If someone tells you they have found a cheap, lightning-fast way to organically rank your site at the top of Google, there is likely a black hat in their plan. First, what is Black Hat SEO? This is a practice that involves using shady techniques deemed illegal by Google to organically rank a website. If you use a Black Hat tactic, you may rank really well, but it will likely be temporary because Google will eventually discover you, and penalize your site.
Black Hat SEO Will Become Extinct
Here’s a prediction: It seems to me that Black Hat SEO is eventually going to become extinct (at least as we know it today). Think about it; with the launch of RankBrain and the movement to prioritize mobile search, as Google’s algorithm continues to learn human intent and pair human emotional needs to search results, all the lawless, peccant optimization tactics won’t even offer temporary ranking improvements without implementing powerful content, and complying with mobile search demands. And anyone who is skilled enough in search marketing to complete these tasks wouldn’t engage in Black Hat methods to begin with. When this happens, reputable SEO agencies will begin to surface as organizations staffed with true experts in a landscape with no governing body or institution to certify SEO companies that truly know what they are doing. Some may say the evolution of Google best practices is making SEO harder. The search marketers who say this won’t survive against their competition who instead embrace the growing demands with a grin, while offering an innovative SEO strategy that plays a fair game. Here are three ridiculous Black Hat SEO strategies still performed today, along with some White Hat solutions.
1. Keyword Stuffing
If a person stuffs themselves with food, they will throw up. When you stuff your content with keywords, Google will throw up and you may find that your site has been removed from the SERPs. Back in the day when people still listened to UB42 and burned music onto mini discs, Google ranked websites based partially on how many keywords their site contained. Now, going back to how I predicted that Black Hat SEO would eventually give up the ghost, in addition to placing tons of keywords in content, some would put invisible keywords on their site (something Google did penalize). But today, having visible and non visible bulks of keywords will give the same horrible results–you will be regarded as spammy and crooked.
White Hat Answer to Keyword Stuffing
Stop using keyword saturation tools; percentage doesn’t matter. Mind you that keywords still matter, a great deal in fact. However, their frequency and structure requirements have changed. Use keywords in your content in a way that reads naturally, and think about using long-tail keywords in respect to organic mobile voice searches.
Write web content for human readers, and Google’s bots. We know that people respond well to content that does the following:
- Entertains and inspires
- Tells a story
- Offers high-value tips or information
- Is relevant to the search query
With Google RankBrain as a core component of the algorithm, coupled with the rise in prioritizing mobile search optimization, we know Google bots crawl and favor content that:
- Defines what the subject is, what it is not, what it is similar to, and who benefits from it
- Content with the right keywords layered in emotional association
- Proper tags, meta, and rich snippets that reflect on-site efforts
- Educational information that goes in-depth
Take these points from both categories, create a SEO strategy that centers around them, and make sure your technical considerations are buttoned up.
2. Harebrained Link Building Practices
Again, back in the day people would engage in link building practices that, basically, had no set rules. Then it became standard to only link with a site that had a “follow” status and a respectable domain authority. It is shocking, but there are still people and even certain SEO companies that still do the following:
- Pay for backlinks
- Register with directory companies to get links
- Link out from message boards
Google’s Penguin update is dedicated to weeding out those who buy links or spam various directors in an attempt to boost ranking. Now that Penguin is baked into the core algorithm, and no further rolling updates will be announced from our feathered friend, link standards are stringent and set in stone.
White Hat Tips for Link Building
Although link building is not the only core component to ranking, it is still hugely important for that organic boost. Clearly, if you find a page on a site that ranks really well and contains the same subject and anchor text you are trying to rank for, you will see the needle move up in your own ranking when you successfully acquire a backlink from it. But there is a process to moving from page two to page one, and it looks like this:
- Outreach – Find sites relevant to your own, and email them with an original piece of content that you wrote while expressing why you think it would help with their efforts, and why their readers would find value in it.
- Broadcasting – Once your content has been published to their site with your newly acquired link, broadcast it through social media, e-mails, or through your newsletter subscription.
- Paid Boost – When you pay to boost exposure through native ads, social network ads, display ads and retargeting, is ideal if your niche is popular and you already see lots of traffic through broadcasting.
- Paying for Links – The only way to really do this successfully is to pay a source whose content and subject matter is relevant and directly related to your product or services. For example, if you sell body kits for Japanese cars, you would likely get good results and avoid being penalized by Google if you write some content on body kit step-by-step modifications to Honda Civics, on a website dedicated to Honda enthusiasts who regularly share blogs about auto body modifications.
3. Guest Blogging Your Way to Link Heaven
Remember when a real estate firm’s webmaster could guest blog on cat websites or the local Philharmonic’s blog, and get a nifty backlink? Those days, when it was advantageous, are gone, yet people are still doing it. Guest blogging is is still good for SEO, if you do it on the right platforms. Here are some White Hat tips that will make those blogs work in your favor:
- Post to relevant sites
- Write about complementary topics that expand on or offer a fresh perspective on the current subject
- Guest blog where you can have an author bio so curious readers can visit your own site
- Relevant guest blogging draws relevant consumer traffic, so keep it straight-forward
Don’t get overly creative by trying to justifying a relationship between your content and a guest blog opportunity or you will likely be wasting your time. Due to latent semantic indexing, Google knows exactly what the subject matter and content of a webpage is. It identifies common and secondary keywords and phrases within, and when links are involved, it grades them on relevance. If you have a social media marketing startup, and you guest blog on a site dedicated to PPC strategies, Google would expect to see keywords in your content like “AdWords”, “Callout Extensions”, or “negative keywords”. Even though PPC and social media marketing are two practices used by digital marketing agencies, they are not relevant for link building. Look at it this way: hats and boots are worn by most people who want to look like cowboys, but if you go to a site on Western head wear wanting to read specifically about the different styles and price-points of Stetson hats, you aren’t going to be too pleased if you click on a blog about the various styles of Western boots.
White Hats are High Maintenance, and Worth It
If you look at those Old West films depicting the bad guy in the black hat and the good guy in the white one, you may have asked yourself how his hat stays as pristine as snow throughout the entire film while he’s riding around in the desert kicking up dust clouds. Let’s assume he constantly cleans it. The guy in the black hat has what seems to be an easier time when it comes to looking good; he doesn’t have to clean his hat because it is black and won’t show dirt, but it is still filthy. Your SEO is the same way. White Hat SEO requires lots of care and attention, while Black Hat is all about little effort with fast results. At the end of the day, the dirty one stands out as the bad guy that Google will eventually discover, while all the efforts that go into a clean, White Hat SEO strategy will shine bright and rank high as the “good guy strategy”.