of a set of search engine optimization techniques that Google encourages. When followed, these techniques eventually lead to improved search rankings, a bump in website traffic, and (presumably) more conversions.
Compared to black hat SEO – which marketers use to hack their way to results – white hat SEO does a couple of things differently.
While white hat SEO has evolved over the years, the foundational principles tend to remain the same. Here are a few time-tested, Google-approved white hat techniques that generate traction:
When you use white hat SEO techniques, you accomplish a couple of things. First off, human website visitors have a satisfying experience, stay on your website longer, click through multiple pages, and possibly even convert. This directly benefits your business. Secondly, Google search crawlers notice that you’re playing by the rules and gradually move you up in the rankings (which increases exposure and drives new traffic to your pages).
At the end of the day, SEO is like farming. While you can go to the supermarket and buy some vegetables that have already been grown and harvested, you have to continually come back for more. If, on the other hand, you till a garden, plant seeds, and nurture them, you’ll reap an abundant harvest over and over again.
It’s tempting to take shortcuts and hack your way to quick SEO results. But if it’s your desire to reap long-term rewards that are organic and cost-effective, you need to plant your seeds the right way and patiently wait for them to grow so they can be harvested at a later date.
At the heart of any successful white hat SEO strategy is a firm commitment to organic link building. At SEO.co, we partner with businesses like yours to provide white hat link building services that help your brand efficiently and effectively scale. Our formula is simple: write quality content, secure placement with authoritative publishers, and earn stellar links for our clients.
If you’re interested in learning more about our white hat link building and content marketing services, please contact SEO.co today!