The jig is up. You can cheat the system and employ underhanded SEO techniques to improve your website’s ranking. But the question is, should you? (Hint: You shouldn’t).
When it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, we have what we call White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. From what they are called, it’s safe to assume that white hat SEO methods are approved by search engines while the latter one is what gets websites penalized and banned. If these are the results of using these shady practices, why are there SEO specialists still doing it?
Let’s try and look at why the appeal of doing these strategies are beckoning.
White Hat vs. Black Hat Comparison Chart
|White Hat||Black Hat|
|Approach: Emphasizes user experience, provides relevant content and adheres to search engine rules. The goal is to provide valuable and relevant content and a positive experience to website visitors.||Approach: The goal is to rank higher in search engine results pages by the use of aggressive techniques and without considering the rules set by search engines. Positive user experience is not a consideration nor a priority.|
|Techniques: Focuses on creating high-quality content, keyword research, on-page optimization, backlinks building through legit channels and engaging in social media promotion for organic traffic.||Techniques: Scheming tactics to deceive search engines such as keyword stuffing, presenting different to users and search engines (hidden text cloaking), buying links, automated content content generation, spamdexing, doorway pages, etc.|
|Reputation: Usually earns a positive reputation among website visitors for providing valuable and trustworthy content.||Reputation: Often associated with spammy and low-quality websites leading to potential loss of trust from website visitors.|
|Effectiveness: Takes longer to improve search rankings||Effectiveness: Quick results|
The effectiveness of both SEO techniques is what others argue is the main benefit of using the black hat method. They justify that it produces immediate results that the white hat takes a longer time to achieve. But, at what cost?
Negative consequences to Black Hat SEO techniques
Before you consider using the cheater’s method since it’s apparent that it’s getting the job done in helping websites rank higher, you should know first about the negative consequences.
Search engine penalties
Search engines are aware of this unethical practice and to combat this, search engines continuously update their algorithms to detect and penalize websites that engage in this dishonest way to attract organic search traffic. As a result, the website may experience a drop in search rankings or even get completely removed from search engine results pages severely impacting visibility. Sure, at first the results are immediate but these are short-term gains since search engines are quick to identify and penalize these tactics.
Some black hat SEO techniques may also lead to legal issues against the website because of copyright laws or other regulations. This could be the result of the deceitful techniques to try and trick search engine spiders.
Loss of credibility
Engaging in unethical SEO practices can damage a website’s credibility. This loss of trust can be difficult to recover from and may deter potential customers who would want to conduct business with the company. When they see that the company is willing to employ unprofessional means to get ahead, they’d begin to wonder what other dishonest activities the business is involved with.
Since the consequences of black hat SEO are dire, it far outweighs the short-lived gains. It’s far more beneficial for SEO specialists to stick to white hat techniques than risk it all. Sure, the results might take time before they materialize but good things come to those who wait.
White Hat SEO techniques
Legitimate and search engine-approved SEO techniques aim to improve a website’s search engine rankings through organic and sustainable methods by doing the following:
Conducting thorough keyword research to identify relevant and high-traffic keywords will help your content rank higher. Use these keywords naturally throughout your content including in titles, headings and meta tags. Avoid keyword stuffing. As a rule of thumb, your keyword should only appear less than once per 100 words
On-page optimization is making sure your website’s structure and HTML elements make it easier for search engine crawlers to index and read your content. With this technique, you need to use descriptive and meta tags (title tags and meta descriptions) for each page, implement a correct hierarchy of header tags (H1 should be followed by an H2 and so on), and make sure your URLs include relevant keywords, simple as possible without any extra words and no slugs that belong to other pages.
When you’re browsing a website, you’d notice at the bottom of a blog a section about further reading with links to other blogs related to the one you just finished reading or there are links within the blog that when you click on will open to other relevant content. This is called internal linking. A logical internal linking structure within a website helps users and search engines navigate and discover other content that might interest them easily. Internal links can also pass link authority to important pages on your site.
Grey Hat SEO
Contrary to the title of this blog post, there is in fact, a grey area between these two techniques. It’s not as popular as the two, but this technique is a combination of both. These techniques may not necessarily violate search engine guidelines but these practices are still considered to be at the borderline of being unethical.
Examples of grey hat techniques are:
Link buying does not explicitly violate the guidelines. But the main reason why there are websites that sell links or participate in link schemes is because it helps in manipulating search engines. So, link buying if not technically against the rule, falls under grey hat.
Article spinning is rewriting articles or content to create multiple variations while maintaining the same message, usually with the help of software. This tactic is used to generate multiple pieces of content for link building but usually results in low-quality and duplicate content. This should not be mistaken with content repurposing since these two are different approaches to handling existing content.
Engaging in two-way link exchanges with other websites solely to gain backlinks is a frowned-upon SEO practice. This may raise suspicions and isn’t as valuable as genuine organic backlinks. Plus, dealing with websites from an irrelevant industry or with content that is not related to your subject matter might just cause more harm than good.
The divide between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO remains clear, leaving no grey area in between since Grey Hat is still risky and is not worth the trouble. White Hat techniques prioritize ethical practices, while Black Hat resorts to deceptive strategies that can lead to severe consequences.
Since SEO continues to evolve and search engines are becoming more vigilant in cracking down on underhanded techniques, SEO specialists need to steer clear of the temptations of Black Hat’s quick gains. A solid foundation built on ethical SEO will ensure long-term success and credibility in the digital landscape.