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Search Engine Optimisation; A Minefield Of Black And White Hats

Sep 17, 2008
Search engine optimisation as an industry is expanding at a rate of knots, as companies realise that for effective online business it is a necessary course of action to follow. The reason it is so important is because the majority of internet users utilise search engines when they are searching for products, information or services. Embarking on the search engine optimisation journey however can be fraught with danger; there are number of methods that will in effect harm rankings rather than improve them. In general terms these two ways of approaching optimisation are labelled as white and black hat; fundamentally it is black hat methods that may result in misfortune for websites.

Hopefully the following information will give readers an idea of what is considered black hat, and hence give the knowledge of which SEO methods should be avoided. Basically the search engines will always consider content that is hidden as a bad thing. When designing a website it is worth remembering that if information is presented purely for the search engine spiders and hidden from human users, then the powers that be will likely have something to say about it. Clarity is key when achieving rankings.

One of the main reasons these black hat methods are frowned upon is due to the fact that it reduces the user experience. For instance, a page of hidden text will not be preferable as it holds no actual use for humans.

The lines between white and black hat can however be seen as blurred, many may even bandy about the term grey hat to describe methods that lay in the proverbial no mans land. This is because in some cases the methods that were once considered white are now in fact black, with constant changes to search engine algorithms it is unsurprising that the boundaries of ethical behaviour change. That said, there are still operators out there who solely use back hat methods, this is because even though they are frowned upon they still achieve results. These results however are only ever short term; it does not take a great deal of time for authorities and competitors to pick up on unscrupulous methods.

One of the ways in which optimisation is carried out unethically is through the use of spam. This is not the use of a well known meat product but instead is a process of cramming websites with certain keywords in the belief that search engine algorithms will see them as more relevant and will hence rank them higher. This however is a fallacy, while it is clear that a certain amount of keywords will improve rankings, too many will look overly 'spammy' and subsequently be open to punishment and penalty.

The excessive use of keywords is one of the major mistakes in a search engine optimisation campaign. The misconception that it will improve rankings is common, relevancy will not be improved and a better course of action is simply to write quality content; ultimately it will be more worthwhile.

Invisible text is also a big mistake; some operators fill boxes full of keywords and then make them invisible to the human user, this causes disparity between the view of automated and human users and hence will result in penalties.

Doorway pages are a method of attracting visitors by getting a single page ranked highly and then linking it to another so that the visitor is automatically transferred to the linked page. This acts to hoodwink both humans and algorithms and is likely to bring punishments from authorities.

The punishments incurred from the use of black hat tactics can be anything from a drop of a couple of places to complete delisting from the search engines. Understandably this is not preferable as being removed from the rankings will in effect totally ruin online business opportunities. Ethical or white hat methods of optimisation are always more advisable, they may take a little longer to achieve success, but that success will be more worthwhile and long lasting.
About the Author
Internet marketing expert Thomas Pretty looks into black hat search engine optimisation methods and why ethical SEO should be pursued instead.
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