In any industry, there will be people who try to game the system. Search engine optimization is no different. So-called black hat SEOs are constantly looking for shortcuts, constantly seeking to gain an edge over their competition through any means necessary.
Their methods used to be a lot more successful in the past. Tactics like keyword stuffing, content scraping, sketchy link-building schemes, and cloaking are slowly fading into obscurity. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still people who try to use them, of course; It just means that those people are destined to fail.
These days, there are two types of black hats left in the SEO field.
The first operates on a fundamental misunderstanding of how search actually works. They see that black hat tactics offer short-term gains in traffic (or cause short-term damage to the websites of their competition) and dive in. They dedicate a lot of time and effort to avoiding penalties at the hands of Google’s algorithms.
The second knows their tactics don’t work, but they don’t care. Instead, they sell their black hat techniques and SEO ‘expertise’ to webmasters who don’t know any better. They’re not actually interested in helping their clients. They just want to make a quick buck.
Both camps are to be avoided – and it’s even more imperative that you avoid falling into either one. But how exactly can you do that? How can you tell the difference between black hat SEO and authentic SEO?
In a few ways.
Black Hats Don’t Care About The End User
When you build a website, your first thought should be offering something of value to your visitors. Traffic and ad revenue are important, sure – but they should not be your primary focus. If the strategies you’re looking at involve generating large amounts of low-quality hits or tricking users into clicking on links, run away. The foundation of good SEO is excellent, sharable content that organically attracts links, not what a black hat SEO is going to tell you.
Black Hats Guarantee Placement
Like it or not, SEO is not an exact science. You can never guarantee that someone will rank on the front page of Google. At most, you can offer to improve their visibility and bring in more quality visitors and prospective leads. As a general rule, if someone offers a 100% guarantee, they’re probably not to be trusted.
Black Hats Attack The Competition
Last but certainly not least, SEO is largely concerned with your own site. You should be focused on making what you offer as high-quality as possible. Sure, you might check out the competition to see how you can one-up them, but you’re not doing anything past that.
Anything that involves stealing content, generating negative SEO, or somehow attacking a competitor’s website is not only black hat, but also potentially illegal.
Keep Your Hat Clean
Search Engine Optimization is by no means an easy or exact science. When hiring someone to manage your SEO, make sure you ask for details on client success stories and how they are going to deliver their promises. It takes time, effort, and care. Anyone who tries to tell you different is either a fool or a black hat – possibly both.
Daniel Page is the Director of Business Development for ASEOhosting, a leading provider in SEO hosting and multiple IP hosting.