Make Sure You’re a White Wizard at SEO
Search engine optimization is considered by many to be something akin to art or magic, so it’s quite appropriate that the two forms of SEO are termed “White hat” and “Black hat.” These terms describe the different approaches used to improve search engine rankings for specific websites and can be divided into Good (White) or Bad (Black).
As Google has by far the largest share of the search engine market, following their guidelines is the best way to ensure you don’t stray from the white into the black – but how important is it to be a white wizard?
Why black is bad
The origins of SEO are simple – with so many websites all competing for hits, how do you make yours rise to the top of the list? This was a vast industry born, and at first it was pretty much a free for all. You could try any trick you could come up with to make the search engine algorithms bump you up the listings, but it soon became obvious that this was causing a problem.
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Results lists became populated with poor quality, irrelevant sites that just happened to have a better grip on what the algorithms were rating sites on. Search engines responded by making rules for acceptable practice to make sure sites were rated on content, quality, and relevance. The acceptable techniques were termed White Hat, the unacceptable were termed Black Hat.
How do you know which is which?
Anything you try and do to trick a search engine into placing your site higher up the rankings is probably black hat. If you’re not sure, check Google’s guidelines, and if you outsource your SEO make sure you use reputable web development services who won’t employ black hat techniques. These are examples of the kinds of things to avoid:
- Keyword stuffing. You may be familiar with the effects of this practice, when you search for something and get results that have no relevance at all to your search. The sites will have been packed with keywords for the search engine spiders to find, and is one of the oldest black hat techniques dating from when keywords were the primary criteria in search engine rankings. Using keywords on your website and in your posts is essential, but it should be done in moderation, and only relevant keywords should be used.
- White text on a white background won’t be visible to people viewing your site, but will be picked up by the spiders. If you think about it, you could put anything into this invisible text because no-one will be able to see it, but if it’s not worth reading, then it isn’t adding quality to your site, and therefore breaches the SEO guidelines.
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There are many more examples of what to avoid if you want to stay on Google’s good side, and you should try to because if they catch you using any of these tricks you could face some serious consequences. Stick to the white hat techniques and don’t stray to the Dark Side.