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Much like my Charlotte coworkers (shout out Tara and Tyler!), I am obsessed with the show “Scandal” on ABC. Shonda (the executive producer…duh!) knows just how to tug at my heart strings and throw in a plot twist when I’m least expecting it. One thing I love about the show is the quotable lines and zingers.
If you follow the show, you know main character and media spinner Olivia Pope and her “frenemy” and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen. Throughout season 2, these two had an on-going discussion about who was “wearing the white hat.” While this usually came with a one-two punch of character development and shocking plot twists, it also received my nerdy reaction and giggles about the characters using the term, “white hat.”
You see, in our SEO realm, white hat is something that we discuss frequently. And it’s paired with its not so nice sibling, black hat SEO.
What Is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO is the use of ethical tactics to follow rules in place by search engines to earn higher search engines.
If you use white hat SEO strategies, you most likely see search engines as your friend and a way to earn visits to your high quality site and content. By abiding by the Quality Guidelines, white hat SEOs want to earn long lasting results and rankings for their websites. White hat SEO takes hard work and time to produce a quality website with continually valuable content and ideal user experience.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is the use of unethical techniques used to get higher search rankings.
If you use black hat SEO tactics, you most likely think that search engines like Google are not your friend and something you can “play” to win at the search engine results game. Black hat SEO includes breaking the ethical rules of SEO (mostly known by Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines).
It’s used in order to manipulate rankings and trick search engines to gain ranking and visits fast. Penalties and algorithmic updates by Google are in place to ensure websites that use these tactics are not successful.
Google Penalties for Black Hat SEO
Penalties from Google stem from the difference between white hat and black hat SEO tactics of online marketers. Google strives to provide the best search results and value to its users, so a website that tries to trick the search engine’s algorithm (a) likely won’t provide the most value of a result and (b) truly pisses Google off. Because of that, Google made major updates in the past few years to its search algorithm and started rolling out heavy penalties to websites that were using black hat SEO techniques.
Google Panda Update
In February of 2011, Google made a major update to their algorithm dubbed “Panda” by some.
According to Google, the update impacted roughly 12 percent of the organic search results, and the goal was to reduce webspam, especially low-quality sites and content. Most of the sites negatively impacted by the updated appeared to be “content farms” – sites creating page after page of relatively low-quality or spun content.
Google Penguin Update
In April 2012, Google made a major update to their organic search ranking algorithm dubbed “Penguin.” The target of Google’s Penguin update is webspam. The likely targets of the update are sites participating in keyword stuffing, manipulative and paid link schemes, and various other types of over-optimization.
Google Manual Penalties
In addition to algorithmic penalties (which automatically trigger as Google’s spiders are crawling your sites), there are also manual penalties. In these cases, Google will message your Google Webmaster Tools account signaling the penalty and explaining what exactly caused it. Manual penalties are sometimes easier because you know when and why Google began disapproving of your online strategy, but you will also have to prove to Google that you’ve fixed your black hat ways and are putting a good faith effort into white hat SEO now.
Black Hat SEO Tactics
In comparison to the white hat SEO tactics (including quality content, structured and semantic mark up, titles and meta data, keyword research and well-optimized use—different from over-optimized used, and high-quality inbound links), black hat SEO strategy can include:
- Directory links as a link building strategy
- Guest blogging that provides little relevancy or value to readers
- Infographics that provide little value
- Non-branded links in press releases
- Exact match domains without valuable content
- Overuse of affiliate links
- Link wheels/networks
- Paid link building
- Keyword stuffing
- Scraped, spun, and duplicate content
- Footer links
- Over optimization
- Comment and forum spam
Has your website partaken in any black hat SEO tactics in the past in attempt to gain rankings fast? Chances are you have (or will) receive a manual or algorithmic penalty from the search engine—Google doesn’t like it when you try to trick them.
Google Penalty Recovery Services
If you have been penalized, you will find it hard to locate your website anywhere within search results (sometimes it won’t even show up when you search your branded name!). Luckily, our SEO experts at Blue Corona can help your recover from penalties and search engine updates (like Penguin and Panda). Each penalty is unique, so contact us and tell us more about your situation and we can help get you back to wearing that white hat. After we talk with you, we’ll do a thorough audit and take a look at your:
- Website’s code & structure
- On-page content
- Inbound links
- Off-site citations
- And more
We can then identify areas for improvement and create a plan of action for getting your penalty lifted and help recover your lost rankings, leads, and sales.
About The Author: Hannah is the SEO Team Lead at Blue Corona. If she's not busy daydreaming about the training session for her team, you can find her improving client conversion rates and planning her next trip.
View more blogs by Hannah Nelson