Digital Marketing – and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in particular – is difficult ground to stay up to date on because rules and best practices are changing and evolving continuously and quickly. SEO is still a relatively new field (about 20 years old), and the combination of the many established companies and the new ones that rise regularly strains any effort to regulate or maintain a steadfast set of search engine ranking rules. Search engines like Google use algorithms to organize their results, and many companies work in tandem with these algorithms to help you get to the top of Google rankings. Some of them, though, aren’t trustworthy, employing various scams and underhanded tactics to ensnare victims. Companies known for the controversial or problematic SEO methods they employ are referred to as black hat SEO companies.
The Dangers of Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO involves tricking search engines into ranking your site higher even though it doesn’t necessarily deserve to be there from a keyword relevance or content perspective. There are many examples of ways to deceive search engines, but they should certainly be avoided. Google and other search engines penalize websites that use these tricks by lowering their ranking, or – if the issue was serious enough – delisting them entirely. And there are issues with black hat SEO that go well beyond the penalties.
Take a Step Back – What’s the Main Goal of Search Algorithms?
Thing is, black hat SEO strategies all skirt around the main goal of the search algorithms: find interesting, high-quality, unique content relevant to the search terms. If you go about it dishonestly, say by keyword stuffing, you haven’t actually made a website with interesting, high-quality, unique content. So why should it rank highly? Who, outside of your campaign, would want it to rank highly?
As long as ways exist to circumvent Google’s guidelines on how to build a website that deserves to rank highly, people will use them. But they’re taking the wrong angle. Studies have shown that, when online, people get frustrated more quickly. And if you wouldn’t trick a pedestrian on the street into coming into your store if you knew it wasn’t what he’s looking for, why would you do it to people with less patience?
And that’s more than just a metaphor. Digital Marketing is similar to regular marketing, except with different tools and real-time data. Anything that has backlash in regular marketing is the same in Digital Marketing, and trying to cheat the system is an excellent example. You wouldn’t haul people bodily into your store because that’s illegal. You also wouldn’t advertise falsely to trick them into coming inside. The digital equivalent is no different.
Use White Hat SEO
Yes, the black hat SEO company may be effective. They may actually be able to get you the high ranking you want, and get it quickly. But the risk is high, and the reward isn’t. Tricked visitors aren’t likely to linger. You’ll have web traffic, but it won’t be useful, since none of the visitors are actually there for your website. With white hat – legitimate – SEO, you’ll have a good-looking, functional website, which will draw in the relevant visitors who find it.
But What is it?
When customers find what they’re looking for, they tend to be happy. Happy customers will be more likely to continue to use the search engine, so there’s an incentive for it to rank you better. And, of course, happy customers will be more likely to buy your products. The root of white hat SEO, then, is making the customers happy they found your site. To that end, there are several questions you’ll answer.
What Does my Website have to Offer my Audience?
Obviously, you’re running an SEO campaign because you want people to visit your website. But what’s on the website for them to see? If you’re hoping to attract people who want to hear what you have to say about something – SEO, for example – you’ll want to guide them quickly to the parts of the website where they can find your blog. And if they’re there to buy something, they should be able to find it quickly. It’s all about the presentation. In general, though, having a blog is a good idea because it can continuously provide new content, a major factor in SEO.
Does my Website Offer What my Audience is Looking For?
Once you know what you’re offering, you can fine-tune your blog to match your customers. If your site is selling a particular product, that might mean writing about how it’s made. Or, you could write about someone who uses it. You might also write about running the company itself, or about recent industry news. It depends entirely on what your customers want, so you’ll have to experiment and see what works. There are tools that help with this, so you’re not struggling alone.
Track the Campaign
When running a white hat SEO campaign, following the numbers is critical. That’s your indicator for what’s working and what isn’t. Growth will take time. Unlike the black hat campaigns that can make a site skyrocket in the rankings artificially, a white hat SEO campaign encourages natural sustainable growth.
All things considered, using black hat SEO will not work. It provides rankings, but they don’t get you interested visitors. And the penalties – lower rankings or delisting – are harsh and not worth it. White hat SEO, though, is productive, because customers like what they find. That convinces search engines to rank you higher, letting more customers find you and creating a positive feedback loop.
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