Basically, Google aims to reward what most websites are there to promote – engagement. Businesses wish to engage with targets for their products and services as well as creating positive brand awareness.
So far so good; everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet. However, no matter how engaging the content of a website may be, it can’t communicate to its potential audiences if they can’t find it.
That’s where the techniques of SEO come in, some good, some bad and some thoroughly ugly.
- Black Hat: A range of manipulative spam-like tricks that have nothing to do with enhancing website user experience (UX). Google and the other search engines are determined to penalise their use and good luck to them!
- White Hat: Based on excellent, informative and relevant website content combined with ways that UX can be improved, such as fast page load speeds. Get rewarded with higher ranking by keeping to Google rules and satisfy website visitors at the same time. It’s a win-win, but needs expertise and perseverance to succeed.
- Grey Hat: It would be a real gung-ho search engine optimist who’d try to outwit Google algorithms. Yet there can be perfectly valid reasons for techniques like key phrase repetition that do not compromise UX quality. For instance, it could be for the need of ensuring the web user knows exactly what product features are being described for technical accuracy and to avoid ambiguity. This is literally a grey area and it is important to keep up to date with Google guidelines and react to any change if necessary.
Wendy Boswell’s post for websearch.about.com1 highlights three black hat methods that are particularly widely used:
- Keyword stuffing: Packing long lists of keywords into site content. Apart from denigrating the UX of a site, it is contrary to search engine rules and will damage SEO.
- Invisible text: This works by putting content such as keyword lists in a font colour matching the background colour. It remains hidden to the web user, but aims to attract search engine spiders.
- Doorway pages: A hidden page that the user can’t see but which is also used to attract search engine spiders.
From our industry knowledge, we believe invisible text is something few black hat SEO operators would dare to risk today, because algorithms are sophisticated enough to detect its use and the penalties are dire. However, tricks to look out for (and avoid like the plague) are:
- Taking in spurious links to create the impression to search engines of an informative communications hub. Paid for links, directories and reciprocal linking are frequently used.
- Comment spam, leaping in on every blog you can find with a spurious comment and a link back to the client website.
- Finding a high ranking article, changing a few words and putting it on site. Wholesale stealing of articles from newspapers can be another shady option, normally to aid advertising revenue to a site.
However, Wendy Boswell gives some wise advice which definitely stands the test of time: “Unethical, shady, or just over the line SEO is tempting; after all, these tricks actually do work, temporarily. They do end up getting sites higher search rankings; that is, until these same sites get banned for using unethical practices. It's just not worth the risk.”
Wearing a white hat for SEO means using effective key phrase research, quality inbound links, relevant informative content, appropriate headings, well-planned structure and high technical performance, all leading to enhanced UX and opportunities for positive engagement.
In our presentation “Our Top 7 Predictions for 2014” we also observed that as search algorithms become more sophisticated, there is no longer a need to produce volumes of content in order to be perceived as informative. “Quantity doesn’t equate to quality and word count is not synonymous with in-depth treatment of a subject.”
So how about grey hat SEO, 50 shades of it or otherwise? Webhostingtalk.com2 describes this grey area as “SEO techniques that take more risks than white hat SEO techniques but aren’t likely to get your site banned from search engines (although a search engine penalty could result).” It cites as an example “having a keyword density that’s high enough to sound unnatural but not at the level of keyword stuffing.”
OK, maybe that might get past the search engines but the clunky style would be unlikely to appeal to the website user. That’s not to say, however, that keyword repetition can’t be effective and stylish.
e.g. “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
Keyword Romeo becomes well established and what search engine would be heartless enough to penalise such prose?
BBI Brandboost is highly skilled in SEO that consistently improves page rankings for our clients and delivers high UX value. We also believe that SEO criteria should be hardwired into every aspect of web design. Contact us on 01494 452600, by email or through the Live Chat function on our website to discuss how website content can be fully and effectively optimised without compromising its engagement potential.
- What is Black Hat SEO? http://websearch.about.com/od/seononos/a/spamseo.htm
- White hat, black hat and gray hat SEO https://www.webhostingtalk.com/blog/white-hat-black-hat-and-gray-hat-seo/
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