Search Engine Optimisation techniques divide into two types: Black Hat and White Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO techniques try to trick search engines into thinking that a website is relevant for a particular search term by manipulating weakness in the search engine’s algorithm. One example of an old black hat technique is using white text on a white background to increase a particular term’s occurrence. Black Hat techniques depend on reverse-engineering the search engine algorithm and are therefore sensitive to algorithm changes and short term.
White Hat SEO techniques aim to build long term traffic to a website through quality content and relevant links from other highly ranked sites. The aim is to create a site optimised for search engines and provides a pleasant experience for users.
Whilst all of Search Engine Optimisation is an attempt at reverse engineering, White Hat SEO is not about ‘chasing the algorithm’ but building the prominence of a website whilst staying with the search engines guidelines set by Google and the other major search engines.
Whilst there is no denying that black hat techniques can generate traffic in the short term, they are hypersensitive to changes in the search algorithm. Furthermore, using techniques not approved by Google puts websites at tremendous risk of being penalised or de-indexed (removed from search results). This can be disastrous if your business depends on natural search traffic for a sizable proportion of your sales.
White hat techniques play by the rules to create a site that will receive traffic over a long period, building an asset for its owners. Google has published a list of excellent guidelines for optimising websites, and if you do what they say, you cannot go wrong! Their recommendations include:
- Make pages firstly for users, not for search engines.
- Do not deceive your users.
- Avoid tactics intended to boost search engine rankings. A helpful test is to ask, does this help my users? Would I still do this if search engines did not exist?
- Consider what makes your website special. Make your website distinct from others in your field.