SEO changes at a fairly rapid pace and the challenge for most businesses is to keep up with the latest developments in order to ensure a steady stream of traffic to a website. In order to make this task easier and to help increase competitiveness, SEO tactics that offer businesses the chance to get ahead of the competition have become fairly common. In general, these tactics are essentially taking the principles that underpin search engine algorithms and trying to use them to produce better ranking results. Some are more effective than others and some more acceptable. The pool is now so wide that there has been a division between ‘black hat’ (bad) SEO tactics and ‘white hat’ (good) SEO tactics.
Not all black hat SEO tactics start out that way, but once a tactic is disapproved of by a search engine there can be penalties for using it. The reason for this is usually that this kind of SEO tactic involves some measure of deception. Some common black hat techniques include keyword stuffing (where context is nonsensical keyword filled text), doorway pages (fake pages that trick search engine spiders into indexing a site higher) and invisible text (white text keywords on a white background to attract search engine spiders). It’s clear that black hat techniques are much faster in terms of yielding results and white hat techniques take a lot longer, however, it can be a short sighted step to opt for the black hat as this may result in a website being banned from the SERPs altogether. If you’re planning on having a business that survives long term then the more patient, white hat technique is by far the more preferable.
So, clearly, those SEO tactics that fall into the ‘black hat’ category have a very definite shelf life – one that lasts as long as they are tolerated by search engines (perhaps guest blogging is the most recent example of this). But how do you improve search engine rankings without falling foul of the rules? The answer is the white hat SEO techniques, those that essentially focus on delivering something genuine and useful, rather than trying to game the algorithms. Well structured, properly written content that is relevant and readable is the most powerful white hat SEO tactic of the moment. Building relevant inbound links (not using link farms) and cross-linking pages internally on a website also fall into this category.
*Update – Matt Cutts talks about some expired SEO tactics here. Very apt considering the timing of this blog post.