In our last e-newsletter, we introduced the subject of search engine optimization (SEO) and how it can improve your ranking with a keyword search. Techniques used for SEO are regarded as either ‘white hat’ or ‘black hat’. White hat techniques are considered to be legitimate approaches for SEO i.e., playing by the rules Google has established for SEO.

Several white hat approaches were discussed in our last e-newsletter and include:

  • Finding keywords that best suit what your target surfers use in a search query;
  • Optimizing your on-site content;
  • Developing quality inbound links to your web site;
  • Ensuring your web site is as user-friendly as possible.

In this e-newsletter we will focus our attention on black hat SEO techniques, what not to do in your SEO efforts! Black hat techniques refer to any approaches that are designed to manipulate search engine results and rank your website artificially higher than it should. Web sites that use black hat techniques will tend to rank higher initially until the search engines recognize that black hat techniques are being used. Search engines may then penalize the web site by significantly reducing its ranking or even de-listing the site! The allure of black hat SEO is that in the short-term, the improved ranking can lead to significant benefits for the web site owner.

Keep in mind, however, that black hat approaches are often intended to direct, or redirect users to web sites that they were not necessarily intending to visit. More importantly, the use of black hat techniques has the potential, if not the intent to trick, or be abusive to users or other web site owners. This should become clear as we highlight a few more of the common black hat techniques.

Addition of irrelevant words
Adding irrelevant words to the web content can lead to more page hits. For example, including popular keywords (e.g., Justin Bieber) in the content for a farm implement dealership may raise the ranking of the implement dealer’s website and drive more traffic to their site. Clearly this is misleading for Bieber fans.

Keyword stuffing
Repeating keywords in your content to the point that the content is meaningless or gibberish could contribute to a higher ranking for that page, despite the fact that the content is meaningless. Nonetheless, it will prove to be a futile experience for your visitors as they try and make sense of the content.

Invisible text
Including text that is the same colour as the background. It is undetectable to the visitor, but search engines read it, ranking the site higher and misleading potential visitors.

Using a script to provide search engines with one set of content and site visitors with another. Users are tricked into visiting a site with substantially different content than what they were searching for. Often, seemingly innocent search results are clicked and the user could be taken to a porn site, for example.

Link Farms
Increasing the number of links to or from your site from unrelated sites, or sites with poor quality content in an attempt to improve your visibility to search engines.

This list covers some of the more commonly used black hat techniques. While some of these techniques may seem fairly innocent (irrelevant key words, keyword stuffing), it should be fairly evident that black hat SEO is intended to dupe the user and benefit the web site owner.

Legitimate, or white hat SEO techniques do work, but as we explained in the last e-newsletter, it takes time and tweaking for the results to show. How much time? That depends on how well a site is optimized. Using white hat SEO, OfficeSmarts has helped sites move to a page 1 listing in as little as 4 weeks. In the end, every site is different and we caution our clients to not expect fast results, and as long as they see movement within 3 months, that is a good thing!

It’s important to be aware of black hat SEO techniques and to avoid them. You may find yourself in a situation where an SEO specialist promises to optimize your site and get you improved ranking results that are almost too good to be true. Chances are that they will be using black hat techniques. The temptation to use black hat techniques may be great, but as a legitimate business operator providing a service, do you want to risk damaging your reputation or having your web site de-listed simply for short-term gain?