Some SEO companies are prepared to go as far as necessary in the pursuit of high search engine placements, others take a more long term 'ethical' approach to representing their web sites and their clients.
In our view the debate is very simple - Violate any of the search engine guidelines and you risk having the site removed from the index.
Discussing 'shades of grey' in the context of SEO is largely irrelevant as the guidelines and regulations are all clearly defined by the various search engines.
It's White Hat or it's not - simple as that.
At Top Page we understand clearly that if a website is optimised ethically for human consumption and intelligently it will likely gain high rankings. Good for business.
If your web presence is designed to trick search engines into believing it has more search value than it really does it may also get high rankings - the likelihood though is that it will be found out and it will be punished. That's bad for business
Here are some black hat techniques to be avoided:
Buying Links - The engines detest bought links. Bought lilnks whilst trying to infer popularity only really establish the fact that the site owner has gone out and bought a load of links. Paid-for link add no extra value to visitors.
Cyber Hoaxing - An affiliate program technique. A fake news site hosting a hard to prove or disprove sensational fake new story submitted across a range of social media sites such as Digg, Stumbleupon, Del.icio.us, etc. The basic idea is to generate a buzz and get links to your fake news story even capitalizing on the outrage of the setup. Most media apply the concept to a minor degree
Keyword Stuffing/Hidden Text - Old school, in fact rather naff and increasingly ineffective. Stuffing a page with keywords and keyword visible to search engine spiders, but not to human visitors is so 1999. They can be located in a hidden div tag, coloured so that they blend into the background, or even placed within HTML comment tags.
Web Page Cloaking - A technique that shows a doorway page to search engine spiders but the "money page" to human visitors. Both pages are accessed using the same URL with software used to identify the search engine spiders and serve the doorway page to them. Competitors are kept from scraping the content of the optimised doorways, and human visitors are kept from seeing the ugly doorway pages.
302 Redirect Hijacking - The creation of a web page on a high-page-rank domain with a 302 redirect to the page trying to be hijacked. Spiders follow the redirect to the second page and indexes it, but on the SERP, the URL of the indexed page will be that of the page with the redirect.
Scraping and Spinning - Content is grabbed by software from sites, paraphrased, randomized, and "new" content generated. It will invariable read terribly. Spinning content into duplicate-content-penalty-avoiding text is considered the holy grail of black hat techniques.
Splogs - Related to scraping and spinning, splogs are simply, worthless pseudo blogs with automatically generated content. Admittedly it's often hard to tell the difference between a Splog and a poorly written but genuine blog. Many splogs read RSS feeds and create blogs automatically. Splogs can be used to get other sites indexed or their Pagerank increased, by including links to them. It is estimated that 20% plus of online blogs are actually splogs.
Link Spamming/spamdexing - A way of getting links through the use of automated software which accesses unprotected blogs through anonymous web proxies and leaves links in their comments.
It's a tough call for the search engines. In attempting to help site owners understand where the lines are drawn they try to be as transparent as possible though not so transparent that they provide too much information that those inclined to abuse the system.
What colour hat you choose to wear is a relatively straightforward business decision, whether one chooses adhere to the stated guidelines or to take your chances beyond them. Techniques that violate the guidelines are Black Hat. They may work in the short run, be commonplace, non-deceptive or justified but that doesn't make them immune to punishment. If your business objectives, timescales and reasoning can support Black Hat SEO then go for it, but don't forget that Black Hat SEO activities run the risk of having the site removed from the search index.
If your SEO is a long term project and creating quality content to match the most relevant result for a desired query is your intent then go White Hat. Supporting your content in a topical environment with quality relevant inbound links and making sure the site can be easily crawled and indexed by search engines with light tight code is also important.
People often apply an ethical or moral spin when it comes to SEO. SEO's bottom line though is about results not right and wrong, it's about delivering business objectives to customers, professionally and over the long term. At Top Page we apply as creative techniques as necessary to give our clients a competitive edge, however, we won't jeopardise their Internet presence in the process.
Contact Top Page today on +44 (0)1242 227876 to find out how our expert SEO techniques can help you enhance your Internet presence and grow your business.
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blog creation, blog curation and blog management as part of your SEO.
Author - Chris Horner