If you’ve ever watched an old western movie, you may have noticed that the good guys typically wear a white hat, while the bad guys wear a black one? Well, this is where the term black hat and white hat came from. Today, we will be discussing white hat and black hat SEO practices. I will give you an example of a company that got busted by Google for their unethical practices, what methods are considered black hat, and why you should avoid them.
What does white hat and black hat really mean?
Well, white hat SEO practices refer to those that are fair, honest, and ethical. They are beneficial for your visitors, and they follow Google’s rules and regulations. Black hat practices are those that are unethical, deceptive, manipulative, and go against the guidelines set forth by search engines. These practices typically don’t benefit a company’s visitors. So, what do black hat SEO practices look like?
BMW gets busted for using doorway pages.
Back in 2006, the automaker BMW was busted by Google for using doorway pages. These are web pages that were designed to trick search engines. They are unhelpful for the visitor, typically redirecting them to duplicate pages or pages that are not useful for their search (Google, 2018). In the case of BMW, they created a web page stuffed with keywords, particularly “used car.” This page then redirected visitors to their home page, boosting the company’s inbound links and search ranking. Well, Google caught wind of this and penalized the company. Google reduced their PageRank to 0, plummeting their organic search results (Devaney, 2017). As they say, the bad guys never win. To read more examples of companies using black hat practices, check out Hubspot’s article, The Biggest SEO Blunders of All Time.
Unethical SEO Practices
We have seen how using doorway pages can negatively impact a company. Here are some other black hat practices to avoid.
- Hiding Text. This can be implemented by using a white background or size zero font.
- Using plagiarized, auto-generated, duplicate, or keyword stuffed content.
- Trading inbound links with other websites.
- Exposing visitors to malicious content.
- Using automated queries.
- Incorporating hidden links.
These practices are manipulative and sneaky. They don’t serve to benefit the visitor, and they typically don’t help them in their search. These practices are unethical and are frowned upon within the industry and by search engines (Ethical SEO, 2013). And as seen in the BMW example, they can end up hurting companies in the long-run. Instead, companies should seek to optimize their website and search rankings by integrating ethical SEO practices.
Ethical SEO Practices
Implementing white hat practices will help your site become an SEO hero! Ethical practices include those that follow the guidelines laid out by search engines. These are techniques that are designed to help your visitors find what they are looking for. They are obvious, helpful, and honest. These techniques include:
- Creating different links for distinct web pages.
- Creating relevant and useful content that contains helpful keywords.
- Integrating inbound links.
- Updating web pages and content regularly with relevant information.
- Reviewing keywords frequently to determine which are best suited for your audience’s searches.
- Creating a sitemap on your website.
- Avoiding link exchanges and irrelevant/low-quality content (Ethical SEO, 2013).
Why are ethical practices important?
Implementing unethical SEO practices is risky. While it may generate immediate results, it will ultimately hurt you in the long-run. Particularly, when the top search engines find out and penalize or ban your site. Ethical practices may take a little longer to generate results. However, the lasting impact will be much more beneficial. These practices will improve your search rankings, increase organic traffic, create a better user experience for your visitors, and encourage customers to return. It will also help you maintain good relations with search engines, such as Google (Biggs, 2012). Remember, the good guys always win!
What ethical practices are most important to you or your business?
To learn more about SEO, and the pros and cons associated with it, check out my previous blog post, Pros and Cons of Using Organic and Paid Marketing Strategies.
Biggs, A. (2012). What is ethical SEO and why is it important? Retrieved from http://www.highimpact.co.uk/blog/ethical-seo-important/
Devaney, E. (2017). The biggest SEO blunders of all time. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/biggest-seo-blunders#sm.0000y8mse0slcf1bq2321erjcypni
Ethical SEO vs. Unethical SEO. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.optimus01.co.za/ethical-seo-vs-unethical-seo/
Google. (2018). Doorway pages. Retrieved from https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2721311?hl=en