You have two paths to take when venturing into the world of online marketing. You can choose to employ either a “black hat” or “white hat” strategy. But what does that mean? In the words of filmmaker Peter Joseph, the struggle between “dark vs. light or good vs. evil is one of the most ubiquitous dualities ever know.” This classic view of purity vs. nefariousness expands across all cultures and mediums.
Unsurprisingly, this metaphorical view of good and bad has found it’s way into the world of digital/online marketing. Chances are you’ve seen a movie or TV show where the “hero” wears a white outfit while the “villain” sports a black one. So it is with many things. Likewise, when discussing the topic of online marketing strategies, the same is true.
Let’s Dive a Bit Deeper
Not unlike a video game where the player gets to choose a path of good or evil, so too can online marketers make this choice. Marketers must choose between “white hat” or “black hat” link building strategies to elevate their clients’ reputations. In its simplest form, “white hat” tactics emphasize a strategy that follows Google’s rules. On the other hand, “black hat” tactics opt for an approach which isn’t afraid to bend or break the rules. Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages.
We’ll take a closer look at each tactic and help you determine whether you’ll want to use “white hat” or “black hat” tactics to achieve the results you desire. Finally, we’ll show you why it’s best to steer clear of underhanded marketing strategies.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Marketers who practice “black hat” SEO are essentially the outlaws of the internet. They rely on rule-breaking techniques to earn higher rankings. Consequently, they defy the rules of best practice and opt to create poor quality content in order to deliver artificial results for their clients. Some black hat strategies include the following:
- Adding Unrelated Keywords: Adding keywords that have no connection to your content is a red flag for search engines because of how unnatural it looks. Say, for example, that you’re working on a site dedicated to massage therapy. In theory, adding a phrase like, “Justin Bieber loves to get massages at Back in Balance Massage & Bodyworks” sounds great. However, it really has nothing to do with how your product could benefit your target audience. Instead, it uses an unrelated celebrity to bait search engines for results. Unsurprisingly, this is considered a big no-no and could cost you dearly in the long run.
- Content Automation (in the body text or the comment section): We can all recognize a bot comment instantly. Although this text contains keywords that will help a website URL rank higher, it’s randomly generated and makes absolutely no sense to the reader. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo pick up on this. As a result, your site or marketing efforts can be hindered when they bust you for it. Below is a great example of bots at work. This example comes from one of our competitors. It was found on their YouTube channel in the comments section.
Other “black hat” SEO techniques
- Doorway Pages: These are essentially fake pages that are overloaded with keywords that make them easier for search engines to find. However, once clicked, they automatically redirect visitors to a separate page and are therefore meaningless.
- Cloaking: This deceptive strategy involves presenting visitors and search engines completely different content. The goal of this practice is to deceive search engines so they display a URL which would not normally be displayed.
- Invisible Text & Links: Another common “black hat” technique is to hide text or links within your content in an effort to improve rankings. Some ways to do this include adding similarly-colored text on a site background, setting font sizes to zero, or burying a link in a small character (e.g., embedding a link in a semicolon or a single letter).
These are all referred to as “black hat” techniques for a reason. They’re incredibly risky to implement and are usually detected sooner or later. Consequently, a site may have their rankings damaged and credibility penalized. Your site can also be banned from Google if you’re caught. Ultimately, it’s just not worth the risk.
“White Hat” SEO: Why it Pays to Be Good
The most reputable and successful brands opt for “white hat” SEO techniques. In contrast, the strategy focuses on making your site more visible through quality content and organic link building. Below are some ways your site can be created using “white hat” techniques:
- Creating Quality Content: Creating valuable content for your target audience is both share-worthy and link-worthy. These are the key ingredients to begin driving organic traffic to your website. Above all, this content should be original, highly relevant, and contains no spelling or grammatical errors.
- Effective Keyword Research and Usage: Although keyword stuffing is frowned upon, keywords still hold value when used correctly. Your site should be focused on a set of relevant keywords. You can identify the most effective words by researching keywords or phrases that people might use to find your site. Keep in mind that single words are not always the most effective way to target your audience. For example, if you own a sewing company located in Carson City, NV, it would be right to assume potential customers might search for “sewing alterations in Carson City” to locate assistance. Logically, keyword phrases can be much more specific to your product or service. With this in mind, it is best to include similar phrases throughout your site in order for search engines to pick up on and send people your way.
Other “white hat” SEO options
- Relevant Back Links: Google likes to see links leading back to your site because it’s a vote of confidence. If other sites are linking to you, it means you have quality content. Consequently, you will reap the reward with higher search rankings. Keep in mind that there are good links and bad links, so you want to make sure any off-site links are relevant and offer similar high-quality content.
- Internal Links: Linking to content within your own site is a great indicator that your site has value so long as you don’t over stuff them. A good rule of thumb is two or three links to other pages within your site. This can include related products, services, blog topics, etc.
- A Meta Description: Your site’s meta description is the first couple of sentences that appear in the search results under your page title. The best ones are written for people instead of search engines. In other words, they shouldn’t be overstuffed with keywords. Take a look at the two meta descriptions below for both good and bad examples:
Ranking Higher Takes Time & Hard Work
While white and black hat SEO strategies share a common goal to improve a site’s visibility, they use very different strategies. An advantage in taking a “black hat” approach is quick, short-term success through increased website traffic. However, as mentioned above, the penalties are becoming more severe. Consequently, breaking the rules can lead to devastating repercussion for your site. Can you really afford to be deindexed from the most popular search engine in the world? We think not!
The best marketers opt for the “white hat” approach when working on a company’s SEO. Although it will take longer to see results, the strategy focuses on improving your organic search performance through quality content – all while playing nice with Google.
Ultimately, it is for these reasons and more that you should ensure your SEO team is on the level. A nefarious SEO company that’s only looking to extract profits from clients will do whatever it takes. They have no regard for repercussions you and your business may suffer from when their nefarious techniques are discovered. Don’t make this mistake. Always choose a reputable company and you’re sure to see the long term results you desire.
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Interested in learning more? Please feel free to contact the pros at Wonder Web Development for a free consultation. We’re based in Sparks, NV right next to Reno, NV and we happily service clients all over the United States. We can’t wait to hear from you!
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