There are many different ways and philosophies of optimizing websites. Some SEOs play by the search engines' rules, some do not. At Smartz, we feel that it is important for everyone to know why and how their websites are being search engine optimized. Unfortunately, there are many tragic stories of companies not knowing what their search engine optimization company was doing to their site. Then one day, their site is penalized or even banned by the search engines and there is nothing they can do.
In the search engine optimization industry, there are names for the different camps or philosophies. White hat and Black hat are the most common and denote good and evil.
At Smartz, we are proud to be white hatters. We believe that it is the only quality, long-term answer to search engine optimization. That said, we believe it is important to have a working knowledge of all of the search engine optimization philosophies so that you can make an informed decision.
The basic platforms of the parties are:
People in the party believe the search engines are their friends. They choose to abide by the rules that the search engines set forth in order to build a long lasting high rank for their clients. Hard work and time is what they rely on to be the right and durable ways to increase rank.
People in the party believe that the search engines are the enemy. They choose to break the search engines' rules in an attempt to trick them and gain rank quickly. Living on the edge is a thrill for them and beating the search engines is escaping their notice.
People in the party seem to base their search engine optimization beliefs on the situation at hand. They choose to abide by the search engines' rules but also take tricks from the black hats. Although the black hat tactics they employ are used differently and are more acceptable to the search engines.
Tactics performed by the parties:
White Hat Tactics
These search engine optimization experts optimize their websites by creating a good quality site. Almost everything they do is as much for the end users as for the search engines, except the techniques they use to make a site easy for the spiders to crawl. They strictly adhere to best practices in line with the SEO Code of Ethics. They organize their website content well for both the search engines and the site's users. They spend time creating good content and link magnets to build inbound links.
Black Hat Tactics
These search engine optimization experts optimize their websites by tricking the search engines. They employ many different methods and some of the most common techniques are:
- Cloaking - showing the search engines different information than human visitors.
- Keyword Spamming - over using targeted keyword phrases to the point that the text no longer reads correctly.
- Doorway Pages - added to a website to target specific keywords but provide no value to a human visitor.
- Deceptive Redirects - used primarily with doorway pages that redirect the user to the home page, which has nothing to do with what the user searched on.
- Duplicate Sites - stealing copyrighted content and publishing it.
- Interlinking - building multiple sites that link together to build links.
- Automated link spamming robots.
- Anything Hidden (links or text) - making text or links the same color as the background of the site or very close to it. Creating an image file the same color as the text and setting the image file as the background.
These tactics can easily get your site banned from search engine SERPs. The search engines are not afraid to ban anyone. They have done it to the most popular of sites. Examples are: The Standford Daily (caught selling links) and the German BMW (caught using doorway pages) sites. One day they are there, the next they are gone.
Gray Hat Tactics
These search engine optimization experts utilize the tactics of white hat SEOs. Depending on what shade of gray they believe themselves to be determines how close they stay to white hat or black hat methods. In general, they tend to use black hat tactics in more tame ways than their darker friends.
- Cloaking - can be used in more legitimate ways, such as on a mainly image-based site. As long as the text truthfully defines the page and images you are fairly safe. Although, this tactic could be taken wrong and your site could be penalized.
- Paid Links or link exchanges - When links are purchased for advertising it is considered legitimate. If links are purchased to increase link-popularity only then your site could be penalized if discovered.
- Duplicate Content.
- Mild Keyword Stuffing.
These tactics are frowned upon by the search engines and may cause your site to be penalized. The penalties are generally not as harsh as those for black hat tactics.
Which Hat do you Choose?
There are many other hat colors not mentioned above, including: off-white, dark gray and even blue. No matter how many keep getting thrown into the ring, the only 100% safe hat is pure white.
White hat philosophy will always prevail because at the core is the desire to create long-term credibility and quality content for their visitors. White hats are fundamentally opposed to the short-term gains of black hat tactics because of the great loss that is experienced over time.
At Smartz, we employ white hat tactics only. If you are interested in learning more about Smartz search engine optimization techniques and philosophy, give us a ring.