Do bad guys always wear black? A popular theme in Hollywood is the classic battle between good and evil. More often than not, the good guys are in white and the bad guys are in black. Case in point is HBO’s smash hit, “Westworld”. In the TV show, visitors to a western theme park are asked to choose between a white hat and a black hat. If you choose a white hat, you’re the hero. If you choose a black hat – well, you guessed it – you’re the villain.
Does the analogy hold true for marketers? Are marketers who choose white hat SEO strategies the good guys? Conversely, are marketers who choose black hat SEO strategies the bad guys?
More importantly, should you use both strategies in your digital marketing campaign?
To have a better understanding of the two, let’s discuss White Hat and Black Hat SEO strategies in detail.
What Is White Hat SEO?
White Hat SEO strategies use techniques and tactics that strictly adhere to Google’s guidelines. The primary objective of marketers who use White Hat SEO strategies is to enhance the website’s visibility on the Internet.
Here are a few examples of popular White Hat SEO strategies:
1. Creation of Quality Content
Google is very particular on User Experience or UX. When someone lands on your website, Google expects that visitor will find only quality content. This means content that is useful, unique, informative, and relevant. Likewise, it should not have errors in spelling and grammar.
Quality content will compel action from the reader. He/she could share your content in social media or use it as a resource link to his/her own website. If your website consistently publishes quality content, Google will reward you with higher search rankings.
2. Integration of Keywords
Keywords are the words and phrases that people frequently use to launch a search query on the Internet. Search bots or web crawlers index content that contains these keywords. Thus, integrating keywords will make it easier for your content to get found on the Internet.
There are 2 things you need to keep in mind when using keywords.
First, use the right keywords. This means keywords and phrases that are relevant in your industry. You should perform keyword research before writing your content.
Among the most popular tools are Google Keyword Planner and SEMRush. You can read more about keyword research in our article “5 Best Keyword Research Tools For 2018”.
Second, keep track of keyword density. While there are no clear-cut rules on keyword density, many SEO experts advise a ratio of 1 keyword per 200 words.
Google will penalize you for keyword stuffing, a technique whereby a page is overloaded with keywords. The purpose of keyword stuffing is to trick Google into thinking the content is relevant.
3. The Use of Relevant Backlinks
You know your content marketing strategy is on the right track when other websites are linking back to you. It means these websites find great value in your content.
For Google, backlinks are a seal of approval. The search engine giant will reward you with higher search rankings.
However, you have to make sure the websites that are linking back to your page are relevant to your industry. Consequently, these websites must also be reputable and consistently publish high-quality content.
4. The Use of Meta Descriptions
There are some SEO practitioners who believe meta descriptions are no longer significant. We are here to tell you that having well-written meta descriptions can help drive traffic to your website.
Meta descriptions consist of a few sentences that describe your website. The purpose of the meta description is to entice people to visit your website. It tells Internet searchers what your website is all about.
Thus, a meta description is not written for search engines. It is written with the potential site visitor in mind. You should not use too many keywords in your meta description.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
In contrast, Black Hat SEO strategies employ techniques and tactics that do not conform to the guidelines of Google. Marketers who use Black Hat SEO strategies are mavericks; they operate outside the confines of the “law” and are willing to bend the rules to get the job done.
Here are a few of the most popularly-used Black Hat SEO strategies:
1. The Use of Irrelevant Keywords
We discussed the important role keywords play in getting your content found on the Internet. However, the keywords should have relevance or value to the site visitor.
For example, you are writing a blog on how a robotic vacuum cleaner can keep your home clean without any fuss. Then, within your content, you write in the following sentence:
“LeBron James can surely use a robotic vacuum cleaner to sweep the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.”
The sentence includes the keywords “robotic vacuum cleaner” but it has absolutely no relevance to the article. Instead, it uses popular search items “LeBron James” and “Golden State Warriors” to trick search engines.
2. Bot-Generated Content
Black Hat SEO practitioners will often use automatically-generated or bot generated content to capitalize on keywords and give the search rankings a boost.
No doubt you have seen examples of bot-generated content. They are usually located in the comments section of a blog. A bot-generated content is very easy to spot because they make no sense!
It reads like a random comment that has no relevance to the topic whatsoever. The only component of a bot comment that has value is the keyword.
3. Installing Doorway Pages
Let’s say you are planning to visit Italy and indulge in your passion for fine art. You want to prepare an itinerary which covers the best art galleries in Florence. You run a search query on the “best fine art galleries in Florence Italy”.
When you click on one of the URLs featured on the search results page, you don’t land on the website of an art gallery in Florence. Instead, you find yourself on a website selling herbal supplements.
This form of Black Hat SEO trickery is called installing doorway pages. Put succinctly, doorway pages are fake pages that are packed with keywords to help the website get found. You just won’t find what you are looking for.
4. Integrating Invisible Links or Text
Black Hat SEO practitioners know the value of going stealth mode. They will “plant” links on pages where you can’t see them right away.
Examples of these types of tactics include setting the font size to zero, using white text on white background, and integrating a link in a small character such as a comma or a period.
What Are The Penalties For Practicing Black Hat SEO Strategies?
If you break the law, you will get punished for it. On the Internet, Google is the law. Whenever the search engine giant announces changes on its search ranking algorithm, you should pay attention very carefully.
Google frowns upon Black Hat SEO strategies. In fact, Google institutes changes on its search algorithm to make sure these Black Hat SEO strategies get shut out. Here is an updated list of changes in Google’s search algorithms:
- Penguin – Designed to stop inappropriate linking practices
- Panda – Designed to slow down content farms. A content farm is usually an agency that employs a large group of writers to create high-ranking content. The purpose is to increase page views and attract more advertising revenue.
- Florida – Designed to stop keyword stuffing tactics.
If you are caught using Black Hat SEO techniques, what penalties should you expect from Google?
1. A Drop in the Search Rankings
If you notice a sudden drop in the search rankings for your website, that is Google’s way of telling you to stop what you are doing and clean up your strategies.
You will have to comply with Google’s algorithm, implement the necessary changes on your SEO strategies, then file a reconsideration request which will ask the search engine to run another audit on your website.
2. Banned in the Search Rankings
Although it rarely happens, the possibility exists that Google can ban you from its search rankings. Google will not hesitate to pull the trigger on websites that continue to practice deceptive SEO strategies.
A ban from Google will sound the death knell for your business. No one will be able to find your website on the Internet thus, affecting lead generation, site traffic, and sales conversions.
In the event that you do get banned, you should try to appease Google by cleaning up your SEO strategies before applying for a reconsideration request.
Conclusion – Should You Use Both White Hat And Black Hat SEO Strategies?
Both White Hat and Black Hat SEO strategies serve the same purpose – to enhance website visibility so you can climb up Google’s search rankings.
However, with Google constantly reviewing and changing its algorithm, it would be best to stick to White Hat SEO tactics. You cannot pull the wool over Google. The search engine will eventually see what you’re up to.
Interactions on the Internet may be driven by digital technology but they are purely emotional by nature. Black Hat SEO tactics can be annoying. No one wants to be misled. It will reflect on your reputation and affect your brand identity.
Finally, keep in mind this beautiful quote from American author, Arnold Glasow:
“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
White Hat SEO strategies will require more effort because you will have to build your followers and links organically. They will keep you on the straight and narrow path. Running a business is hard enough as it is. You should minimize the risks instead of adding to it.