In the digital marketing world, there are different strategies that can be used for search engine optimization (SEO): black hat SEO and white hat SEO. Understanding the difference between them can help you better plan for your long-term SEO goals.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO essentially involves “tricking” Google and breaking the search engine’s SEO rules and guidelines by using unethical techniques.
These techniques are usually aimed at search engines and not human audiences. Black hat practices are used by those who are looking for quick results, rather than those who want to implement a long-term strategy intended to organically grow SEO.
While black hat SEO may work at first, depending on what you are doing, you will eventually get penalized for your actions, especially as Google continually updates its algorithms to crack down on questionable practices. Some consequences of engaging in black hat SEO practices can result in your site being sandboxed by Google or being de-indexed.
Common black hat SEO practices include:
- Hidden text: adding text to your site that readers cannot see, but that is still on the site to be scanned by search engines. This can be done, for example, by making the hidden text match the background of the website. This practice has largely been discontinued as it has been identified as search spam by Google and all other major search engines.
- Keyword stuffing: loading a web page with keywords to the point where it reads unnaturally.
- Scraping: plagiarizing or copying content from sites that are popular with search engines onto your own site. It is very easy to get caught doing this.
- Automatic article spinning: a version of scraping in which content is copied but automatic programs are used to replace words with their synonyms to make content appear “unique”. Content spun like this does not read well, does not contribute anything new or unique, and will be easily found (much like scraped content).
- Cloaking: the content presented to the search engine crawler is different from the content presented to the user.
- Link farms: getting a group of websites to link to one another, often through automated programs. This essentially spams the index of a search engine. It is becoming increasingly easy to get caught with an unnatural looking backlink profile or by linking sites that are obviously not relevant to one another.
- Blog spam: also known as “spamdexing” involves automatically posting irrelevant or random comments, or promoting commercial services through blogs, comment sections, etc.
Black hat techniques are called “black hat” for a reason. They are questionable, risky, and will eventually get detected. Many of these common black hat SEO techniques no longer work, and are not recommended.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO essentially optimizes content and webpages the way in which Google wants things to be optimized using Google’s guidelines. SEO techniques target a human audience rather than a search engine.
Effective white hat techniques include:
- Quality content: as we’ve often blogged about, creating quality content is a key SEO practice and foundational cornerstone for having a well-ranking site. At the end of the day, if you are not creating well-written, informative, unique, and regularly updated content that users will want to read and share, your site will not rank well, no matter what other SEO practices you implement.
- User experience: is just as important as quality content. If your content is not formatted for use on both mobile and computer, takes a long time to load, or otherwise makes reading it a hassle, it will negatively affect user experience and affect your rankings.
- Using keywords effectively: it is important to understand what keywords, combinations of keywords, or phrases your readers may be looking for, and organically including them in your content, your headings, metadescriptions, page titles, and other areas of your site. Do your research, include these keywords carefully, and ensure that you are not veering into keyword stuffing.
- Relevant backlinks: links leading back to your site are key. If other sites are linking to your site, it is like a vote of confidence, flagging your site’s credibility to Google. Ensure that any and all backlinks are high quality, and those pages offer similar excellent content to your site.
- Internal links: linking as many of the content pages on your site to one another is an excellent SEO practice. This can enhance user experience by offering a lot of quality information and keeping them on your site longer (also great for SEO).
- Title tags: title tags are used to tell both search engines and visitors what a particular page on a site is about. The most effective title tags are concise, accurate, and descriptive.
There is no instant solution to SEO that will rocket your site to the top of the rankings- doing so organically, and within Google’s parameters will take time, but will be worth it in the end. White hat strategies often take longer to have an effect than black hat strategies, however, taking the white hat approach can pay off in dividends in the long-run. It will keep Google on your site and ensure you are not penalized.
If all of this seems overwhelming to implement while you run your practice, don’t worry- Umbrella Legal Marketing is here to help. We implement only white hat SEO strategies to ensure that our clients are making the most of their online presence.
We understand the unique needs of the legal market, the ethical and practice standards that govern the profession, and how to effectively combine these specific demands with the realities of marketing in the social media and online age.
With our help, you and your firm can stand out in today’s ever-changing legal landscape. Contact us by email or at 416-356-4672.