If you are familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), you may have heard of white and black hat practices. White hat techniques are what any website should strive towards, with companies like Google and Bing tailoring their search engines to reward those that use these methods. The flip side of the coin is black hat SEO, where tricks are used to try and fool the bots that crawl websites into improving your ranking. Knowing what to avoid is essential if you are going to make a success of your website, as black hat methods have the potential to ruin your business.
Keywords are essential if you are going to get people to visit your site. However, you can have too much of a good thing. In the past, people have tried to manipulate their ranking by throwing specific phrases around left, right, and center. However, search engines have cottoned on, and if you use keyword stuffing, you will more than likely receive a ban when the bot crawls your site. The key is to sound natural in your writing, and not use any unnecessary phrases on your pages for the sole purpose of ranking higher. It’s a delicate balance, but one that is readily achievable if you take care of your content.
Abusing Rich Snippets
It is possible to change the way your page appears on a search engine by using rich snippets (also called structured data). These come into play when you want to show a star rating for a product, a business address, or possibly the cost of an item on your listing. When utilized the white hat way, rich snippets can have a considerable impact on your traffic. However, the extra information you provide must be truthful. If you give yourself 100 five star reviews, the search engines will pick up on it and punish your ranking accordingly.
Low-quality content is anything that reduces the user experience for the sake of page rankings. One of the more common tricks is to hide keywords on a page in the same color font as the background, so the customer sees only a blank space. Bots can easily detect this now, and it quite simply doesn’t work anymore. Content scraped from other sites is also considered bad practice, as is something known as bait and switch. In this technique, false information lures a customer to the page. They are then encouraged to visit other, more profitable, areas of the site.
Cloaking is a way of hiding the real content of a page to the search engines by using different information for different users. By using the IP address or the user agent tag of the bot, it is possible to identify their presence and change the content accordingly. Doing so allows sites to rank high for specific keywords while showing irrelevant content that is more profitable. It is worth bearing in mind that changing your content for different users is something that is actively encouraged. Tailoring your site for different locations and devices is something that would increase your search engine rankings; the issue is with the deceptive use of this practice.
A lot of people don’t realize that paying a company to put links to your pages on their website will get you into trouble. These paid links violate the policies of all of the major search engines, and if you get caught, you can expect punishment. If this is a service you have already used, you need to remove the links as soon as you can. If this isn’t an option, disavow tools exist for most engines that will ignore any links of this nature without it affecting you. However, they can be awkward to set up correctly, so if you can remove the links, this should always be the first step.
SEO is an essential part of any website to ensure that you get the right traffic coming to your pages. However, you should avoid black hat techniques at all cost. Not only is it likely to cripple your website if you get caught, but there is also an ethical issue regarding how you treat your customers. Also bear in mind, that even if you did find a way to by-pass the search policies, it is only a matter of time before the algorithms update and catch you out.