Monday, August 16, 2010

Are you a White Hat or a Black Hat?

Search engine optimization, in as much as there are 2 sides to every issue, there are two hat colors to SEO, as with all things in life has a good, wholesome, fair and right way of doing things and a bad, unfair, downright bad way of doing things. To describe the two SEO methodologies the terms “White Hat” and “Black Hat” SEO have come about.

We are a white hat (for the most part) here at Larson’s believing that while black hat SEO techniques might have some short term positive effect, the long term implications can and will be disastrous for your website and in the long run, for your business. As in all things it is good to know the enemy.

So today, I’ll take a look at the top 5 black hat & the top 5 white hat SEO techniques to help you decide whether you or the SEO firm you’re using uses tactics that are potentially harmful to your business website and could either get you “kicked” out of their directories or elevate your site safely. After the black hat techniques we’ll take a look at the top 5 white hat SEO techniques that I believe and have found with my own site that have been having a positive effect on my search position without putting your business website at risk.

Top 5 Black Hat SEO Techniques

1. Hidden Content: At the top of our list of black hat SEO techniques is hidden content. Ooooooo... hidden content you say? Yes! Hidden content comes in many guises but the basic principle is that within the code for the site there will be content stuffed with keywords, this content will not be visible to the end user of the site. There are a few ways to do this.
One way of doing this is by using comment tags. The real purpose of comment tags is for developers to add in useful reminders within their code explaining what that piece of code does.

Another popular way of hiding content is the use of the noscript tag. The noscript tag should be used to inform a user that a script is being used but their browser either doesn’t support the script language used or they have that function turned off.

Other HMTL tags misused in similar ways include the noframes tag and hidden inputs in forms.

Content can also be hidden from the end user by using CSS, excessively small text and colored text on the same colored background of text with no color.
All of these techniques are frowned upon by search engines and if detected can mean your website will be penalized or banned. And yes they do ban sites out of their engines! To the untrained eye it can be very difficult to spot the use of some of these techniques.

2. Meta Keyword Stuffing: There are two Meta tags that are generally used to inform search engines of the content on the page. They reside between the head tag of a page and when used incorrectly they can alert a search engine that a site is using spam techniques in an attempt to improve its ranking.

Meta Description
The meta description should be used to describe the content of your page honestly and concisely and be 1 or 2 sentences, 3 at most.
Here’s an example of the Meta description being used in the correct manner,

meta name "description Content" Targeted telemarketing company. A telemarketing company that knows, understands and puts into practice targeted marketing programs designed to get new customers and build sales, fast. We make good companies great and great companies even better with telemarketing and targeted direct mail programs. Our focus is Printers, Advertising Agencies, Graphic Studios, Advertising Specialties, Trade Show Booth Builder, Sign Shops and other businesses in graphic and creative and related industries. We know you, we understand you, we can sell you!

Here’s an example of the Meta description tag being used incorrectly for a page promoting a telemarketing company called “MadeUp”,
meta name” description” content” MadeUp telemarketing website is the best MadeUp telemarketing website, our telemarketing is better than any telemarketing, great telemarketing, the best telemarketing, visit use us for telemarketing”

3. Meta Keywords: Meta Keywords should be a list of words that inform of the main focus of the page. Meta keywords have been so misused in the past that there are few if any search engines that take any heed of them.

Here’s an example of the Meta keywords being used in the correct manner,
meta name "keywords" Content" Telemarketing, Outbound Telemarketing, printing sales leads, outbound telemarketing service, us telemarketing company, outsourced sales force, business growth, Target Marketing, Target Marketing Service, direct mail programs, Wave Mailing Programs, Target Marketing Attack, direct mail, Guerrilla Marketing, b2b marketing, sales outsourcing, Chicago, United States, Illinois. Palatine, chicagoland, chicago metro, New account acquisition, nitch marketing, Advertising, Telesales, Postcards, Fulfillment, B2B, business two business, Trade Show Call Back, Orphan Account Selling, List Procurement, Multimedia Development, Search Engine Submission, Web site optimization, Web Site Design, virtual sales manager"

Here’s an example of the Meta keywords tag being used incorrectly for a page promoting the telemarketing company again called “MadeUp telemarketing”,

meta name keywords content  / Telemarketing, telemarketing marketing, tele, tele-marketing, fast telemarketing, junk calls, phone ,phone sales, telephone sales, phoning, calling, MadeUp telemarketing, outbound calling ,inbound calling, sales, large account sales, big account telesales ,small account telesales ,best telemarketing, great telemarketing, exclusive telemarketing plans, day time telemarketing, phoning, calling, sales call, sales-call

4. Doorway or Gateway Pages: Doorway or Gateway pages are pages designed for search engines and not for the end user. They are basically fake pages that are stuffed with content and highly optimized for 1 or 2 keywords that link to a target or landing page. The end user never sees these pages because they are automatically redirected to the target page.

Off-the-shelf SEO software often encourages the use of gateway pages as do SEO firms that don’t know what they’re talking about. Search engine spiders are being enhanced continually to detect these pages and will get ignored or worse still, flag your site up as being spam and ban you all together.

It was once a very “white hat” to use Gateway pages in your SEO practice because the different engines acted and searched differently and needed a page that would optimize well with the way their engines spiders went though the content of a page to optimize it. Not so much anymore, you don’t need a different landing page for Google, Yahoo or Bing anymore.

5. Link Farming: In the real world if you were to build your house in a bad neighborhood then your house would be affected by its surroundings. The same is true of the virtual world. Link farms or free for all (FFA) pages have no other purposes than to list links of unrelated websites. They won’t provide you with any traffic and you run the risk of having your site banned for participating. Don’t participate in link farming. You may get a quick bump but you will receive a bad landing getting kicked off the search engines as a spam site or at best only getting downgraded in the search engines.

Top 5 White Hat SEO Techniques

1. Quality Content: When we first started looking at SEO as a separate entity to website build there was one phrase that we would continually hear, “content is King”, and it’s true. There is nothing more valuable you can do to optimize your site for search engines than offer unique well written content. A search engines aim is to serve up what it believes to be the most appropriate website for any given search to the end user.

Imagine we are the end user and we are searching for a telemarketing company in the United States. We go to our favorite search engine and search for the phrase “telemarketing company in the United States”. (If you’re looking for Larson in this search, I am sure we are out there but on what page I have no idea. More on word stings to get found later) In this imaginary scenario let’s assume there are only 2 websites that target that phrase,

Website 1: Website 1 consists of a single page with 3 paragraphs of text. The text tells us that the company does telemarketing work, is in the United States and gives us a phone number to call.

Website 2: Website 2 contains 30 plus pages all focusing on various telemarketing functions that we can hire, costs and technical explanations of how telemarketing can work for your business.
Which website do you think the search engine is likely to offer to the user first? It’s a rather obvious example but it illustrates the importance of good content so your priority should be good quality content.

2. Use Structural (Semantic) Mark Up and Separate Content from Presentation: Semantically structuring your mark up helps search engines understand the content of your webpage which is of course a good thing. Making proper use of heading elements is essential because search engines give more weight to the content within the heading elements.

Using CSS to separate the design elements from the content makes for much leaner code and makes it easier for search engines to find what they’re looking for, which is content. Remember content is king!

3. Titles and Meta Data: Providing pages with proper titles and Meta data is essential. As discussed in the top 5 black hat SEO techniques section the meta description and meta keywords elements have been so misused in the past that Search Engines now regard them as less important, it’s still important to use them and use them, just use them properly. Titles however still carry a lot of weight and when we think of semantic mark up it is obvious why. The title of anything is a declaration as to what the content might be, so make sure your page titles are a true representation of the content of the page.

4. Keyword Research and Effective Keyword Use: Create your website with keywords and key phrases in mind. Research keywords and key phrases you think people might use to find your site. Single words are not always the most effective target, try multi-word phrases that are much more specific to your product/service and you’ll be targeting end users that are much more likely to want what you are offering. Besides going after a one word “keyword” although it might be the holy grail of SEO is not the best to start out for your initial SEO marketing plan.

Use the keywords and key phrases you’ve identified effectively throughout your website. Assign each page 2-3 of the keywords you’ve identified and use the keywords throughout all the important elements of the page. Those are,

• Title

• Meta Description

• Meta Keywords

• Heading Elements

• Text

• Alt Tag

• Title Tag

• Links

5. Quality Inbound Links: Having inbound links to your website can be likened to having a vote for the good but there are good links and bad links so therefore votes for the good and votes that are bad. Good links are links from other web pages that are regarded highly by the search engines and are contextually relevant to the content of your page. Bad links are links from web pages that aren’t regarded highly or potentially banned by search engines and have no relevance to the content of your page.

For example;

Imagine we have a website that sells telephones.

Link A: Link on the homepage of the American Marketing website. = Good

Link B: Link on Eddies Bar appreciation links page = Bad

The amount of quality inbound links to your site therefore have some relevance on how high up the search engine your site is placed. When sourcing links you should be thinking of quality over quantity and deep linking to pages within your website not just the home page.

Larson Notes & Satire: To the untrained eye, identifying if your site is potentially at risk from black hat techniques can be difficult. When in doubt don’t do it. Went you need help, find someone who might know what they are doing. Mmmmmm, I wonder who that could be?

Howard Larson

Larson & Associates

Target Marketing & Telesales Professionals for new account acquisition

Making good businesses great and great businesses even better


P.S. We make telesales for small business affordable by offering programs down to only 15 hours a week. Maybe you could add telesales into your marketing mix call today and find out.

P.P.S. An American Company, marketing American Companies! Call or email to get an appointment to pick my brain (a $125.00 value) for 30 minutes.

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