The ultimate goal of any company employing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques is to ascend the search engine ranking ladder. However, not every type of SEO will achieve this, at least in the long-term. There is good practice and bad practice; otherwise known as white hat and black hat SEO.
The distinction between white hat and black hat is important. Black hat refers to SEO practice which violates search engine criteria and is unethical in its pursuit of a higher ranking. Simply, to reap rewards from SEO, you need to play by the rules outlined by search engines – or be punished.
However, the complex and erratic nature of SEO makes it all too easy to accidentally employ black hat practices. It is easy to over-optimise your site, use a marketing strategy too aggressively, or seek a few shortcuts every now and then.
While black hat SEO can boost your site’s ranking, it will only bring short-term success at most. Search engines before long will uncover unethical practice – whether intentional or not – and the repercussions can be destructive. You could see the credibility and authority of your site nose-dive to the no man’s land of the internet; or even worse, your site could be banned. This makes black hat SEO counterproductive and hard to recover from. In other words, steer clear of it.
With a bit of knowledge about black hat SEO, it will soon become easy to recognise and avoid. A company’s main focus should be on honouring search engine guidelines for ethical SEO. Now let’s go through some black hat techniques that you could be accidentally using.
Keyword article pitfalls
Keyword articles are seen as black hat when they are stuffed with keywords. By this, an article could feature its keyword 10 times within the first 100 words. This is a clear example of keyword diarrhea and an attempt to trick the search engine’s web crawlers that the site is relevant to the search.
To avoid this, prioritize quality and readability when writing content. Produce an article which is entertaining while being peppered with high-traffic keywords in a way that is natural, doesn’t disrupt flow, or flood content.
It’s about striking a balance between keywords and other content.
The use of invisible text attempts to attract web crawlers by colouring text in the same shade as the background, thereby rendering it invisible.
Invisible backlinks or keywords are counterproductive since it leaves your audience with a poor user experience and is unethical practice, which can be penalized.
Similar to invisible text, a doorway page seeks to fool web crawlers into ranking a site higher. But it is a false page that users will never see and will be punished by Google and other search engines.
If you show one set of content to web crawlers and another set to users, this is a form of black hat SEO called Cloaking.
This can mean optimising one set of keywords for search engines, and then another set for your real audience. While this will attract more traffic, it most certainly won’t end well for your search ranking.
Striking a balance
Optimizing your site for search engine bots by manipulating their rules-based practice guidelines is a business of fine margins. It is important to understand these guidelines in order to strike a balance between optimisation and (punishable) over optimisation.
Today search engines focus on readability and relevance to audience, rather than keyword density or authoritative back linking. Those latter two things still matter, but search engines are becoming more human-like. This contrasts with the search-engine-focused nature of black hat SEO.
In sum, sites home to the most authoritative and best-written articles and landing pages will shoot up the search ranking ladder. Content that humans enjoy will perform the best in search rankings. Keep this in mind when optimising your site for search engines, and be sure to use ethical and accepted practices.
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