SEO in 2022 is even more critical to get right. If you don’t, all your hard work optimising content can backfire!
But what is Black Hat SEO? Or even White Hat SEO, for that matter? How do you tell the difference? And why are there some things you should never do for the risk of plummeting from the high places of Google search? Founder Andi Wilkinson takes a look at this ultimate guide to White Hat Seo Vs Black Hat SEO.
Why Is SEO Important in 2022?
I mean, why do SEO At all? Shouldn’t you use Google Ads instead? If you are reselling something, whether a product or a service, then a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is beneficial. White Hat SEO in 2022 rewards good, original content, so if your content is spun and crappy, it won’t do well, no matter how many Google Ads you throw at your website.
White Hat SEO refers to optimising your content for search engine algorithms the right way. I mean, that’s why it’s called “search engine optimisation, right” But since search engines are robots, it’s easy to understand why people might want to outwit the machines. This is what we mean by Black Hat. But before I go off on a tangent, let’s look at the definitions of both types of SEO.
Fun fact. The terms black hat SEO and white hat SEO are mainly anecdotal and come from the old western movie where the goodies would typically wear lighter hats, and the baddies would wear black hats.
What is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO, or just “SEO”, uses Google and other major search engine approved search engine optimisation strategies. These include
- high-quality content
- Good website usability
- ease of navigation
- fast loading speed
- keyword optimised content
- high-quality backlinks
White hat SEO will always focus on people first and search engines second. It takes a long-term approach to optimise content. If you focus on white hat SEO techniques, you won’t carry any risk of being penalised by Google.
Good white hat techniques aim to create and optimise content to target users rather than search bots. If people engage with content on your web page, it improves its chances of search engine rankings since things like time spent on the page make a difference.
What Are Some Examples Of White Hat SEO?
- Firstly, do your keyword research. You want to create content that people are interested in. How do you know what people are interested in? – software like Surfer SEO or SEMRush, Ahrefs and others can give you search volumes for keywords. Obviously, the higher the keyword volume, the more those search engine terms are searched for by internet users.
- Use keyword-rich page titles and meta descriptions. Getting this right can bump your content up significantly in the search engine results pages (SERPS).
- Whenever you write, write for your readers, not a search engine. Don’t be repetitive, stuffing the exact keywords in repeatedly to fool a search engine. Write short, digestible paragraphs and use images and infographics to break up your text. Even in 2022, content is still king! This is especially true if you are writing long-form content because it’s more likely to be shared widely, which can help with social signals that support your overall search ranking.
- Try to include content that can generate rich snippets & answer boxes -which can give you that all-important position zero – which is actually above position one.
- Use reasonable markup or page structure; This means keyword-rich headings, tables of content. Search engines love this.
- Use relevant link-building both internally and externally. Authoritative inbound links are one of the most significant ranking factors for SEO, so this is critical. You can earn Inbound links by guest blogging, reviews or interviews, which can help build up authority.
- If your web page, like many others, is powered by WordPress, then a plugin like RankMath can help you add appealing titles and meta descriptions, both for search engines and social shares.
- Use simple website navigation. It helps where your site places in organic search rankings and prevents users from leaving in frustration!
- Optimise your site for mobile. If you don’t, you will receive a Google penalty and a drop in ranking. Lean code and semantic markup will help search engines find what they are looking for.
- Site speed is an important search engine ranking signal for SEO. Make sure your pages load fast., The usual culprits for this are large files, like images, videos or carousels. Page builders can also generate a lot of unnecessary code, which can cause your site to drop in rank.
So now you have some excellent information on white hat SEO, but how do we avoid crossing over into black hat territory?
What is Black Hat SEO?
In short, black hat SEO refers to attempting to manipulate search rankings by going against search engine guidelines to exploit weaknesses in their algorithms. Black hat SEOs will use hacks that favour bots to try and rank higher in the SERPS. This website content is usually very unappealing to human readers, and once Google notices it, it’s highly likely to be penalised and e-indexed.
SEO is “a set of practices used to increase a website or page’s rank in search engines through means that violate the search engine’s terms of service.”
By manipulating the algorithms of a search engine, you might get higher SERP rankings initially. Still, it will have the opposite effect in the long run, both on your piece of content, web pages, and your website in general.
The Black Hat Tactics You Should Avoid
Here is a list of all the sneaky black hat SEO tactics you want to avoid if you want to get relevant traffic from Google.
- Keyword Stuffing
- Generally bad content
- Comment Spam
- Hidden Content
- Content Scraping
- Link Schemes
- Doorway Pages
- Malicious Site Behaviour
- invisible iframes
- Negative SEO strategy
Keyword stuffing used to be the way to get your content higher in search engines by ‘stuffing’ all your chosen keywords into the content. You’ve probably seen this kind of content. It’s virtually unreadable and not written for humans, so Google cracked down on it. Google prefers relevance, and so using unrelated keywords —or too many of them—is likely to result in them penalising your content.
Google have their own example of keyword stuffing. This is really not the way to do it, and even if Google doesn’t notice straight away, no one will read crap content like this!
“We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at email@example.com“
Webmasters used to also stuff meta tags with keywords – another of many black hat SEO methods that google downgraded because they break search engine rules.
If you work with an SEO firm that advises you to add exact keywords in a high volume of times, find another one. You need a wide range of semantically linked keywords using proper keyword research to show a search engine the overall intent of your page and make it readable to humans.
Generally bad content
Bad content provides no value to visitors and makes you look bad. This is not an attempt to diss your writing skills. By bad content, we mean scraping or copying content from other sites. At one time, this was nearly undetectable by search engines, which made it a bit of a popular sneaky tactic. Now, Google and other search engines have updated algorithms to recognise duplicate content and instantly down-rank sites for duplication or other rubbishy content.
If you have a blog with the comments feature enabled, you’ve felt the pain of comment spam. Usually, these are automated comments with spam links. They don’t fool Google, so we don’t even know why people still use this tactic. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with comment backlinks, they should be genuine and valuable.
Make sure your own comments are moderated and not auto-enabled if you can. And have the; nofollow’ on comment tags, so any comments will not benefit from the link.
It’s not just a Romulan thing. Cloaking is a sneaky tactic that shows one thing to visitors and something else to the search engine. So your visitors may be looking at an image with loads of hidden code in the back end, for example, stuffed keywords. Just don’t do it.
It’s a bit like cloaking. Some Black Hat SEOs use a tactic of hiding a load of text, either off-screen with css by positioning it out of the browser window – or using css to make the text invisible by making it the same colour as the page background or really tiny. You can use hidden text legitimately for screen readers and accessibility, so bear this in mind. It’s just another one of many black-hat SEO practices.
Not the usual legitimate 301 redirects, but where the search engine sees one set of content, and you suddenly redirect your users to a totally different page that has nothing to do with their search query.
Content scraping is when someone gets your RSS feed and just republishes it on their own website. This is a way spam blogs are created quickly to try and rank for a specific keyword. Google penalises content like this, so it’s a useless long-term tactic. Whilst there is no problem with putting content in two places, the proper way to handle this is always to use a canonical tag to give credit to the original.
Link Schemes (Or Manipulative Links)
Anything that tries to boost your rankings artificially can be classified as black hat SEO. So it’s not uncommon to see link schemes used, where tonnes of links go to a site from a spammy set of domains. The referring domains are usually of meagre value, so they are likely to incur a penalty. Here’s a great example of a link scheme
What does Google class as a link scheme?
- Buying and selling links, including posts with paid links. Links can now be marked up as sponsored in your HTML, which tells Google it’s an advertisement.
- Cross-linking as part of a link exchange
- Automated link posting.
- Link farming.
A doorway page is a page that funnels you to another page. It’s a fake page that a user never sees. The page is created only for search engine crawlers to trick them into indexing the site higher.
Malicious Site Behavior
Sites using malicious behaviour will also be penalised for black hat SEO practices. But what is malicious behaviour? Well, it can include:
- Promoting or installing software directly onto a user’s machine, for example, spyware, malware or trojans.
- Changing a user’s browser preference without their permission.
- Changing the behaviour of elements on a screen means they move, for example, forcing a user to click Ads they didn’t intend to.
- Using private blog networks, site owners might have a network of sites passing links to a single site.
- Negative SEO attempts to downgrade a competitor by pointing numerous spam links at their website.
- Creating fake rich snippet markup.
Not to be confused with Spandexing, which is the art of wearing lycra, Spamdexing is repeating unrelated phrases to increase the relevancy of a page in search. Here’s Spiderman – a fan of spandex. He’s also a spider, so it’s pretty relevant. Just don’t confuse him with Spamdexing.
Thin Affiliate Content
If you have affiliate content on your website directly from the affiliates, it’s likely to be thin and lacking in substance. Chances are it will appear on several other sites too.
Your affiliate product site has original content, including reviews, ratings, and comparisons.
An iframe is like a window to another website. The page you see is not, in fact, hosted on the site you are viewing, and it’s from elsewhere. Its often. It is used to download software onto a user’s computer without them knowing, Very dodgy.
What Happens When You Try To Fool Search Engines?
When Google sees a tactic that seemingly is trying to manipulate a search engine, they change their algorithm to downgrade content that is breaking the rules. Three notable Google Algorithm updates which addressed this were:
- Florida – Which penalised Keyword Stuffing in 2003
- Penguin, which penalised content farming in 2012
- Panda, which penalised certain linking practices in 2011
Panda rewards websites with high-quality content. After this algorithm update, low-quality or spammy pages on the websites affected the entire website, meaning, in some cases, they disappeared from search results altogether.
The Penguin targeted black hat SEO techniques using which some webmasters had accumulated thousands of spam links via “link farming“. Thousands of websites were penalised for this black hat SEO technique. Webmasters were asked to remove bad links pointing to their sites. If you have been affected by spam links, you can use Google’s disavow tool.
Google also sometimes punishes sites individually by blacklisting them. If you notice a sudden drop in traffic, this could be down to a penalty. Follow any of Google’s advice in the search console.
Google search console can let you know if any manual action is happening against your website. This gives you a chance to fix it. Fixing the issue can give your site a chance to recover before the damage is long-term. Remember, any black hat SEO technique can result in a drop in ranking. Always follow proper search engine guidelines. You don’t want to have your site banned.
What About Grey Hat SEO?
Grey Hat SEO is a combination of Black Hat and White Hat SEO. Grey Hat SEO is practices that “belong in neither the Black Hat nor White Hat category because the terms of service regarding the issue are unclear.”
The line between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO is blurry. That’s why we call it a grey area. Always be cautious. At the end of the day, search engines determine what they deem to be white hat practices. Ask yourself if you would willingly inform Google of your strategy. That will usually give you a clue.
White Hat SEO Vs Black Hat SEO – Following Search engine guidelines.
Whenever you create content for your website, do your research, see what users are looking for, and make the most informative content you can without resorting to any black hat practices. Consistency is crucial & if you follow search engine rules and Google’s guidelines for good content, you will soon reap the rewards with a steady influx of good organic traffic!
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