Each and every search engine will have a strict but clear set of Webmaster Guidelines that must be followed. By following these rules, will not only benefit users but also webmasters by ensuring that the results pages are accurate. This means there are no ‘black hat’ techniques being used to trick the search engine in any way. If you are unsure of the many different techniques used then let’s have a look over the basics.
The first place to begin with is knowledge. Google alone are known to make over 350+ changes each year to their algorithm. This means that webmasters must be reading into what these changes mean and if there are any actions that require instance action. It’s also worth remembering that for each update those who are sticking 100% to white hat techniques and optimising within the guidelines have nothing to worry about and will only benefit from each and every update.
So what are these ‘black hat’ techniques that you keep on hearing about?, here’s a list of the most prevalent violations that can result in search engine penalties:
Keyword stuffing is one of the oldest tricks available. It involved using the targeted keyphrase extensively within web copy and meta descriptions. Fortunately search engines caught on early and began penalising sites that used this technique, as well as reducing importance over meta data.
Today all web copy must be written for human eyes first with a few recommendations that could help with search engine optimisation (SEO). For example ensuring that important keywords are used early in any copy on-page. Also, including supporting keyphrases and synonyms can help search engines the true intent of each web page and it’s value. Without making each page unreadable and spammy, but in fact optimising web copy to benefit both users and readers.
Hiding text could also result in a penalty. Similar to keyword stuffing many webmasters could hide text that consists of keywords that they are trying to rank within the search engine results pages. Search engines take this seriously, because this in effect is creating content just for search engines, oppose to creating content for users. Therefore avoid at all costs using text that shares the same colour as the background, this includes any kind of CSS formatting to hide text.
Backlinks are mainly used by search engines to determine a websites reputation. Therefore backlinks play a large role in a websites ranking within the search engine results pages – so it’s easy to understand why some companies will buy and sell links that pass PageRank to try and buy there way to the top, instead of working hard and gaining a natural linking profile.
There have been many algorithm updates that have been fighting this technique and penalising those who have taken part. Here is what Google state within their Webmaster guidelines on the matter of paid links: “Google says in their Webmaster Guidelines that “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.”
If any of the above techniques are encountered most search engines will have access to a webpage to report spam or unethical techniques being used. Other techniques that may be worth researching that are common are:
- Hidden Links
- Link Farms
The search engine marketing industry has been plagued by many rogue companies that use these techniques and have given the industry a bad name, therefore by operating as ethical as possible will no doubt get the industry back on it’s feet. Along with the many other services such as paid search, conversion rate optimisation, all of which allow many companies to achieve a fantastic return on their investment as well as improve their visibility within the search engine results pages.