The best website marketers avoid Black Hat marketing because Google penalizes the practice. But what is White Hat SEO? In a nutshell, it’s a good party.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has evolved in the same way as other media. Similar to the beginnings of both radio and television, the early days of the Internet allowed savvy marketers to push their messages in ways that were not always ethical, but very affective. Radio’s Payola Scandal in the 1950s, when radio DJs played songs in exchange for money, caused the U.S. Federal government to pass new laws targeting the pay for play practices that were so prevalent at the time. Now, Google is playing the role of government by sidelining those websites they suspect are promoting hidden agendas. By removing URLs from search results, Google penalizes these website managers for bad practices. In essence, Google is the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
What is White Hat SEO?
White Hat means that a website manager is not overtly trying to trick users or search engines into believing their destination is valuable. A good website is like a good dinner party where the guests are getting something they can’t have elsewhere – and it’s all sourced locally and ethically.
A website should be farm-fresh.
The question might even be asked whether any form of SEO will be frowned upon by Google? In fact, the way to avoid getting penalized is by sticking to what the website’s purpose is and not trying to play games or trick users or search engines into treating your page as something it is not.
- Quality Content – Google spends a lot of money manually evaluating content on websites to determine if the website manager is presenting something genuine and helpful. Longer articles are better than short blog posts, and topics should be covered with an attention to detail. Google also has algorithms to evaluate quality.
- New Content – Posting content on a regular basis is important. There’s a reason this blog gets posted at the same time every Tuesday! Similar to users, Google likes established routines.
- Good Images – Your posts should have relevant images of high value – and they should be original. Posting images with good descriptions, captions and free of copyright issues will go a long way in proving the website’s worth.
- Good functionality – Content is helpful, but a useful function on a website, for instance a Quiz, can make a website relevant in the eyes of users and Google. Directories and other resources can also be a good way to establish traffic and demonstrate objectivity in helping users get good information.
- Good Reviews – Having good reviews posted from users on Yelp, Google Maps, Travel Advisor or other peer-to-peer review websites shows that a website is a good destination providing good experiences. The more talk about it, the better – even if the ratings are not always 5 out of 5 stars.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat marketing strategies intentionally trick users and search engines into thinking a URL is better than it is. Google is methodically removing these black hat-associated websites from their search engine results, mainly because the websites are doing one or more of the banned practices listed below:
- Deceiving Users – Any time a website displays something to trick a visitor, Google will penalize the website. Examples of deceiving users can be misleading headlines or teasers, or generally teasing the visitors into doing something they don’t intend to do. Trolling users with fantastic headlines that ultimately have no news or comic value is also considered Black Hat.
- Deceiving Robots – Gone are the days for hidden keywords within the body of a web page. Showing search engines something different than what a human visitor sees is tantamount to extortion in the eyes of Google. There are various terms associated with robot trickery, including cloaking and/or sneaky redirects.
- Duplicating Content – Repeating keywords or articles and content multiple times on a website is considered SPAM.
- Banner Ads – Linking to crappy websites, or websites that are not related in any way, is a good way to get on the bad side of Google.
What is Gray Hat SEO?
There is a place in between that website managers might find themselves, either purposefully or by accident. For instance, a website might be sincere in its efforts to provide useful links to other websites, while Google could deem the practice suspicious.
- Too many links – Outbound links to websites that are unrelated will raise the suspicions of Google crawlers.
- Redundancy – How many different ways can your website present the fact there’s good customer service? Well, it’s worth saying once or twice, but maybe not using the same motto on each page.
- Guest Blogging – John Mueller warns that by giving strangers a stage to write and link to what they want, there’s a descent chance a website will be considered spammy.
- Using Keywords – While Google accepts and encourages the use of keywords, anything beyond the basic will be penalized. Stick to one keyword or key phrase per page and three tags.
If, when running Google Analytics, a website manager determines users are sticking on the website for more than a few minutes, that means the website is relevant and useful for those users. Google can determine how long users are visiting websites – and whether they are leaving as quickly as they came. Similar to bad parties on a Saturday night, Google won’t talk about websites where everyone left quickly. Likewise, a comfortable website that people want to return to time and time again will be talked about by Google.