SEO – “White Hat” or “Black Hat”?

By Alan Eggleston

White Hat SEO” or “Black Hat SEO”? It isn’t exactly like the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but in the world of SEO (search engine optimization), there are “good-guy techniques” (so called White Hat SEO) and bad-guy techniques (so called Black Hat SEO). Which will you choose?

White Hat SEO focuses on the human Web experience and usually follows the rules and suggestions explained by search engines for optimizing the user’s search experience. Black Hat SEO looks to game the system, seeking ways to circumvent search engine rules and flaunt their recommendations to give themselves or their clients an edge. White Hat SEO works for the long haul and provides long term sustained ranking. On the other hand, Black Hat SEO may provide great rankings in the short term, but almost always eventually results in loss of positioning once the tricks and workarounds are discovered, as search engines penalize sites for misbehavior.

How to do White Hat SEO

As a white hat, you make sure your meta tags are up-to-date, accurate, and relevant to your content. You build links within your site and relevant links to other sites, but you don’t overdo it. You limit keywords on your page, and you make your content reader-friendly rather than SEO-friendly. That’s not to say you ignore other good SEO-practices, it just means you don’t focus your site on SEO, you focus your site on your reader. Content is always high quality, in-bound and outbound links are always quality, and research always produces quality keywords – those are the hallmarks of a site with white hat SEO.

How to avoid Black Hat SEO

The sign of a black hat is a page full of mischief: Pages are coded, keyworded, linked, and written to impress search engines rather than readers. They may contain links to doorway pages: directories or lists with no common interest other than to link back and forth. The list of keywords is long and may even include words not even in the content. Source code may include text that will not appear on the page but solely for the benefit of the search index. Some other black hat techniques include cloaking (anchored text that leads elsewhere than you think it does), hidden content (text or links too small or colored to not be seen), keyword stacking, keyword stuffing, content that belongs to someone else duplicated for its SEO value rather than being linked to, spam of all kinds (pings, links, comments, trackbacks, referrals), and domain squatting (registering misspellings of popular domain names).

If you think this article is weighted against black hat SEO, you’re right. Black hat SEO can make immediate short-term gains, but those gains are usually offset by penalties that cost you ranking in the long run. The fact is, you don’t have to resort to black hat SEO to rank well, even in a very competitive market – you can place very competitively with smart white hat SEO, and that’s what I always recommend to my clients. Which will you choose?

My next article: SEO – Google Isn’t the Only Engine in the Race!

Google may be the most popular search engine, but it isn’t by any stretch of the imagination the only engine in the race. How to prep your site to compete in the other races, too.

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2 thoughts on “SEO – “White Hat” or “Black Hat”?

  1. Pingback: Editing – Learning from an Oopsy | Web Editors

  2. Pingback: Pandas and Penguins and Penalties, Oh My! | Web Editors

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