The golden era of westerns from the 1940s-60s has left an indelible mark on our culture. The image of Clint Eastwood, or John Wayne, heroically running the bad guys out of town is instantly recognizable. As is the sound of the opening bars to Ennio Morricone's theme for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Incredibly, 70 years on, spaghetti westerns shape the way we talk about Digital Marketing. Those infamous black-hatted villains and white-hatted heroes are the inspiration for the terms Blackhat SEO & Whitehat SEO which we will explore the meaning of today.
When it comes to Digital Marketing there are a fair few deputies in town but only one sheriff: Google is not a sheriff you want to cross. If you don’t follow Google’s rules, your website can be kicked out of Google’s rankings. Search on Google makes up 89% of global search traffic, so being #run out of town’ by Google will make it impossible for your site to get many customers through SEO. This is why it’s so important for you to know about Blackhat
A key reason for Google’s success is that it has quality standards. These standards can be about the minimum technical requirements of a website, for instance, websites need to be viewable on mobile and desktop devices. They can also be about security. Google can detect viruses and insecure websites.
Google’s rules on Blackhat are there to set standards for what digital marketers are allowed to do to help Google and users better find their content. There is a huge difference between pointing Googlebot or a user towards something they will find useful and telling them you have something that you don’t. Google rules on Blackhat are there to make this difference clear. Following these rules can be the difference between your site getting top rankings or never being found on Google again.
Another area where Blackhat does cross paths with the law is in terms of copyright infringement. Stealing other websites’ content and using it to get top rankings is stealing credit for another site’s work and misleading the user by making them think you wrote it. In general, when we are talking about BlackHat SEO we are talking about SEO tactics for getting unearned or undeserved top rankings.
Because of the potential danger of penalities from BlackHat, many site owners natural want to make sure that the SEO activities they are doing will help not hurt their rankings.
WhiteHat has emerged as a term used to describe these good SEO activities that boost a site’s chances of rankings in a way that is permitted by Google. If something is WhiteHat SEO you know it is safe and good for your website.
Later in this article, we will go through some specific terms and examples of BlackHat, but first, let’s offer some relief to any of you who feel that you might have Blackhat on your own site. If Google detects that your website is breaking its search engines guidelines, it launches what it calls a manual action against your website. These actions range from blocking individual pages from the search results to a whole site. You can check to see if Google has launched any manual actions against your website using Google Search Console. Here’s a helpful video from Google on how to do just that.
Blackhat and Whitehat are not the only specialized digital marketing terms used to refer to this area. There is a whole host term used to describe blackhat activities. Here the most important you should know and avoid as well good Whitehat SEO alternatives.
A rule from the real world, which is equally true for SEO, do not to steal, in this case, content from websites that are then posted word for word on another site. People who do this are called scrapers by the industry. Search engines do not like them: Google sees these activities as adding no value to the user and most likely committing copyright infringement. Search Engines can detect this duplicate content and will not attribute it with the same value as original content. In fact, it probably won’t list copies in its exact results at all. The search engines already know the original article because the scraper found it through the search engine in the first place.
Yes pasting multiple articles together is indeed scraping. If a content creator lifts large amounts of text from multiple pages and pastes them together. Google will also be able to identify the scraping and will punish accordingly. Mosaic pasting is also forbidden. Copyright rules vary from country to country but Google is obliged to respect the copyright law of the countries it operates in and to remove reported pages that violate copyright.
The key problem with scraping is that you are claiming someone else’s work as your own. There are still plenty of ways that you can use other people’s content to boost your rankings without having this problem. Taking short quotes from other people’s content and quoting and linking to the original version can make an interesting start to an article. Reviewing and responding to other site’s content is a great way to utilize the current popularity of the topic whilst creating something original
Keywords are still a very important factor in SEO. WhiteHat content in this area uses keyword content sparingly to create meaningful keyword-rich content. The focus should always be on making written content enjoyable for the user to read. Keywords should never be used to impact the readability of the text. It’s important to note that readability is also a ranking factor. So even if the content is judged as keyword stuffing it won’t rank very well because the user and Google will identify it as uninteresting content.
From the stuffers we have terrible tactics like 10 thousand word articles about Kanye West's love of 'low-cost viagra' 'and 'next day delivery, by this I mean content with so many keywords stuffed into it that it becomes hard to read or completely nonsensical.
Rather than stuffing the body of your text with as many keywords as it can take, The Whitehat equivalent is about optimizing the appropriate use of keywords. Doing WhiteHat SEO is all about using keywords occasionally and sensibly in the text, as well as making sure they are featured in the H1, H2s, and URLs and meta tags
If you feel like you have to force your keywords into the titles of your content, you should focus on writing about topics that don’t require stuffing.
SMB TIP If you want to get more visitors to your pages with keywords you should also focus on finding the right ones. Keyword tools like those found in rankingCoach can really help get the best value keywords which will lead to more of the right traffic. They will also help you to pick the right topics that your audience is interested in.
Another activity that often goes with keyword stuffing is keyword smuggling. This is when site owners hide keywords in places that search engines can’t see. The ingenuity smugglers use is sometimes almost impressive. They try to hide keyword spam in a place where it cannot be seen by the user, hoping that the high keyword volume will improve their SE ranking. For example, they hide it behind images, in white text on a white background, positioned off-screen with CSS, written in font 0.
All of these smuggling and stuffing tactics have been used at some point Google knows about all of them and punishes websites for stuffing and smuggling. They have also become increasingly ineffective as Google updates have made site ranking much more nuanced so having hundreds of keywords stuffed or smuggled into content is more likely to make a page rank badly than well. There is no such thing as WhiteHat smuggling and stuffing because these tactics are the opposite of what Google’s rules are about which is serving the user. WhiteHat is about doing everything you can to help the user find the content they need and want, not tricking them.
Since the early days of search engines, Google has been punishing rule-breakers no matter how big or small. We discussed BMW's tough experience with Google in a recent article for this blog. It was BMW'S BlackHat use of keyword stuffing in combination with doorway pages that got them in hot water with Google. Doorway pages are a form of Cloaking. This practice refers to when web designers offer keyword-stuffed pages, to bump themselves up the search rankings which they then switch out for another completely different page when the user clicks on it.
BMW received a zero PageRank as punishment for using this tactic. This is because Cloaking is against Google Quality Guidelines, which are the Google equivalent of the ten commandments. In the words of Google Pagemaster Matt Cutts "We say that all types of Cloaking are against our quality guidelines so there's no such thing as WhiteHat Cloaking"
You might wonder why Google is so strict on this; It all comes down to the danger created by the ability to switch out one kind of content for another. Imagine a child searches for their favorite cartoon character online, clicks on a link, and is redirected to an adult website; SEs are doing everything in their powers to prevent this from happening. Hence the severity of their stance, You have been warned.
There we have it, Blackhat is against Google rules and is often about misleading users. Stay away from cloaking, stuffing, and scraping. Instead, focus on serving the user and use White Hat SEO best practices to boost your rankings. That way your site will stay on the right side of the Sheriff to get those top rankings.
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