These days, setting up a website and expecting it to rise to the top of the search engine rankings automatically isn’t realistic. The truth of the matter is that a lot of hard work goes into achieving a page-one ranking on search engines like Google. The major search engines use complicated algorithms to produce effective rankings. Without keeping these algorithms in mind, it’s virtually impossible to make a website rise to the top. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the preferred method for enhancing a site’s ranking with the major search engines. Some SEO companies go about it the right way while others rely on sketchy tactics. Learn more about white-hat SEO and black-hat SEO below.
What is SEO?
As mentioned above, search engine optimization, or SEO, is a strategy that is used to enhance a site’s ranking with the major search engines. To be effective, SEO techniques have to be based on up-to-the-minute knowledge of the major search engines’ algorithms. Without knowing how the search engines rank websites, there’s no way to optimize them accordingly. Although the primary goal of SEO is clear, the means of getting to the end can vary considerably.
Choosing an SEO Company
While it’s possible for website owners to learn about SEO and put it to use themselves, the majority of people hire SEO companies to do the work for them. After all, there is a lot involved in effective SEO. The major search engines constantly tweak their algorithms, and keeping up with current trends isn’t easy. Furthermore, SEO has to be ongoing in order to be effective. In other words, it’s not a quick fix. After being implemented, it must be monitored and tweaked constantly for optimal results. By hiring an SEO company to do the work, a website owner can focus on more important matters.
White-Hat SEOs versus Black-Hat SEOs
SEO companies can be split into two main categories: black-hat SEOs and white-hat SEOs. Black-hat SEOs rely on underhanded tactics to help websites rise to the top of the rankings. They snub their noses at search engine guidelines and put their customers at risk of being dropped to the bottom of the rankings. White-hat SEOs, on the other hand, keep search engine guidelines in mind at all times. They do what it takes to protect their clients’ rankings. While black-hat techniques often produce faster results, white-hat techniques involve no risk and help websites maintain high rankings over long periods of time.
Black-Hat SEO Techniques and White-Hat SEO Techniques
The easiest way to understand the differences between black-hat SEO and white-hat SEO is by considering the kind of work and effort that are involved with each method and the amount of time that it takes to see results. With black-hat SEO, shortcuts are used to help sites rise to the top quickly. Results often happen quickly, which makes it seems like everything’s okay. In short order, however, search engine spiders get wise to the ruse, and the site’s ranking invariably tanks. With white-hat SEO, laying the groundwork can take time. It may also take time to see appreciable results. However, once the results are there, the risk of losing a high ranking is very low.
A few key ways in which white-hat SEOs differ from black-hat SEOs include:
- Content – With black-hat SEO, the quality of the content isn’t important. What matters is stuffing in as many keywords as possible to trick the search engines into thinking that a site is relevant. This may be done by simply cramming as many keywords into content as possible, which usually renders it unreadable. It can also be done by putting keywords in white text on a white background, so they can be seen by the search engine spiders but not by actual visitors.With white-hat SEO, quality content is paramount. It’s written to appeal to actual human visitors and optimized to make the most of search engine algorithms. In addition to being engaging and well-written, it is fresh and informative. New content is added regularly to help a site maintain its ranking. It involves more work, but the results are a lot better.
- Meta Tags – Meta tags are found within a site’s code. They are there for the benefit of the search engine spiders and are used to highlight a site’s keywords, key phrases and description. With black-hat SEO, excessive numbers of keywords are stuffed into the meta keywords and meta description. Search engine spiders can detect this easily, and sites are penalized for it quickly. With white-hat SEO, time and care are taken to craft informative meta descriptions and meta keywords. In that case, meta tags pass the search engine spider test and don’t cause any problems.
- Backlinks – Backlinks are incoming links to a site. The search engines treat them as votes in favor of a website. More than ever, however, the sources of sites’ backlinks are critical. Link farming, which involves sites that have long lists of random links, is one shady technique that’s used by black-hat SEOs. White-hat SEO puts an emphasis on naturally occurring links. The best way to get natural backlinks is by posting high-quality content that people actually want to share.
- Site Structure – A skilled white-hat SEO can design a site so that is easy for human visitors and search engine spiders to navigate. The goal is to make the site as accessible as possible. With black-hat SEO, underhanded tactics like gateway pages are often used. Basically, people click on a search engine result expecting one thing, but they end up on an entirely different page. This flies in the face of search engine guidelines, and sites that use these sketchy techniques are penalized.
The Consequences of Black-Hat SEO
Black-hat SEOs make big, bold promises. In the short term, they can often deliver on those promises. Over the long haul, though, their techniques usually backfire. Sites that use black-hat SEO techniques are harshly penalized. In some cases, they are temporarily relegated to the bottom of the search engine results pages, or SERPs. In more severe cases, a site may be completely removed from the listings. If that happens, it might as well not exist at all. In other words, black-hat SEO is never worth it.
Choosing the Right White-Hat SEO
Sticking with white-hat SEOs is always the best move. However, they are not all created equal. Before choosing a white-hat SEO, a website owner should ask plenty of questions and find out how the company plans to help improve his site’s ranking. It pays to shop around and consider plenty of options prior to signing up with a specific SEO company. There are plenty of options out there, and the wrong SEO can have an extremely negative impact on a website’s fortunes.
As with so many things in life, achieving a strong ranking on the major search engines involves time, care and effort. There are no legitimate shortcuts or workarounds. Black-hat SEOs will happily take anyone’s money. They don’t care if a site is penalized or banned by the major search engines later. For lasting results, website owners should strictly rely on white-hat SEOs. With the right SEO, a site can achieve an exceptional ranking and hold onto it for the long haul.