SEO 101: Black Hat and White Hat SEO Practices

On May 22, 2012, wrote:

The terms “white hat” and “black hat” originate from old serial westerns, in which audiences could instantly tell the good guys from the bad guys by the color of their hats. Today, the terms are most commonly used to describe differences in techniques webmasters, web site owners, SEO professionals and Internet marketers employ to promote their sites — or perhaps more accurately, differences in philosophies regarding what type of techniques to choose to achieve this promotion.

One thing remains unchanged from the original definitions, however. Individuals who fall into the black hat camp are often considered more dubious than those who fall into the white hat camp.

In general terms, white hat search engine optimization, or SEO, techniques include those that are both legally irreproachable and above board. If you are in doubt on whether a particular SEO strategy would be considered white hat or black hat, examining relevant search engine policy can give you a good idea. Of course, many search engine user agreements, advertiser guidelines, and similar documents can be extremely complex and technical, but they can still give you a fairly solid indication about how acceptable your strategies are.

Black hat SEO practices and techniques

Most SEO specialists would agree that any technique that could be interpreted as violating any user agreements, generally accepted guidelines, or certain laws would not be categorized as a white hat technique. Common and effective white hat techniques include regularly updating your site with unique, relevant, and useful new content; using tracking programs and software to analyze the traffic of your site so that you can better optimize your site and advertising; and designing high-quality pay-per-click search campaigns.

It would be too simplistic to say that black hat techniques are simply those that are illegal. While illegal SEO techniques would certainly be categorized as black hat, there are also many SEO techniques that, while not technically illegal, are still categorized as black hat due to their moral questionability. One common example of a black hat technique is the use of cloaked web pages. A cloaked page is one that tries to give the impression that it deals with one topic in an attempt to fool search engines into directing traffic to the site, and internet browsers into visiting it. Individuals who design cloaked pages frequently employ tactics like keyword stuffing, another black hat technique.

Keyword stuffing is artificially filling the page’s text with a particular term or group of terms that tend to draw a significant amount of traffic. This text provides no actual useful information to the site’s visitors. Then, when a person accesses the cloaked site, it redirects to one that deals with a different topic. The real page will generally be packed with ads and affiliate links for a higher-grossing topic than the one that the page was originally supposed to deal with.

Although there seems to be an endless supply of individuals willing to try black hat techniques, they are almost universally frowned upon by SEO specialists and industry analysts. Not only are these types of techniques questionable, they are also generally largely ineffective in the long run. Or, at the very least, they require those who employ them to constantly shift their operations, by building new pages and working from new IP addresses in an attempt to stay ahead of the search engines crawlers. The crawlers and algorithms employed by all major search engines have grown extremely advanced; as time passes, they continue to be better at recognizing and flagging sites that use black hat techniques. Once flagged, these sites will draw virtually no visitor traffic, and their owners could face further punitive and even legal measures in some cases. In the long run, the initial traffic provided by black hat techniques is not worth the eventual consequences.

About the author: Guest post contributed by Charles Dearing, on behalf of Whoishostingthis.com – a webmaster tool that lets you discover which web hosting company any site is hosted with. They also publish webhosting reviews for all the popular hosts such as, InMotion Hosting and Hostgator.


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