In February 2006 Google removed the website of BMW Germany from its search results as a penalty for using deceptive search engine optimization techniques, however BMW apologized, cleaned up the mess and was shortly restored by Google. Unfortunately, the big boys like Google would probably ignore the request and apologies from most of us, the mortal online marketers and SEO experts so we have to play it right from the get-go.
Let me start from the beginning; what is that thing we call “Black Hat SEO”?
Black Hat Search Engine Optimization is a technique used to gain higher search rankings in an unethical manner. Search engines create algorithms which help the users find relevant high quality content. However, these algorithms are so complex and involve so many factors that simply cannot apply to every single website. Some folks figure out bits and pieces of these algorithms and use it to their advantage to trick Google. In the past years I have seen Keyword Stuffing (simply stuffing your website with your targeted keyword), use of Invisible Text (invisible to people, very visible to search engines), Link Pyramids (purchasing on creating tons of low quality links pointing to your site) and many other techniques. I can’t even count all the automated programs and services who made tremendous amounts of cash by helping marketers build these low quality links and use other black hat SEO techniques.
I am ashamed to admit I have used some of these techniques in the past.
When I was just learning the game of Internet Marketing and SEO back in 2007, I didn’t really know such terms as Black and White Hat. In fact I didn’t really care much about any of it… my main goal was to create a site (hub, lens, blog) that would make money and I succeeded quite often. I would buy links from shady websites and my rankings would jump up, it actually worked! … but the reality hit me when Google caught up with these “exploits” and punished whole bunch of web sites all over the internet. Search engines never stop improving their algorithms; just look at Google’s Panda and Penguin updates when thousands of web masters lost rankings and in many cases got their websites completely blocked by Google.
It took me a few years to understand that unethical SEO practices are simply a waste of time… and Internet space. Sooner or later Google catches us to bad practices and punishes the guilty; for some people this means losing a few bucks, for other it means losing all of their income. When I think of the time when I first started doing IM – I always imagined how I would be doing it for the rest of my life. As we all know, you can’t build a solid relationship with another person based on lies – you also can’t build a solid relationship with search engines based on bad, unethical SEO practices.
All my new sites (and my clients’ sites) are now being build without any sketchy techniques. Just proper Search Engine Optimization, good quality content (of course original content) and targeted towards the reader and not the search engines. When I am searching for information online, I truly dislike finding websites that offer no content and simply rank high because Google made a mistake (or didn’t have the time to make that web site disappear), I would like the users and readers to find my sites not because I got some crazy link pyramid figured out but because my content is relevant to the user’s search query. I am in for the long haul.
Let’s make the Internet a Better Place – Go, White Hat!