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When White Hat SEO becomes Black Hat

White Hat SEO refers to search engine optimisation that utilises honest and approved methods of obtaining higher search rankings. Black Hat SEO is the opposite – dishonest and unscrupulous methods of achieving a higher rank.

Search engine friendly HTML markup

Lots of people tell me the rules have changed; there’s been a Penguin Update or what was once considered White Hat SEO is now Black Hat SEO. Terminology is somewhat irrelevant – if you’ve been penalised in the search results it’s because you convinced yourself that “it’s OK to do A, B and C because Google allows it.” Often it’s more of a case that Google didn’t know or wasn’t smart enough at the time to understand exactly what you were doing wrong.

Search engine guidelines are very much like insurance policies. All of the clauses in an insurance policy weren’t established overnight; each one was created when someone filed a claim that the insurance company hadn’t anticipated.

The guidelines that Google publishes encourage good practise and discourage bad practise. When you create a website it’s fairly obvious what could be construed as bad practise – however people often claim that certain things which seem like bad practise aren’t penalised by Google and therefore must be acceptable. Exploiting loopholes in search engine technology isn’t optimisation and isn’t White Hat, it just means that you can get away with them today but possibly not tomorrow.

There should be no surprise when a Google update sees your site plummet in the search results if you’ve been up to no good. It doesn’t really mean the guidelines have changed, it just means Google got smarter and is better equipped to understand how your site along with the rest of the world is working.

Real search engine optimisation is about:

  • Creating a website that people find useful

  • Creating a website that people want to visit regularly

  • Creating a website that people want to share and link to

  • Creating a great user experience

  • Building a trusted brand

Search engine optimisation isn’t about:

  • Keyword stuffing and tweaking

  • Artificial link building

  • Creating fake reviews

  • Creating invisible text and doorway pages

As the saying goes, “You reap what you sow.”