Website promotion: Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO
If you came directly to this article and before you read it, we would recommend taking a few minutes and reading the first part of this series of articles on SEO: "What is SEO and why do I need SEO".
Otherwise, we assume that you already know what SEO is, that SEO is a set of digital marketing techniques and ways that SEO can help you achieve your goals. But it is very important to know that there are SEO techniques that can eventually harm your website and overnight, watch your dreams become smoke.
SEO techniques for website promotion
In this article, which is the second part of a series of articles on SEO, we will analyze the different SEO techniques for website promotion to search engines. Some call them "good" and "bad" techniques. Although we strongly disagree with the use of "black hat SEO" techniques, we strive to be open-minded in the ways everyone uses to meet the challenges presented.
As a consequence, we will try not to use such designations. We will simply say that "white hat SEO" are SEO techniques for website promotion that are 100% within the Google webmaster guidelines, unlike black hat SEO.
Google webmaster guidelines
Google has developed some guidelines or techniques for website managers. These techniques can and should be applied to a website to be more SEO-friendly to Google itself and not only.
These techniques can help not only your website but you as well, in many ways:
First, they increase the chances of your website rank higher on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
They help make the content of your website discoverable by search engines. No website and no article or product is useful if it cannot be crawled by the search engines.
They help search engines understand exactly what your website is about and exactly what your website content is about.
They help make your website and it's content more user-friendly.
They minimize the chances of your website being banned from the search engine results pages.
Since you are the administrator of your website, you can also use these simple techniques that you apply, and you are more likely to increase the organic traffic of your website as well as the experience of your website users.
Help Google find your pages
- Make sure that all the pages (web pages) of your website are accessible from a link in a page, which can be found by the search engines. This link should contain either text or - for images - the alt attribute, which should be related to the target page. Crawlable links are the <a> tags that contain the attribute href.
- Provide a sitemap file with links showing the most important pages of your website for search engines. You should also provide a sitemap page, but in a format that can be read by the visitors of your website.
- Limit the maximum number of links per page to a tolerable level, not more than a few thousand.
Help Google understand your pages
- Develop a useful, content-rich website and create pages that clearly and accurately describe the content of your website.
- Think about the keywords that users will search for to find your pages, and make sure your website contains those keywords in its content.
- Make sure that the <title> element of each page is specific and accurately describes the content of the page.
- Make sure the design of your website is such that it has a clear, conceptual hierarchy of the pages it contains.
- If you are using a content management system (CMS), e.g. Joomla or Wordpress, make sure it generates pages and links that search engines can crawl.
- Allow bots to crawl your website without using session IDs or GET parameters in the URLs, techniques that are used to track traffic within the website if you naturally use such techniques.
- Make sure that the important content of your website is by default visible. Google can crawl content that is contained within navigation elements (eg tabs or collapsed elements), however, it considers this information less accessible to users.
- Take some time to make sure that the ad links on your pages have the attribute rel = "nofollow" so that you will not affect the search engines' ranking of these websites.
Follow Google's recommended practices for your images
Google Images is a way of visualizing information online. By adding more relevant content around the images, the results can be much more useful, which can lead to more traffic to your website from Google Images. To increase the visibility of your images in Google Images, focus on providing a better experience for your website users and not just targeting web pages to search engines.
- Make sure your images are relevant to the topic of the page on which they appear. Only add images when they add value to the page. Avoid pages in which images and content are duplicates.
- Try to place the images near text that is relevant to the image. If it fits, try to place the most important image on the top of the page.
- Do not place significant text within images, especially page title or menu items. Google's translation tools don't work within images, so not everyone can understand what you're writing. To get maximum access to your texts, limit them to HTML and place alt in the images.
- Make sure your website is as informative and exceptional as possible. Good content is as important as visual content for Google Images. The quality of the page content can affect the ranking of the images.
- Make sure your website is friendly to all devices. Internet users are looking for Google images more on their mobile phones than on desktop computers. For this reason, your website must be designed so that it looks properly on all devices. You can use Google's check tool to examine if your website is showing up properly on mobile phones.
- Pay particular attention so that the image URL, as well as the filename, are following the search engine optimization rules. Google uses this information to understand your images.
Help your website visitors use it
- Make sure all links point to existing web pages.
- Pay close attention to the speed that your pages are opening. Quick pages bring joy to internet users and improve the quality of the internet. Don't hassle internet users with slow connections, and don't waste the MBs of users visiting your pages from their mobile phones. You can use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to check how quickly your website opens. If you are not happy with the speed or overall performance of your website, there are custom web development platforms that are not only fast but offer many additional advantages.
- Make sure your website design allows your pages to appear correctly on all devices, namely laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.
- Make sure your website is displayed correctly in all browsers (Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc).
- Secure the links to your website with HTTPS security protocol.
Google quality guidelines
Google says on its page that you have to be optimistic and that you have absolutely nothing to fear if you create a website as if there were no search engines. He argues that your page will have far greater benefits if you focus on providing a superior user experience, rather than looking for ways to deceive search engines.
Basic principles to follow
- Create pages for internet users and not for search engines.
- Do not deceive internet users in any way.
- Avoid tricks to improve your website ranking. One general rule to keep in mind is if you would feel comfortable explaining to a Google employee the techniques you have used to promote your website.
- Make your website stand out from your competition, considering what makes your website unique and what gives it the most value.
Google is absolute about the quality guidelines it has set for the various techniques used to promote websites. Its page highlights that applying techniques like the ones listed below can result in your website being removed or banned from Google search engine results pages. They continue, adding that a technique of cheating or spoiling results can cause the website to be removed from the SERPs, even if the technique is not listed below.
The techniques we will mention below are the most common cheating techniques used by various webmasters in promoting web pages to distort the search engine results and rank a website higher than it should be or otherwise black hat SEO.
Google has even developed a reference tool for SPAM websites, in case you want to report a website that you believe violates Google's rules.
Specific techniques you don't want to try
- Programmatically created content if its purpose is to deceive search engines and not to serve users.
- Creating links that are intended to influence the ranking of a website.
- Creating pages with very little or no original content.
- Cloaking, which is a technique in which different content of a page or URL is displayed to users than in search engines.
- Sneaky redirects or links that lead users to a different page than search engines.
- Hidden text or hidden links.
- Doorway pages that are, websites or pages that aim to gain high rankings for specific user searches.
- Copied content from other websites without adding additional information.
- Participation in collaborative networks to promote products within these networks that do not provide additional information to users.
- Keyword stuffing, that is, multiple entries of the keyword you are trying to achieve within the content of your page, a technique that negatively affects the quality of your text and makes it unreadable to users.
- Creating malicious pages, such as pop-ups with ads, installing or attempting to install malware, etc.
White hat SEO
Now that you know what Google's guidelines for website promotion are, let's look at what white hat SEO is.
If you were to ask a black hat, it would probably tell you that white hats are "people without imagination, that do what Google tells them," but that's not the case.
White hat is essentially an SEO philosophy. According to this philosophy, the Search Engine Optimization techniques used to promote websites, as mentioned above, are 100% within the Google guidelines.
But it is not the lack of imagination responsible for choosing this tactic. When we talk about SEO we are talking about marketing, specifically digital marketing. And a key element of good marketing is the imagination, which is needed to connect the pieces of a puzzle and develop a marketing strategy.
White hats are SEO professionals who prefer to play within the rules of algorithms. They want to abstain from blocking a website from the SERPs. In essence, they want to follow a safe strategy to maintain their excellent reputation and take good care of their customers.
If you asked a white hat to describe himself, he would probably tell you that he likes to win difficult battles, but once won, they continue to produce results even if the efforts stop.
Black hat SEO
Contrary to the white hat is a black hat. Black hats are techniques for promoting web pages that do not follow Google guidelines.
A black hat will apply as many techniques as possible to boost a website's ranking in search engines, no matter what Google says. Those are techniques that we mentioned in the list above with the techniques you do not want to try and others that may not be included in this list.
If you were to ask a white hat, it would probably tell you that black hats are "unethical people who are meant to manipulate search engines and are responsible for the war between websites".
But is this true regardless of the purpose of such a tactic?
What we mean: Suppose you have a small industry that produces Easter candles. A few months before Easter, you thought about and decided to build an eCommerce to sell as many candles as possible.
If you were approaching a white hat SEO, you would most likely be told that you cannot get such high organic traffic to search engines in such a limited amount of time, to have the sales growth you want.
On the contrary, a black hat SEO could gladly take the job and accomplish, through the techniques he would use, to achieve your goal of increased sales at your online store by Easter.
To visualize the difference between black hat SEO and white hat SEO and understand the differences between the two tactics in the effort required to increase organic traffic and results over time, we created the graph below.
In this chart, you can see that white hat SEO techniques require a lot more effort to increase organic traffic and this effort brings results over time. But once the goal is achieved, the results remain and the effort required to maintain them is significantly reduced.
On the contrary, black hat SEO techniques require much less effort and produce significant results in a much shorter time. But as soon as search engines realize the use of these techniques, they completely remove the website from their results pages and organic traffic drops sharply to zero.
Gray hat SEO
Let's be fair. When your competitors have from a few thousand backlinks up to five million backlinks or more, you will prefer to follow Google's guidelines and make great efforts to create quality content, hoping to reach eventually in the distant future, in 1st page on search engines?
While expenses are flowing and you have to constantly pull out of your pocket to meet your obligations, won't you be tempted to create backlinks to improve your website rankings and increase your organic traffic?
Of course, you will be tempted. No business can withstand the financial burden for as many months or years as needed (depending on the competition) until the organic results and backlinks come "naturally". In this case, you will move to the boundaries of the gray hat SEO.
Gray hat SEO follows the philosophy of white hat SEO, with one difference: creating backlinks.
A gray hat SEO will follow all the rules of Google except for creating links pointing to the website they are trying to promote. This "breach" of Google's rules gives gray hat SEO the gray tint.
This, of course, does not mean that a gray hat SEO will buy backlinks from sellers or that he will buy backlinks "in pounds", as a black hat SEO would do. Instead, a gray hat SEO will develop quality content to create good quality backlinks to high domain authority websites.
Unfortunately, there are also asshats. What are asshats?
To explain the term let's take another example and assume you have a hotel for which you have built a hotel website. You've had your website for many years, it has cost you a lot of money to build and promote it, and you are fully satisfied.
But it does have one drawback: It doesn't bring you many organic visitors and therefore no customers to your hotel. So you decide to hire a web marketing expert to try to increase your bookings and earnings.
While you're happy about your hotel's website and the profits it brings, all of a sudden you don't even have a reservation. Searching for what's happening and where your customers went, you go into Google Analytics and find that your page has no organic visitors, as it has been banned from Google search engine results pages.
In this case, you fell into the hands of an "asshat", as they are called. An asshat may be an expert in SEO who is not interested in your business but is aiming for a quick and easy profit for himself. He may also be unrelated to SEO or someone who simply applies some techniques to instantly increase organic traffic in order to, of course, make a profit.
You should be very careful when selecting a partner to promote your website. Especially if you happen to be chatting with people or webmasters who promise you an immediate increase in organic traffic at low cost (not necessarily) by techniques that only they as experts know, our advice would be to stay away.
Want to see how much it can cost to develop a correct SEO strategy? See our services in Search Engine Optimization.
Don't leave us! Read the next article in this series on SEO: "Improve your Search Engine Ranking".
We explain the multiple SEO techniques for website promotion. Techniques that can either help or harm your website.