Q: I’ve been hearing the term “Black Hat” SEO a lot lately.  What is it? Does it work?

A: We’ve all seen those ads on TV for products claiming to help you lose 20 lbs in one week or create six pack abs in eight minutes or less a day.  As tempting as those products sound, the truth is, quick magical fixes don’t work.  Black Hat SEO techniques are just like those products that claim to help you cut corners to achieve your goals. 

To answer your question, let’s take a step back and define what SEO is.  Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to your website from search engines like Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and hundreds of others. The goal of SEO is to improve the ranking of your staffing firm’s website when people search on specific keywords and phrases.

SEO techniques can be divided into two broad categories:

1. White Hat SEO – Techniques that search engines recommend as part of good optimization design.

2. Black Hat SEO – Techniques designed to beat search engine algorithms–practices that can get your site penalized by the search engines.

So what does that mean?

White Hat SEO can be defined as ethical search engine optimization techniques that are encouraged by the search engines.  According to Wikipedia.com, White Hat SEO is not just about following guidelines, but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see.

White Hat SEO technique involves writing content for the user first and the search engine second.  It is a strategy that produces great results long-term.  Techniques include finding relevant keywords, improving Meta (descriptive) data and writing killer copy, among others.

On the other hand, Black Hat SEO attempts to, improve rankings with techniques that are used in an unethical manner. 

Some Black Hat techniques include:

  • Hiding text — This is done by using text colored similar to the background, invisible, or positioned off screen.
  • Cloaking — Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking.
  • Spamdexing — “Involves a number of methods, such as repeating unrelated phrases, to manipulate the relevancy or prominence of resources indexed by a search engine, in a manner inconsistent with the purpose of the indexing system” (Wikipedia.com).

Of course there are always consequences.

Overall, White Hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas Black Hat tactics are considered quick fix strategies that run the risk of their sites being banned or ranked lower once the search engines discover what they are doing.  And the chances are, they will find out.

As with anything worth working toward in life, the straight and narrow path is usually the best long-term strategy.  My advice to you: Make sure that your SEO efforts are down this path.

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