Do you need an SEO ninja to get your website ranked on page 1? Rather than creating an AdWords account to get one of those coveted first spots on Google, you need a professionally managed SEO campaign. Search Engine Optimization, buttressed on keywords, backlinks, and high-quality crafted content, can be your golden ticket to more organic web traffic. But these three factors only represent the tip of the SEO Titanic iceberg.
By and large, search engines rank websites higher or dare we say the top of SERPs (search engine results page) because those websites deserve those exclusive spots. Most companies expect their digital executives to wear many ‘hats’ – and no, we aren’t talking about making a fashion statement. Digital marketers must have a skill set that tackles PPC, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and search engine optimization.
But as you delve into SEO, you’ll soon realize that SEO also wears several different hats – specifically black, white, and gray hats. Whereas digital marketers should actively expand their skills to wear as many “hats” as possible, you’ll want to avoid trifling with black and gray hat SEO. Otherwise, your website might get slapped with the dreaded Google penalty.
The Tragedy of Black Hat SEO
In the past, black hat SEO practitioners broke and bent SEO rules to appear at the top of Google. Black hat SEO is akin to slapping a band-aid on a 3” gash in your thigh. It may help a little, but will ultimately prove ineffective in the long run. Moreover, black hat SEO only addresses a symptom of the problem rather than the underlying cause of low search rank. Surprisingly, many SEO agencies still incorporate black hat SEO techniques into their strategy because it’s easier. Foolishly, Google, sooner or later, will catch up. As you develop your SEO strategy, avoid these black hat SEO methods at all costs!
Many black hat SEO practitioners used keyword stuffing to manipulate a page’s keyword frequency. Practitioners stealthily inserted targeted keywords onto a page with complete disregard if copy made sense. Google soon took notice and punished websites deliberately adding irrelevant keywords to a page’s copy.
Believing they were savvy enough to outsmart Google, black hat SEO practitioners attempted keyword cloaking to increase keywords frequency. Webmasters purposely configured HTML to appear differently to users than Google’s crawl bots before hiding keywords in a page’s coding. So while visitors were unable to see the abundance of keywords on a page, Google could still crawl the page’s coding and pick up on these keywords. Again, Google realized this deceptive plot and refined its algorithm to punish websites utilizing this deceitful tactic.
Avoid plagiarizing at all costs! If you’ve passed high school English – or aren’t living under a rock – you’re aware of the ramifications of plagiarizing. This pretty much goes without saying, but copying content falls under black hat SEO. Like your high school English teacher, Google wasn’t born yesterday and can spot duplicate content from a mile away. You’re welcome to try and outwit the search engine but Google has no qualms about slapping your website with a penalty.
If you’re worried that you may receive a penalty because one line of copy resembles content from another website, you can rest assured knowing that small similarities don’t matter too much. According to Google, duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of text within or across domains matching other content.
Why do external links matter? An external link signals to both humans and search engines that your website contains authoritative information. As such, many webmasters opened their wallets and purchased bountiful links. But, more links do not lead to higher search rankings; instead, Google cares more about the quality of the links over the quantity. Moreover, linking only improves SEO when it topically relates to your website’s content. Websites unrelated to your business’s industry don’t count in your favor. In fact, links from unrelated websites can cause your website to lose rank or even de-indexed from search results.
White Hat SEO Triumphs
White hat SEO uses techniques that search engines deem acceptable. Along with following Google’s guidelines, white hat SEO tactics prove more effective in the long-term. While these methods require hard work and time, your company will save money in the long run because you won’t have to exhaust resources to resolve problems brought on by black or gray hat techniques. But what are some effective white hat SEO strategies you can add to your strategy?
Google always emphasized the importance of creating content that satisfied audiences’ needs while compelling them to return to a website or share it with other viewers. Today, Google’s refined search engine algorithm rewards websites publishing well-written, thought-provoking content.
More content does not guarantee increased traffic and higher search rankings. On the contrary, Google penalizes websites circulating shallow, thin, or duplicate content. With their “Panda” penalty, Google de-ranks and de-indexes websites sharing useless content.
User-Friendly Web Design
User experience affects your website’s ranking. Think back to your own experience surfing the web. How many times have you’ve discovered websites with confusing navigation? What about slow load times? Perhaps you saw a design ugly enough to send chills down your spine?
Thus, you’ll want to optimize your website to provide visitors with the best experience possible. For instance, you’ll want to ensure that your website has a quick load time and contains a simple navigation. Visitors WILL migrate to a different site if they cannot find the information they want.
Aside from optimizing a website for user experience, you must also optimize it for search engines. Since Flash and Ajax aren’t built in HTML format, Google cannot crawl a website using these applications. If a search engine cannot crawl a web page, then how do you expect to achieve rank for a particular keyword? If you built your website with Flash, then you’re long overdue for a redesign.
What About Gray Hat SEO?
This type of SEO does not belong under white or black hat SEO. Gray hat SEO varies from person to person; and while not fully unacceptable, it’s best to avoid these methods. Some SEO experts even argue there’s no such thing as “Gray Hat” SEO. Sure there may be some gray areas in this field, but this harmful term sets a dangerous precedent. It creates a mindset that lulls a company into a false sense of security that these techniques work.
Think back to Google’s guidelines for ranking websites. Does using these techniques prove your website deserves a higher search rank? Are you providing users with the best information possible? If you answered ‘yes,’ then it’s time to rethink your SEO strategy.
Bringing It All Together
Despite what black hat SEO agencies argue, there’s no denying that white hat SEO remains superior. While white hat SEO won’t deliver instant gratification, abiding by these proven methods will ultimately land your website at the top of Google.
Do you need help creating a comprehensive SEO strategy? For more information about our SEO services, contact Premiere Creative today and give us a call at (973) 346-8100 to talk to one of our marketing experts.