Good or Bad Search Engine Optimisation
Blach Hat or White Hat SEO Techniques
How do I tell the good from the bad SEO?
SEO is in peoples minds more and more these days. I am getting asked about Search Engine "offers and promises" being made to them that seem "to good to be true". I am sure you have come across them yourself if you have a website. The problem for most site owners is that they just do not know what are valid SEO techniques and what are not, so here I will try to explain so that you might be able to spot the good from the bad when you see it.
Here is a bit of background to the "smoke and mirrors" world of dubious SEO techniques
"Black hat" is a term often used to describe SEO techniques that are used to try to mislead the search engines into giving a website higher rankings than it deserves. This is generally done by exploiting current loop holes or limitations in the ability of the search engines to assess websites. Black hat techniques are generally not visible to a website visitor and are often done without making changes to your website. Black hat SEO techniques can lead to your site being penalised by the search engines.
In contrast "White hat" is a term often used to describe valid SEO techniques.
Of course someone employing "Black Hat" techniques is not going to want you to know that is what they are doing (in fact they will probably imply they are using white hat techniques), so why do they do it? Well, quite simply these techniques can be very successful in quickly achieving good rankings with very little effort, and therefore they can easily make a good profit on ... and you may be none the wiser until it goes wrong.
So how can you tell ... well quite simply actually ...
- Do the SEO techniques start by looking at the visible words on the pages of my website? Is the SEO specialist talking to you about changing the text your vistors see? Are we talking about making your text appealing to human visitors as well as being search engine friendly? Are we looking at the language being used by site visitors? Are we looking at the amount of text on your web pages?
SEO isn't just about the text copy your visitors see but this is by a very long way, the significant part of effective Search Engine Optimisation. There is also the way this content is coded etc to be search engine friendly but this is secondary. The essence of valid or white hat SEO techniques is creating interesting, good quality, ideally unique and substantial text copy on your web pages.
- In contrast if the SEO can be done without focusing mainly on the text copy of your website this should start the alarm bells ringing.
Linking ... a very grey area
There are lots of black hat seo tricks ... a popular current one is using Links.
Basically Google strongly favours high quality relevant links to a website – the logic being a link to your website is a vote of confidence in your site from someone who thinks it is worthy of a link. Google Page Ranking is based around this idea.
This has created an environment where there is a big market it creating linking networks cleverly devised to fool Google into thinking their links are valid votes for your website. People are turning good profits in the form of monthly subscriptions for doing little other than adding sites into their linking network (which may be disguised as a directory).
Google does not approve of websites buying links. The trick is how to tell which are valid links and which are part of an artificial network designed just to boost rankings. The bottom line here is as long as Google is fooled by the scheme everyone is laughing but it is you the site owner who is running the risk of your site being penalised when Google spots it.
Site owners often just do not know what has really happened, they just find that they can’t get good rankings anymore for their domain.
Blogs, Social Media etc ... another dubious area for SEO
Blogs are intended as online diaries. They are part of the so called "social media" which has its place and can be useful.
The other side of the coin is all the re-constituted copy published and re-published everywhere to create links to improve the ranking of a website. Another sad consequence of Google attaching extra importance to web pages that are linked to. I subscribe to Googles Alert service which allows you to specify keywords/phrases you are interested in then periodically informs you of all the new instances of articles published on your chosen subject. Naturally SEO is key for me and over the last 5 years or so I have probably read less than 10 original, new and interesting articles on the subject - everything else is old news re-packaged, probably just to get a link to a website.
So, by all means, have a blog or similar if it is useful to your clients and you are going to use it. However consider publishing directly on your website regularly as an alternative and often better solution, as search engines favour sites regularly updated.
Here are some helpful guidelines taken from Google's guidelines:
"Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users."
So it is all about making pages for your users and not about creating search engine only pages.
"Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?" "
So if it sounds like a device to trick the search engine - don't.
"Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank."
So that excludes all the links that are just for SEO and therefore most linking schemes.
"Don't use computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc."
So that excludes all software packages and automated schemes that submit to search engines.
"Avoid hidden text or hidden links."
So you can't make text and links invisible to the visitor.
"Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords."
So you just can't add long lists of keywords, any keywords must be integrated into suitable sentences in context.
Also those software packages that generate pages of meaningless text loaded with keywords are out.
"Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content."
So, for example, tricks like a separate page for each town in the country with the same words,
but the town changed isn't valid, neither is recreating the same website on several domains.
"Avoid pages created just for search engines, or other approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content."
So avoid those schemes that provide content for your (and a million other) websites.
If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
So if you are providing copy for these publishing sites make it original.
What Google really wants is for you to have plenty of good quality, useful and unique content that is helpful to your visitors and regularly updated on your website. This takes thought, time and effort. So the next time you see a "too good to be true" SEO offer it probably is. Most of the SEO schemes, services and software you will come across will therefore be Black Hat.
Epsilis - Web Designers and Search Engine Optimisation Specialists
47 Farthing Drive
Letchworth Garden City
Articles on various aspect of search engine optimisation: -
Making the most of SEO using your website CMS system - Is your Website or Webshop Content Management System Search Engine Friendly? Do you know how to make the most of using it for search engine optimisation or is that something you think is being done automatically for you by the software? If you are just updating your web site and are not thinking about SEO you are missing out on opportunities to get better search rankings for your website.
Google Places - local business search - Google is moving much more to local based search results and is now blending Local Business Places (previously Maps)search results with Natural search results and the distinction is now blurred but no business should miss out on perhaps the most effective measure they can take to become visible on local searches.
Google releases updated version of their SEO starter guide - Google provides general guidance for site owners on getting the best rankings for their websites - they do not give away any of their secrets and most of what they say is not a surprise. However this new Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide provides a very nice guide to best practices for increasing the effectiveness of your web site with people and search engines.
Tips to Help Search Engine Ranking For New Websites - Google's algorithms are designed to prevent new websites from surging straight to the top of the engine rankings. This is commonly referred to as "sandboxing". So what can new site owners do to minimise this problem?
SEO for Ecommerce Websites and Web Shops - Search Engine Optimisation for ecommerce sites is always a challenge. It is likely that your ecommerce content management software may not be helping much and your other main problem is probably that you are selling the same products as a bunch of other online shops.
Standing out in the Crowd - Optimising website content - Everyone is interested in Search Engine Optimisation for their website these days. It is therefore becoming much harder to get sites to the top of the rankings. So how do you get your website on to page 1 of Google?
Is SEO all Smoke and Mirrors?... You hear so many tales of bad experiences with SEO and so many companies pestering you regularly offering Search Engine Optimisation of one sort or another and - how do you tell who you can trust?
Search Rankings and Google Tools - Google provides a number of useful tools to help you get better search rankings. You should know about these if you are interested in marketing your website more effectively.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Marketing (SEM) Glossary - commonly used phrases explained.
Good or Bad Search Engine Optimisation - How to tell the good from the bad SEO? Offers and promises that seem "to good to be true". The problem for most site owners is that they just do not know what are valid SEO techniques and what are not, so I will try to explain how to spot the good from the bad when you see it.
SEO and Web Page Design.... an overview of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and relevance to Web Page Design
Beginners guide to Search Engine Optimisation - If you want to know a little more about the basic techniques of ethical search engine optimisation
Link Popularity and Link Building Suggestions - Some search engines use Link Popularity as a significant ranking tool so obtaining good quality relevant links to your website can give your site a boost in the search engines