Hello, my name is Sam and I am an expert in SEO and web design. I have a diploma in computer graphics and a diploma in SEO, and yes… seo diplomas do exist! See Search Engine College.

I also have several years experience in creating and developing websites that get found. It is one thing to have a great looking website that shows the world who you are and what you offer, but its another thing all together to have that website get seen. Of course you can always pay for advertising to get it noticed but if you want your site to be seen naturally for free you are going to have to understand seo (search engine optimization).

What is SEO?

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SEO stands for search engine optimization and it’s a pretty complicated subject. That is because it has been abused by people who have learned how to manipulate the system and that has led Google to create elaborate and sophisticated measures to combat that manipulation and that is why seo has become an extremely complicated topic and also a controversial one.

Basically, SEO is the methods and practices of getting your webpages found by the search engines, in particular Google. There are many ways this can be accomplished and some are good and some are bad. SEO can be grouped into 2 main camps, white hat and black hat. White hat seo is comprised of methods that are generally accepted by Google and fit into their guidelines. Black hat seo is comprised of methods that don’t fit into their guidelines and best practices. There is also another camp which fits somewhere in between. This is known as grey hat seo.

White Hat SEO

White hat seo is comprised of all the things you can do to make your web pages more likely to appear in the search engines results pages that are generally accepted by Google. This generally means on page factors such as meta data and keyword distribution and variation. There are various factors involved in on page seo that can substantially increase your chances of being found by the search engines. The better the page is optimized the more likely it will appear in the serps. You must be careful not to over optimize a web page also as Google will penalize you for that as well. There is a “just right” amount when it comes to on page factors and these relate to meta data of titles, descriptions, headings, images, videos, keyword positions, densities, variations and latent semantic indexing and various other factors. Getting a web page just right for the search engines requires skill and careful planning. Many other factors are considered for best white hat practices also, such as uniqueness of content, content duplication, grammar and spelling, copyright issues, website speed and loading times, html errors and 404 pages, internal linking, broken links, use of adverts,  linking outwards and general user friendliness and website structure including menus, directories, blogs etc.

Other activities that fit into the white hat camp can be various off page factors that usually mean acquiring back links naturally or organically. That means they are acquired without any manipulation, usually because somebody wants to link to your page for their own purposes of giving their readers more options.

Submitting your website url and descriptions to various search engines and high quality directories are usually seen as white hat also.

Submitting excerpts of your posts and web content to social media sites such as facebook, twitter and linkedin are also normally considered white hat methods of seo too, as long as you do not spam of course.

Leaving your link in comments that are genuinely relevant and helpful to other related websites are also considered white hat as long as you are genuinely answering questions and providing genuine help by suggesting people look at your content. However, this practice has been completely abused by spammers and Google is very strict on what is considered “okay” so be very careful.

This also applies to guest blogging which also has been abused by spammers making this practice dangerous as well. In fact I will add guest blogging to the grey hat practices section below.

Black Hat SEO

The black hats are usually people who openly defy googles guidelines and try anything they can get away with to manipulate the search engines to get their web pages automatically raised in the serps by fooling the algorithm. The practice of black hat seo has become increasingly harder to pull off as Googles web spam team become more and more sophisticated at combating them.

In the old days it was relatively easy to gain the system and get rankings on the first page of google serps by simply using the keyword numerous times in the content of a page and then using various software to get hundreds of backlinks from any old website. People who did these things well enough to exploit Google’s algorithm often made a killing from affiliate marketing and advertising. These days it is much much harder and these kinds of blatant webspam will resut in damaging penalties which are near impossible to recover from.

Black hat seo comprises of many many factors of which I will name some as follows.

Buying links: Paying somebody to link to your content is the number one black hat seo tactic that Google hates and if caught will result in a harsh penalty. Buying links is a massive industry and thousands of people do it for a living because if it works and you do not get caught, it can help your cause dramatically. There are various ways in which you can buy links such as using services that sell links from various third parties, buying a link directly from a related website or paying to be in a group, membership site or web circle that participate in sharing links and linking to each other through all sorts of different schemes and methods. It is a full time job for Google webspam team to track down all these link farms and black hat membership sites.

The second most popular black hat method is using software that is geared towards acquiring links from all sorts of different web properties. This is also deemed as buying links as you normally have to buy the software so in effect you are still paying for links. This kind of black hat seo is increasingly becoming easier for Google to detect and thousands of websites have been penalized because of various software used leaving footprints that the Google bot has been programmed to detect.

To get an idea of what Google considers to be web spam it is best to read their policies and guidelines for yourself.  However, link spam can basically be termed as any link that is acquired that did not happen naturally.

So to some it up, here is a list of all the black hat practices that are likely to result in lowered rankings or a penalty:

  • Buying links.
  • Using blog networks.
  • Excessive reciprocal links.
  • Duplicate content.
  • Overusing H1 tags.
  • Internal 404s.
  • Links from sites in another language.
  • Keyword stuffed content.
  • Footer links.
  • Missing sitemap data.
  • Hidden links.
  • Broken external links.
  • Scraped content.
  • Hidden content.
  • Anchor text overuse.
  • Website timing out or down.
  • Affiliate links all over the place.
  • Site-wide links.
  • Overusing meta keywords.
  • Slow speeds.
  • Spun content.
  • Comment spam.
  • Black hat SEO advice.
  • Hacked content.
  • Speedy link building.
  • Forum linking.
  • Hiding your sponsors.
  • Robots.txt flaws.
  • Links to suspicious sites.
  • One Page landing pages websites.
  • Over-optimization.
  • Advertorials – Too many ads on a page
  • Too many outbound links.
  • Too many or deceptive redirections.
  • Error codes.
  • Duplicate metadata.
  • Targeted keywords such as “pay day loans”
  • Few outbound links.
  • Domain has a bad rep.
  • Content theft.
  • Using a content farm.

Grey Hat SEO

Guest blogging used to be a legitimate and honest white hat method for gaining a good back link but over time the spammers have abused this practice and now Google’s web spam team have jumped all over this method making it a dangerous activity, so when if you do decide to participate in this, make sure your articles are genuinely helpful to the readers of the site you are writing for and that the link you provide is of genuine interest to their readers. And also make sure the site you are writing for is genuine and not “bad company” as Google puts it.

Basically pushing the limits of any white hat practice can make it grey hat. Or looking at it from the other way, any practice that is getting close to black hat could be called grey hat. For example, I mentioned in the above section that too many outbound links could be black hat, well, what is considered too many? Perhaps a little less than many but a little more than few could be considered grey.

Grey hat seo really is a grey area.. bad pun but I’m afraid it’s true.

Googles Web Spam Team

Google has a developed a special branch of internet technicians to specifically deal with web spam (Google web spam team) and anybody who gets caught using any black hat methods is liable to be penalized. Penalties consist of many types but they can basically be put into two camps, manual penalties and algorithm penalties. There has been many updates to the algorithm penalties over the recent few years and the most famous of them are known as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird.

Working out if you have been penalized or not can be a difficult thing to decipher but there are some tell-tail signs. But that would be another article all together. However the first way to tell if you have been penalized is to check your analytics history and note the time that your website tanked and see if it corresponds to any of the known google penalty updates.

Getting a penalty lifted is again, another entire article  but generally speaking, it involves fixing up all your mistakes and deleting any suspicious back links from other web properties. It may be also worth you investigating Googles disavow tool. There are many things to check and try to fix but sometimes it may be best to abandon your site all together and start again, this time be more careful. My advice would be to play it safe and always stick to white hat practices.

Getting Help

There are always professionals who can help with all aspects of website design and development, SEO and penalty recovery. But be careful when hiring SEO people because to be quite honest, most of them either will be out there to deceive you and rip you off or otherwise they simply wont know what they’re doing. You will end up paying out heaps of money and end up with a penalized website. I am not kidding, this is by far the most likely scenario. so be very careful and do your research.

I also have a number of ways in which I can help. See my website design and seo services. The things I can help you with are basic website creation using wordpress and on page white hat SEO. If you would like me to help you with both of these things then contact me using the contact page and we can discuss your options.

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this article helpful. 🙂