The Good, The Bad And The Optimised
The way SEO is performed on websites is under constant scrutiny but the overall goal remains the same; offer the best user experience as well as getting search engines to realise what a good user experience we provide. As time moves on, there are some SEO tactics that have risen the ranks to be the most influential, with lasting results, and on the flipside many tactics have come and gone through the years, offering fast effective results but ultimately falling behind in the long term.
We can separate most SEO tactics that have existed into two categories: white hat SEO, and black hat SEO.
What is white hat SEO?
If you are performing search engine optimisation on a website or blog post with user experience and content quality for your reader in mind, then you are performing white hat SEO. This kind of SEO is the preferred method and is recommended by anyone in the industry. White hat SEO abides by all guidelines that search engines lay out for webmasters and content creators, it is not a method or tactic that can be ‘caught out’ because it is catering to the human audience instead of how the search engine interprets your content, which is ultimately what all search engines want us to do with the website content that we produce. White hat SEO methods are typically future proof and will yield you results in the long run, however, they also require more time and effort to be invested for any tangible results.
Examples of white hat SEO:
- Fresh, regular content – Keeping your website or blog up to date with fresh, compelling content that will be useful or interesting to the reader will resonate with search engines as they notice the high engagement and time spent on your pages.
- Relevant heading structure – Properly categorising your content under headers with the correct containment will allow your readers to quickly find the piece of content they want to read without having to read everything if they do not want to.
- Useful meta information – Descriptive, compelling meta titles and meta descriptions that effectively summarize the content of a web page or blog post will allow user to know what your content is about without having to visit the page.
- Organic link building – This is all about building contacts and finding websites and blogs in your industry, sharing content that you think your audience will love and broadcasting your content so great that other people will want to share it too.
What is black hat SEO?
Methods and strategies targeted at directly improving the search engine rank of your content with no regard for how good the overall user experience is when the content is viewed are regarded as being black hat SEO methods. Black hat SEO methods are normally at the expense of overall quality and will yield fast results as they often exploit a way that the search engine determines where web pages rank. The life span of a page ranking highly from black hat SEO methods is quite short as search engines improve the way they rank content and leave behind flawed ways in which this is done.
Examples of black hat SEO:
These methods are not effective now but were used top ranks on search engine results pages previously.
- Keyword spamming – It used to be possible to fill web page or meta description with a keyword every few words and reach top ranks, as such a high keyword density in somewhat readable content was interpreted as being extremely relevant content by search engines.
- Hiding content – This is something that can get you penalised and completely de-indexed from search engines now, it involves inserting keyword-rich content into your pages that couldn’t be seen by the user when viewing the web page but would be read search engines, resulting in the page ranking for the hidden keywords.
- Link pages – Many sites you come across will still have a ‘link page’. These pages, consisting of a massive list of low quality links to other industry relevant websites that all linked to one another, allowing websites to rank highly for having a high number of backlinks, regardless of overall quality.
- Misleading keywords – Simple yet effective at one point, inserting keywords that can or do mean something not relating to the content of your page would allow your pages to rank for those keywords. If the content wasn’t relevant it would still rank if it was of a good enough quality.
As you can see, black hat methods normally involve some kind of deception. It is frustrating when your white hat methods of SEO quickly fall behind a newly discovered exploit in search engines, however, it is ultimately necessary as when black hat SEO methods rise up in the ranks the trends are clear which allows the people behind our search engines to identify the problem and further refine the vast search engines we use every day in every aspect of our life.