Black Hat, White Hat
As with all things in life and business, there’s a fair way of using SEO to help people find what they want, and an unethical way of trying to get good ratings from search engines. So-called ‘black hat’ SEO describes the methods used to ‘cheat’ search engines out of a good ranking and ‘white hat’ SEO is a way of helping search engines to find relevant information and earn a good ranking in return.
Our London SEO agency chooses the white hat route every time, but there are lots of people using unethical black hat techniques, and your website may have been given the black hat treatment. The implications for your website and business could be very serious indeed.
Let’s look at the five most common black hat techniques. If someone has used them on your website, you need to get it fixed fast!
Black Hat SEO tricks to beware of
The hidden content technique conceals certain keywords or phrases in places where you can’t see it such as the website’s coding. You can’t see the hidden content, but search engines can. If a search engine finds hidden content, it may blacklist your website altogether. The end result? You simply disappear! So although these techniques are supposed to promote your website, they actually have the opposite effect!
Here’s how your black hat ‘SEO expert’ goes to work:
Comment tags are supposed to be used as notes for developers. They explain what a piece of coding is actually for, but some people stuff them with keywords instead. For example, <!-Start of Main Content->, but if you see a whole lot of keywords related to the website content – the sort of things that people might use to find your website – someone has been using them as an unethical form of SEO, and your website is at risk.
The correct use of the noscript tag is to tell users that their browser can’t work with a particular script language. Once again, inappropriate hidden content can be placed between the noscript tags.
Other HTML tags
The ‘bad guys’ will go to any lengths to insert hidden content – they’ll use CSS or they’ll introduce text that’s so small it can’t be seen or make it the same colour as the page background.
Search engines are getting increasingly sophisticated, and when they see ‘cheats’, your website is in trouble! How will you know if these sneaky techniques have been applied to your website? The best solution is to get a MOT test from reliable London SEO experts like WebAce.
Meta keyword stuffing
Meta tags are supposed to be an accurate description of the web page content that helps search engines to determine what’s on the page. For example: Some so-called SEO ‘experts’ that use black hat techniques will stuff the meta description with a meaningless array of keywords.
Choosing a crisp, short list of meta keywords gets the attention of search engines, but if used incorrectly, this technique will have the opposite effect. Hence:
would be acceptable whereas is pushing the envelope and will be ignored by search engines!
A doorway page is written only for search engines. Site visitors won’t see it. Such a page is stuffed with keywords and will focus on one or two words. If someone visits the site, the page automatically redirects them to another page that is less ‘optimised’.
Cheats that may have worked in the past don’t work anymore. Search engines are starting to find ‘tricks’ and when they do, they’ll downgrade your page as spam or even ban a page. After all, the aim of a search engine is to lead users to relevant pages, and if you have to cheat to be noticed, there has to be something wrong!
SEO Link farming
Once again, search engines are on the alert to this ‘trick’. Links do attract search engines, but they’re looking for seo links that will provide users with relevant content. Just compiling or being part of a list of unrelated links isn’t going to get you anywhere, and you run the risk of being banned by search engines.
White hat techniques to apply
SEO Quality Content
Ultimately, it’s the quality of the information you offer that matters to search engines and users. Having excellent, original content will attract search engines. It will also attract users who are genuinely interested in your website. That’s what you want, isn’t it? Having a large number of visits from people who would rather have found something else doesn’t help you. Having good information on your site benefits everyone and this ‘fair play’ strategy is also the most effective way of optimising your website for search engines.
For example: supposing a user is searching for SEO consultants in London. Some sites consist of a single page and a few paragraphs of text. Others offer interesting blogs, informative articles, a portfolio of completed projects and useful advice about SEO. It’s clear that the most informative websites will get higher ratings.
Apply structural mark up and distinguish content from presentation
Structure your content so that appropriate headers will help search engines to see what your page is all about. Search engines give more weight to headings.
Design elements make a page look good – they can also confuse search engines. CSS can be used to separate the two, helping search engines to evaluate your content.
Titles and Meta Data
We have seen that these elements have been misused by the unscrupulous. As a result, search engines are less interested in this information than they used to, but they are nevertheless important. By contrast, page titles have become more important, so choosing a title that sums up the content neatly is vital.
Researching keywords and effective use of keywords
It’s important to find out what phrases people are using to find websites like yours. Single words aren’t all that effective. Phrases are more important. Extensive research ensures that you target appropriate keywords that will help your potential customers to find you.
Once you know what words and phrases are important, you will choose two or three of them and ensure that they are in all the important page elements from the title, through the meta description, meta keywords, header elements, text and so on.
Good quality inbound links
We previously discussed the counter-productive use of links in Link Farming. Links that work as a vote of confidence for your website will come from sites that deal with a related topic and which have a good rating and reputation with search engines. Negotiate high quality links and build relationships. Use links that will take visitors to relevant pages within your website as well as the home page.
Why you need white hat SEO experts
As you can see, finding ‘bad’ practices that might have been applied without your knowledge or presented to you as ‘good practice’ by inept practitioners is a difficult process. However, these black hat tricks can cause your website to be banned by search engines. This can be very costly for your business. Playing it safe and having your website checked out by someone who is trained to spot risks is a wise move. We’re ready to help you at WebAce. Our SEO specialists are the ‘good guys’ and we’ll ensure that your SEO is both ethical and effective.