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Unethical Methods Of Search Engine Optimisation

Apr 8, 2008
In the world of search engine optimisation there are generally two schools of thought on the methods and techniques that should be utilised to raise a website in search engine rankings. Of these two schools there is 'black hat' optimisation that can be described as unethical and pursues a course of action that works towards hoodwinking the search engine mechanisms into raising a sites' profile. By using black hat optimisation methods however you will in fact harm your rankings in the long run, more advisable is the ethical route.

The history of black hat optimisation started around a decade ago when the search engine mechanisms, or algorithms were not yet developed entirely. Like most things in life if there is a way to cheat the system many will try. In these early stages the search engine algorithms were manipulated. This was especially true in the 'adult' industries where black hat optimisation was employed extensively to raise specific sites' rankings. But how has black hat developed? What methods of optimisation are still considered unethical in the eyes of a search engine?

First and foremost a commonly used method has been keyword stuffing. Put literally this is the process of filling a webpage with lists of keywords that attempt to make a website more relevant in the eyes of search engines. Google especially has worked to remove the effects of this method by searching for true text rather than lists of bad prose that simply contain the right words. If a search engine does find you guilty of using such methods, penalties will undoubtedly follow.

Another method of black hat methods is the process of cloaking that utilises a hidden webpage that is only visible to search engine spiders. In combination to this hidden page that is only visible to the spiders there is an accompanying webpage that is viewed by human users. Once again this form of optimisation is seriously frowned upon in the SEO world.

In combination with keyword stuffing is the process of using invisible text, or mosaic cloaking. This is the process of making text boxes full of keywords, usually using a font colour that matches the background and hence invisible to the human user while remaining visible to spiders.

Another way of optimising a website unethically is to create a doorway page. Put simply this is a page that has undergone a process of optimisation and subsequently has great search engine rankings. The problem however is that this page has no real content and is purely used to link to another less highly ranked page. In conjunction with these doorway pages are spam pages that perform much the same purpose but instead are full of adverts that make money from each click; fundamentally these are detrimental to the quality of the internet.

Interlinking is another method of black hat optimisation that creates many websites and simultaneously links them all together to improve the back links to a site. This can be fruitful for improved rankings but once again will eventually harm rankings once search engine regulators pick up on it.

Finally there are two techniques that have been developed to combat the ever more advanced search engine algorithms. One of these is selling page rank, a process that simply involves selling links from a highly rankled page to a lower one. The other is buying expired domain names of sites that originally had good rankings and keeping the high number of links related to the site.

These methods are seriously unethical in the optimisation industry although unfortunately still employed by some unscrupulous operators. The crux of the issue is that they actively work to reduce the relevance of search engine results and subsequently are frowned upon.

There are operators out there who follow ethical methods and instead of trying to manipulate the algorithms use them to their advantage; this has been broadly labelled as search engine compliance. By studying the SEO methods that are being utilised on your behalf it is possible to identify the black hatters and instead use a white hat or ethical SEO specialist.
About the Author
Internet marketing expert Thomas Pretty looks into search engine optimisation methods that can be considered black hat or unethical.
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