When I started in this Internet Marketing business about ten years ago, there were a number of things that confused me and one of them were the expressions White Hat and Black Hat SEO so I started to look into them as a part of my learning about the subject.
I soon found that there were significant differences between the two and that there were also major issues with the use of one of them, Black Hat marketing. I also found that a number of the leading IM gurus at the time were actively promoting courses in Black Hat methods which actually surprised me as others at the same conference (more accurately, sales fest) were telling us that the leading search engines were actively searching out sites using Black Hat methods and banning them.
So what is Black Hat SEO marketing? The use of very aggressive SEO strategies and techniques that purely focus on the search engines algorithms rather than a human audience and as such are not sites like ours that add value. The main reason for doing this is to create traffic to the site and then load the page with click and pay Adwords advertisements.
The things that they do include:
- Keyword stuffing – overloading the keywords in the various articles on the site.
- Doorway pages – low-quality pages optimized to rank well for specific keywords that act as a door between users and content.
- Invisible text – similar coloured text to the page or text positioned off screen
- Page swapping – showing different pages to human visitors or search engines, also known as “cloaking”
All these techniques are designed for short term gain on the website before the page is found and shut down by the search engines which, if you are an ethical marketer, are not what we are trying to do. People who create sites using Black Hat marketing actually expect their sites to be found and shut down so they are always on the move, aiming for quick and easy gains as they set up site after site.
By comparison, White Hat SEO produces sites that are designed to last a long time and to create value for the reader. They follow the guidelines of the search engines and the content is designed to be easy to index by the spiders used by the search engines.
And there is also Grey Hat SEO which combines the two other methods (but I bet you guessed that?) which still targets the content at the search engine spiders, but aims to avoid getting penalised. Trying to keep a site like that on the right side of the search engines must be hard work!
And finally, don’t think that it is just get rich quick sites that are penalised by the search engines, in 2006 both BMW and Ricoh in Germany were picked up for using these Black Hat techniques!
Well I know my mentor, John Thornhill, doesn’t promote these Black Hat techniques so they are not on my site and hopefully not on yours, but I bet we’ve all seen a site or two that are totally Black Hat designed.
Any thoughts on this subject and do you think the search engines are right to ban these type of Black Hat sites?