Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential way for any website to find success. Whether you’re promoting your personal blog, business website, or any other venture that requires an online presence, SEO is key to gathering any online traffic.
Search engines operate under the rule of algorithms, and SEO is the method of finding one’s place in the order of things by working within the rules that the algorithm provides.
There are ways to cheat the system, but they come along with the risk of penalty, and they don’t work well in the long run. Optimization is a process, which means that it takes a little bit of time to achieve effectively. White hat SEO is the honest way to get traffic, while black hat is the method of cheating the system.
Here is a guide to understanding white hat vs black hat SEO.
White Hat vs Black Hat
You may already be employing some SEO tricks that you don’t fully understand. Sure, you are getting a lot of quick traffic, but is it sustainable? We’ll cover the honest means of attracting followers and getting traffic, as well as the ways that lead to a failed website and search engine punishment.
First, we’ll cover some of the basics of SEO.
Understanding the Basics of SEO
As we mentioned, search engine optimization runs on an algorithm. Each engine has a different algorithm that helps to deem which sites should come up first on the list.
You can imagine how difficult it is to sort through the entire internet, trying to decipher which websites are the most relevant to the words that someone just typed in. Fortunately for us, developers have identified an effective way of making searching the internet entirely seamless.
Algorithms use things like keywords, links and link quality, niche, and relevance to decide what sites we see. The factors that the engines use are the factors that you must consider when trying to optimize any internet document.
Search engines are designed to be effective for users, not those who are seeking to come up first on every Google search. For that reason, there are defenses against spam and people trying to cheat the system. Users will devalue search engines if spam finds its way to the top of their queries.
Activity that panders to, or cheats the algorithm is frowned upon, which is why those actions aren’t effective ways to create a powerful site. Optimization takes time, and it requires that you have quality content achieved through honest means.
But what are the good and bad activities to consider? That’s where white hat and black hat come in.
Black Hat SEO
Ever clicked a link only to find that it had literally none of the information that you thought it would? Pretty frustrating.
That site was likely optimized through dishonest means. Things like excessive keyword placement, multitudes of irrelevant links, and spamming lead to these kinds of sites finding their way to your screen.
Specific phrases and words are things that search engines use to determine the relevance of a site. You may think that you’ll get a lot of traffic if your baseball website uses the word “third base” four thousand times in one paragraph.
That will not get you anywhere. Doing so will flag you, making the algorithm deem you less relevant. The reason being that overusing keywords lowers the quality of your content.
Keywords are an effective way to find relevant sites because its likely that a website with the words “Oprah’s recent speech” four times is relevant for someone trying to find the contents of Oprah’s last speech.
That person won’t find any luck if they find a bunch of random websites about Oprah, or speeches from thousands of people that aren’t Oprah. Keywords narrow down the search, but there are incentives in place that should deter you from overusing them.
Another way that the internet determines a website’s worth is through the assessment of that site’s links. Having a number of links to and from your site shows the algorithm that you are linked in with other websites, meaning you must not be totally irrelevant.
Linking shows that you are an honest site that probably isn’t full of spam. A positive link is one that is honestly placed on the site of another. People have found ways to exploit this, though.
Black hat linking can come in the form of hacking, excessive linking on social media, and embedding links in text that is not related to their site. These things, again, will get your SEO ranking lowered.
The biggest no-no in the SEO world is spamming. This will get you punished, even taken out of search engine’s index. Spamming would be something like blasting emails to thousands of people that didn’t sign up for your email list.
Really anything that sends your site out to people who haven’t come to it organically, or activity that dishonestly promotes internet traffic, is considered spam.
White hat uses all of the same tools for optimization while using them in an honest way. Through the process of organic optimization, you will find that the search engine rewards hard work.
When considering keywords, consider the length of the text that you are placing them in, as well as where they are located in the site’s architecture.
Longer articles can contain more keywords. Make your keywords fit organically into the sentence structure, and make sure to use them in the title of your page. Most word processing interfaces have the option to insert titles and headings. Use those features and refrain from simply changing the size and font of the text in your headers.
Placing keywords in headers signifies that those words are more important. Search engines will recognize this and place you accordingly.
Not all links hold the same value in the eyes of the search engine. Links that are within your niche, come from popular sites, and are embedded in the text of relevant articles are the ones that you should seek out.
Try contacting a site in your niche and see if they would be willing to link you in their next article. You may need to give them a link as well, but that’s the cost of doing business.
In fact, linking from your site is valuable as well because it adds one more node in your connection to other sites. The more connected you are, the more luck you’ll have in the search.
Contact a Professional
If you’re having trouble finding effective ways to optimize your site, there are professionals that can help you do just that. SEO professionals can help you understand white hat vs black hat, as well as give you an idea of what is happening with your site.
Need some help with SEO? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help.