Trick or Treat SEO: Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO

Trick or Treat SEO: Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO

Trick or Treat SEO: Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO

When it comes to SEO, you have two options: trick or treat. By tricks, we mean black-hat tactics, which bring excellent results — for a short while. Then, when Google catches you, your entire site is penalized. By treats, we mean white hat SEO tactics — proven techniques for effective, easy SEO wins.

This Halloween, choose treats over tricks for your SEO.

Trick: Keyword Stuffing

In the early days of SEO, keyword stuffing was a particular favorite, as it allowed pages to instantly reach the top of search engine results. At its most basic, keyword stuffing involved creating a page just of the keywords. When this stopped working, it evolved into creating content that contained numerous instances of the main keyword.

Keyword stuffing is easy for Google to detect. Now, if keyword density is more than 5 to 10 percent, the search engine’s algorithm takes notice. The likely outcome: your page won’t appear in the search results at all.

Treat: Update Blog Posts

Google favors websites with a long history online, as this shows authority. The problem is that some content can become outdated over the years. To maintain a backlog of content, you should update posts with new information and statistics instead of deleting them. Make sure to promote the updated content on social media, otherwise your efforts will be buried.

Trick: Content Spinning

Budget SEO agencies often use content spinning to save time and money. This involves creating the same article multiple times, changing the wording just enough to make the content appear different. The agency can then sell each version to a different business.

Before Google relied on synonyms in its algorithm, this tactic worked. Today, if you want to rank on the top page, you need original, high-quality content.

Treat: Active Link Building

Link building can also be one of the most effective white-hat tactics. You have many options, including creating content others want to share, posting to social media and including social media buttons on your blog, and guest blogging.

Another option to build links is to replace broken links offsite. Unfortunately, this can be time consuming, as you first need to seek out broken links. A little-known tactic is to look to Wikipedia for dead links. By creating accurate and informative content to replace old resources, you create the nofollow links you need to show Google that you’re not using black-hat methods.

Trick: Comment Spam

Link building can also be a black-hat tactic. One of the most popular methods is comment spamming. This involves finding pages that talk about a topic related to your niche and leaving a comment with a link back to your website.

With more website owners paying close attention to comments on their blogs, comment spam has become dangerous. If moderators consider your comment to be spam, they may report you to Google.

Treat: Optimizing for Mobile

Since 2016, mobile searches have exceeded desktop searches. To reflect this change, Google now crawls the mobile version of sites as the primary index. This means that by optimizing your website for mobile you not only improve the experience for users, you also increase your chances of ranking high on SERPs.

Trick: Invisible Text

Invisible text can take many forms: it can be the same color as the background, it can be too tiny to see, or it may even use div tags that prevent it from appearing. Usually, invisible text is used to add additional keywords to a page. This tactic stopped working after the Google algorithm started paying more attention to quality of content than to frequency of keywords.

Treat: Optimizing for Voice Search

Greater use of mobile has led to more voice searches. These searches tend to be conversational, use natural phrases, and are often longer than text searches. To appear in the search results when a user makes a voice search, you need to make some changes to your content.

First, add conversational keywords to your pages. Think about how users may ask a verbal question related to your content. Next, create some FAQ pages that specifically answer likely questions. Finally, focus on your Google My Business listing. This will allow Google to present relevant information when a user asks about your specific business or companies like yours in your area.

Trick: Doorway Pages

Doorway pages are designed to push a page higher in the SERPs by creating content that only search engine crawlers can see. When users clicks the link to the doorway page, they are automatically redirected to a different page of content.

In addition to risking penalization from Google, there are a couple reasons why you should avoid doorway pages. For one thing, they take time to create — they need their own keywords, meta tags, and templates. For another, they do nothing to help with your long-term strategy.

Treat: Drive Engagement

Google pays attention to bounce rate and time on site when deciding on a ranking. By decreasing the first and increasing the second, you can rank higher.

Start by improving first impressions. Make content easy to consume by shortening paragraphs, adding subheadings, and increasing whitespace in general.

Once you’ve grabbed users’ attention, keep them on the page. Use images, charts, and screenshots to aid understanding. Present information in a way that intrigues users and makes them want to continue reading to find out more.

Finally, encourage users to explore other pages on your website. Include links to further information and include interesting features in the navigation.

Halloween is all about spooky things, but being creepy with your SEO won’t get you far. When choosing between a black-hat trick or white-hat treat, always opt for the treat. Pleasing Google and making your audience happy is the only way you’ll find long-term success.

This post was originally published October 2017 and has been updated to be current in the new year.

Laura Holton
[email protected]

Utilizing her knowledge of SEO and inbound marketing practices, Laura has gained significant attention for her articles and blog posts. Writing on a range of B2B topics, she helps entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level, provides inspiration, and solves the most pressing problems small businesses face.