Adrian Esquivel
November 9, 2016

White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO

Google's  constant algorithm updates can be both a blessing and a curse depending on  the search engine optimization techniques you use for your website. If you're  constantly experiencing declines when an algorithm update goes live, it's  likely that Google doesn't consider your SEO efforts to be in users' best  interest. Long are the days when keyword-stuffingsecret content onto  your website could boost rankings, and Google is making sure of it. While  it's important to keep up with all changing aspects of optimizing your site  (like the stronger needfor mobile-friendliness), there are basic do's  and don'ts that you should consider before youmove forward with  othermore advanced efforts. Understanding which SEO tactics are bad  (black hat) and which are good (white hat) is the key to building a strong  reputationfor your site among search engines.<h2>Black Hat SEO Methods</h2>    Let's get the bad out of the way first. These tactics are what you'll want  to eliminate if you've already put them into place, especially if you're  already suffering the consequences of them. Whether you got some poor  consulting recently or are experiencing the negative effects of outdated SEO  work on your site, now is the time to try to revert these changes.<h3>Keyword Stuffing</h3>    Because Google emphasizes on content so much when it comes to rankings,  it's important that your website copy is useful to your audience. There is no  one size fits all solution to what your optimal keyword density should be,  which is why readability should always be top of mind when creating content.  If you were verbalizing your content aloud to an audience, would it sound  redundant and repetitive? If so, you may want to rethink some of the language  you've included in your website copy.    Remember, it's not always about adding one exact keyword phrase all over  your page. Keep your content relevant to the topic at hand. If you're talking  about your personal injury practice, for instance, there's no need to  overstuff your page copy with "personal injury lawyer" 10+ times.  Instead, you can contextually add in related phrases, like "slip and  fall accidents" that will both help readers understand more about your  business and let search engines know that content related to personal injury  attorneys can be found here. If it sounds natural to read, you can  avoidbeing penalized (for that).<h3>Bad Backlinks</h3>    There are different methods for getting bad backlinks to your website. One  way is through link farms - this is a method where you pay for a  "farm" of fake websites to link to your site, increasing your  overall backlinks. When Google sees that a large portion of backlinks to your  website are coming from websites with low PageRanks, this reads asa red  flag, resulting in ranking penalties.    Another way to achieve bad backlinks is through comment spam. You've likely  seen this on articles you've read while sifting through the comment  section.Someone (likely a bot) comments something vague and impersonal,  like "Appreciate thispost. Will try this out." or just  something completelyillegible. Then either their username is a  hyperlink or they include one within the comment copy. It's of no use to  either be posting these spam links on other website's pages or to have these  on your own site, as they are bad for your backlink profile.    The moral of the black hat backlink SEO tactic is don't pay for links to  your website! Let your content be your guide. Write useful content on your  website that people will want to link to and share with your social  followers, email subscribers andpersonalnetworkto spread  the word. You can also contribute to other websites as a way of distributing  your content to new networks. Regardless of whetherthey provide a  nofollow or follow link to your site, your exposure is sure to increase if the  content is placed on a reputable website.    If you've tried any of these black hat backlink methods before, it may get  a bit tedious to get them removed. You can disavow backlinks through Google  Webmaster Tools, but it will require some digging into where the bad  linksoriginated from.See <a  href="">Google's  guide here</a> on how to do so.<h3>Hidden Keywords</h3>    Adding hidden keywords to your website is another old SEO tactic that  Google has cracked down on.There are various ways to be able to do so,  from matching your font to your background color to including tiny illegible  text (more of those don'ts can be found on <a  href=""  target="_blank">Google's Quality Guidelines</a>). This  is/was used so that search engines can index important keywords on your  website while still keeping your main content readable to users. Google can  monitor the relevancy of content, so it should be no surprise that this  doesn'tgo unnoticedby their algorithms.<h3>Duplicate Content</h3>    If you're sensing a trend with content, you're right! Original content on  your website is important, so scraping other websites for copy isn't a good  ranking method. Google understands where content originates from, so it's not  easy to be sneaky with this one. If you already have duplicate content on  your website,it's best to remove it and perhaps take inspiration from  the non-original content to create something unique for your own  website.<h3>Gateway Pages</h3>    Also known as doorway pages or entry pages, these types of pages are  created specifically for search engines to find. When users land on these  pages, they are redirected to another webpage. They're typically orphaned  from the website (not linked anywhere) and optimized for various sets of  keywords. Because these are deceptivelanding pages that exist for  indexing purposes only, search engines consider them bad  practice,affecting your overall ranking position.<h2>White Hat SEO Methods</h2>    Now that we've covered the bad, let's talk about the good. There are  several ways to boost your website's rankings without going against any of  Google's best practices.<h3>Quality Content</h3>    As you may have already guessed by reading  what<em>not</em> to do, adding helpful content to your  website is one of the best ways to improve your search engine presence.  Having a blog or news section on your website is a great place for frequently  updated content.    But before you begin writing content just to have something there, it's  important to do some keyword research. Which of your customers' interests  align with your brand? Those are the topics that you'll want to focus on and  base your keyword targets off of. Using <a  href=""  target="_blank">Google AdWords Keyword Tool</a> will help  you find which related keywords people are actually searching for. Then,  searching through that keyword's organic search results on your own will help  you find what kind of content is coming up first and how you can improve it  on your own website. When it comes to copy, keep that keyword in mind  (without keyword stuffing) and make sure your content stays on topic.    With quality content created on your website, you now have a valuable  source of information that will drive your customers in organically,and  become shareable to others within your industry.<img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-9705"  src=""  alt="Google Keyword Planner - White Hat SEO Techniques" width="640"  height="98" /><h3>Good Backlinks</h3>    On that note, we come to good backlinks. Unlike the black hat SEO method of  creating poor backlinks to your website, these are authentic links from more  trusted sources. With your newly created content, other websites could be  willing to link back to your website to inform their readers of your  knowledge on the subject. This is why it's crucial to do your research before  you create your content. If your blog article doesn't provide any new  information or stand out among competitors, it's not likely that trusted  websites will want to link back to it. Also note that while posting a link to  your site on social media won't affect your backlink count, this can be a  helpful way to spread the word faster about your unique content.    Another way to gain good backlinks is to guest blog for other publications.  If you have quality content to share, but aren't getting enough traction on  your own website yet, guest blogging is one way to not only expose your brand  to anew audience, but also to help buildbacklinks. When you guest  blog, you provide another website with content on a subject that both their  and your readers would be interested in. Since you are the author, you should  be able to provide a link back to your website in your bio or within your  article. This method will require some networking and pitching to get your  foot in the door, but it has the potential to really get your brand's name  out.<h3>Internal Linking</h3>    Surely the content of your website should be relatedto each other.  And the best way for both search engines and users to know that is to link  internally within your site. For instance, let's say youown an  eCommerce home decor storeand you want to educate readers on trends for  the season. One trend may be mixing and matching metallictabletop  items, like goldlamps, bronze figurines and silver candle holders. Not  only does hyperlinking to your gold lamps, bronze figurines and silver candle  holders encourage users to click and buy, it also emphasizes tosearch  enginesthat this particular link is where you'll find gold lamps.    When it comes to service-based businesses, the strategy is slightly  different, as you don't havenew products to always link to.  However, you can interlink between blog articles and your services in order  to guide users and label your information to search engines. For example, a  healthcare provider writing about breast cancer can link to another article  within their site that references the disease's genetic factors, as well as  link to their mammogram services as a preventative tip.    Note thatthe key for this to be beneficial to your SEO is to make  sure thatthe anchor text (the hyperlink text) iswhat you want  that linking webpage to be known for online. In other words, make it  keyword-friendly, but still readable.    [caption id="attachment_9704" align="aligncenter"  width="730"]<img class="wp-image-9704 size-full"  src=""  alt="Descriptive Internal Linking" width="730"  height="82" /> Descriptive anchor text used to link  internally[/caption]<h3>Optimizing Your Website</h3>    In addition to some of the white hat tactics mentioned above, there are  various other on-pageoptimization techniques that can help boost your  website's rankings. Let's defineelements that you can adjust in your  favor:    • <b>Title tags</b>- The title tag of a page is arguably  the most important part. Search engines use it to define what the page is  about and users use it to immediately understand ifthe content is  actually what they want to read.<img class="aligncenter wp-image-9703 size-full"  src=""  alt="Keyword-Focused Title Tag and Description for Miami App  Developer" width="601" height="81" />    • <b>Headings</b> - H1-H6 tags are given greater weight by  search engines, as they should define the general contents of a given page. A  website's page title, like "White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO" in this  article, wouldbe given an H1 tag (the most important) because it's  defining the main content. Secondary sections, like "White Hat SEO  Methods" are given H2 tags, and so on and so forth.    • <b>Permalink structure</b> - Your URL also tells search  engines what your content is about, so it's crucial that items like your page  title and blog category are properly represented in the permalink. Note that  if you change any URLs on your website, you will have toredirect the  old URL to the new one.    • <b>Alt tags</b> -These image tags help search engines  and the visibly impaired understand what an image on your site actually is  and the topic of its surrounding text. The tag should be descriptive of the  image's purpose on the page and keep in mind your target keyword.    • <b>Page speed</b> - Google's page placement on search engines  is defined by user experience, so if a pageloads slowly, they expect  users will be frustrated and disinterested in your site. Use <a  href=""  target="_blank">Google's PageSpeed Insights</a> to review  your site's performance and make the proper adjustments.