What is black hat SEO? For all intents and purposes, it’s nothing more than a sinking ship.
From a lead generation standpoint, search engine optimization (SEO) is an attractive medium. It’s known to increase brand awareness, drive website traffic and, in the long-term, increase sales. But modern SEO is not the same as it once was. Many call it out of its prime. Experts blame increasing complexities and constant algorithm changes for its downfall.
SEO started out simple. From the late 90s to the mid-2000s, we manipulated search results with tactics now known as “black hat SEO”. Keyword stuffing, cloaking, and link building top the list of early white hat SEO techniques turned black.
Keyword stuffing is just the way it sounds. We simply “stuffed” as many high search volume keywords in the content as possible to rank higher for those terms.
As a black hat SEO tactic, cloaking went hand-in-hand with keyword stuffing. Obviously, stuffing hundreds of the same keywords made the content confusing and potentially unreadable. So, we actually hid the keywords behind pictures, logos, videos, and more. The search engine crawling the site would read the keywords, but the keyword repetition was not visible to the actual visitors. It’s a win-win (or so we thought).
Google’s PageRank algorithm presented another opportunity to manipulate search results – link building. By building (or even purchasing) links to the website, our pages would rank higher.
Google Dishes Out Penalties
So, that’s how it went for a few years. We had almost free reign to manipulate the search results without penalty. But major search engines like Google and Yahoo caught on to black hat SEO techniques – and dished out stiff penalties. The search engines further adjusted, advanced, and added to their algorithms to level the playing field.
Instead of boosting rankings, black hat SEO techniques actually harmed your site’s search results. Many sites would drop from the search engine result pages altogether. This brought along the first grumblings that SEO was on its way out as a viable and effective marketing tool.
So, let’s go back to our original question: will the SEO industry soon be underwater? The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, black hat SEO is dead in the water.
Black hat SEO as it existed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s is no longer an effective SEO strategy. Google is now wise to manipulation tactics, rendering them not just ineffective but counterproductive. Black hat SEO can actually cause your website to drop drastically in the search results.
No, white hat SEO is alive and well.
While black hat SEO is no longer an option, there is an SEO practice that is highly effective. By following the rules and guidelines set forth by search engines – and not trying to game them – you can improve rankings. The strategy is known as white hat SEO. It’s by no means an easy or quick solution – but it can be powerful.
As search engine algorithms grow more complex, white hat SEO becomes more challenging. The search engines’ tendency to constantly change means white hat SEO should always be handled by an SEO professional.
Unfortunately, Google will never give away the details or specifics of its algorithms. But it does offer some general guidelines for optimizing sites for the search results. Google outlines the following strategies for swapping black hat SEO with white hat SEO.
Provide an Amazing User Experience
The goal of search engines is to make using the Internet an easy and enjoyable experience. The better the user experience, the more likely searchers are to come back through that search engine again. So, it’s in the best interest of the search engines to reward websites focused on delivering a strong user experience.
The experience the user has on a website is critical to SEO. Gaining Google’s trust means constantly keeping the design of the website up to date to both design trends and the needs of the target audience. We must constantly research and understand current and future design trends. We must continually monitor how visitors navigate through the site. And we must make constant adjustments to the site to provide the best possible user experience.
Keep Content Fresh and Relevant
In addition to the design itself, keeping the website up to date and fresh with content relevant to the users of the site is also extremely important. Websites that consistently upload new, relevant content do well in the search results. These websites signal the search engines there is a great user experience.
Content marketing may seem like the most time-consuming and challenging technique. But carried out properly by a professional, it can have an immense and lasting impact on your SEO. Creating and publishing fresh and relevant content keeps the black hat SEO tactics at bay.
Use Social Media
Websites with a strong social media presence tend to rank significantly higher than those without one. But more goes into an effective social media marketing campaign than just a few posts, a couple of times a week. Social media must work in unison with your content marketing strategy.
It’s about standing out from the rest of the noise on social channels, and targeting the right type of customers. It’s no easy task, especially because an ineffective social media campaign can damage your reputation. Social media success often requires the help of a professional. Someone who understands your content strategy, your target audience and social media best practices.
The Big Three
Basically, search engines look for three things from your website: relevancy, simplicity, and freshness. Boosting and sustaining high search rankings requires a balance of all three. But finding this balance – creating a website that is simple yet powerful, relevant, and all the while fresh – is in no way an easy task.
The average business owner simply does not have the experience or the time to invest in achieving this balance. Consistent research is required to understand the target customer and their changing needs. Content must be constantly researched, created, edited and published across several channels. And everything needs to be monitored just about 24/7.
A Sinking Ship?
SEO is definitely not a sinking ship. When implemented correctly, white hat SEO is an extremely effective and long-term marketing tactic. By working with the search engines – instead of attempting to manipulate them – you can rank for targeted keywords.
The process for SEO practices have simplified – but the implementation is anything but. The bottom line – a business needs an SEO professional handling its campaign.
Bowen Media is an award-winning web design and SEO company. Our integrated team is always here to audit your current website and help you craft a plan to boost your rankings. Contact us today to replace your black hat SEO with a white hat SEO plan tailored to your unique business and marketing goals.