“Keeping consumer trust while improving search visibility is possible by utilising white hat SEO best practices in your content. Trying to trick Google with black hat SEO is not worth the problems that you will receive in the long run.”
For beginners who are just starting up on their websites, search visibility is a top-level priority. Anyone worth their salt online understands that SEO is important. There are some, however that treat this as the end all, be all of their sites. They are even willing to skirt around the best practices to get it easy.
Welcome to the world of White Hat and Black Hat SEO.
All search visibility improvement techniques can be classified as either White Hat or Black Hat optimisation – the names alone connoting their alignments. You need to make sure that your techniques are up to spec to ensure the longevity of your site, or else be punished for bending the rules.
White Hat and Black Hat: The SEO Conundrum
White Hat SEO is defined by Google as webmaster practices that adhere to their Terms of Service (ToS) and allows your website to have a good, trusted reputation among consumers, all the while pushing for an improved search visibility on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
Black Hat, on the other hand, are underhanded moves that try to game the system into thinking that your site is valuable, often getting momentary advantage on the numbers, only to be penalized long-term.
The conundrum that a lot of webmasters have, especially the ones who have no qualms breaking the system for their gain, is that optimisation in itself is black hat because you are trying to make Google believe that you are relevant. This idea, though sensible, is fairly wrong.
For example, search engines expect all websites to maximise their pages’ relevancy and improve keyword density. They understand this is the only way to make yourself valuable, together with link building.
What search engines, most specifically Google, dislike is trying to get as many links as possible and muddling the internet to the point of providing no value to it.
The techniques themselves are not even Black Hat, but rather the intention behind them. This SingleGrain article even makes it apparent.
Some Easy Optimisation Best Practices
Among the SEO basics that Google recommends, there’s a few things that stand out. Some of them include:
- Create unique, accurate page titles – Make sure that it properly defines what your page is about. A smart optimisation is to use [Page Title] + [Brand]. You can add your address and phone number to create a NAP
- Use the Description meta tag – create a branded marketing description of your page, using the secondary or relevant keywords to the primary keyword that you are trying to rank for.
- Use Headings to Emphasize Importance – H1 tags once in the title, H2 tags on subtitles and use the primary keyword on H1 whilst long tails on H2. Use them sparingly
- Utilised Structured Markup Language – it helps SERPS understand your site easier.
- Create Naturally Flowing Hierarchy – make sure that your site structure is easy to follow and navigate. Use words only once to avoid over-optimisation.
There’s more to these – white hat SEO techniques can number in the hundreds depending on who you ask and how deep your understanding is of how search engines work.
Techniques That Will Get You Penalised
Black Hat SEO is the complete opposite where, while letting your numbers skyrocket on SERPs on the short term, put your website on the blacklist on different search engines or worse, banned. Google will penalise your site and make sure that you are either unindexed or traffic does not come your way.
Some of the explicit black hat moves that can lead to penalties include:
- Buying links
- Spammy Link wheels using web 2.0 or blog sites
- Spamming comments without providing value
- Duplicating or plagiarising other people’s content
- Spinning article. This is basically duplication but spinning it to a level that it has no readability.
- Keyword Stuffing. Also called over-optimisation, this happens when a keyword shows up too many times in your page to make it seem relevant.
- Invisible Text
Much like white hat, black hat techniques are also abundant on the internet. People, in their search to squeeze every ounce of value from Google, stumbles upon black hat a lot of times.
The Value of Sticking With Best Practices
Do you need White Hat SEO in your life as a budding webmaster? Yes, you do! These practices are generally accepted by many search engine websites and program their crawlers around it.
Non-adherence to the guidelines given to follow these methods result in a search ban for your website; Google is notoriously strict with the ToS that they set.
A search ban on Google alone reduces your search visibility dramatically, considering that it is the best and most well-known search engine in the world with hundreds of millions of consumers globally.
What should you do then? The easy answer to this is to follow SEO basics and optimise your site to be easy to access for both users and crawlers.
Make navigating your site easier by categorising topics and creating an easy to follow a hierarchy that allows the consumer to go from general to specific in each directory. Using great, properly optimise content and anchor text links help search crawlers to understand what your site is about. An easy way to do this is to have a site map.
When optimising images, using brief descriptive file names and adding alt text to your images improves search visibility while allowing your consumer to remember it easily, hence once they need it, it can be easier to look up.
The alt text is an important factor for search engines to understand what the image is about and, in the event of using an image link, what the destination page is about.
Finally, offering quality content and services keeps consumer trust. Easy to read information and keeping fresh, quality content ensures that the reader comes back and recommends your page to others.
A repeated use of your page translates to retention in both the consumer and their browser’s suggestions. It is easy to force numbers for your website to have immediate success but White Hat SEO ensures that you stay in for the long run without a crash and burn.