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From Black hat to White hat SEO

If there’s one thing in the online world that bothers me to no end, it is blackhat search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. It validates my parents’ argument that the internet is useless by filling websites with useless content, with useless comments, and abusing search engines like Google and Bing into thinking these useless websites are actually popular and useful. It ruins the end-user experience of everyone on the internet only to capitalize and monetize traffic dishonestly. It’s lazy!

For those of you unfamiliar with blackhat SEO, it is essentially the practice of over-producing content and links to your site for the sole purpose of increase traffic and search engine results pages (SERPs). Often this is done through spamming low-quality articles on link-building article directories (also called portals, publishers, etc.), article spinning (just like spamming but rearranging words in the articles through software), key word stuffing (stuffing your content full of mostly keywords you want to pick up in search results to the point that the article is unreadable to a sane person), and a variety of other techniques.

If you have ever utilized any of these blackhat techniques, you don’t have to feel bad about yourself for the rest of your life. Everyone has their moments of weakness and try to cut corners. The problem is that eventually these thin, superficial methods of online marketing will be ousted by search engines that get smarter at finding and punishing link and content spammers. However, the good news is that you can always change from your blackhat methods and build your site’s popularity and reputation through honest means that will last for years.

Making the Switch

Many blackhat SEO techniques have similarities to certain whitehat SEO techniques. In many cases actually, blackhat techniques originated from whitehat ideas; they were just taken to huge extremes, often cutting corners to achieve a whitehat SEO strategy more quickly. There are also some creative blackhat ideas that could be refined into whitehat ideas. A good SEO specialist should familiarize oneself with both tactics and decide which to use based on the strength and longevity of each tactic. In my opinion, whitehat strategies always when the longevity contest because eventually Google throws the hammer down on busting blackhat techniques. And without longevity, what is strength?

Create Interesting Content, Rather Than Mass Content

Mass article submission is probably one of the most common blackhat techniques used. People will try to publish the same article (usually of terrible quality) to a variety of link directories for those juicy backlinks back to their sites. Some will use “spinning” software to rearrange certain words of an article with synonyms so that their spam will be harder to identify by Google.

A much more robust course of action is to simply write higher quality articles to higher quality websites (mostly blogs) in what is commonly known today as guest posting. This is actually what I am doing now. This will not only give you a dofollow link (as most blogs allow a dofollow link back to your blog in exchange for the post), it will give you a targeted readership that can then click that link back to your blog. The higher quality your guests posts are, the more people will actually check out your blog. Also, if it’s a higher quality blog, it will likely have a smart, active audience that would be more inclined to follow your blog.

Comment Spamming

This is another type of spamming technique used by blackhats. Rather than guest posting on other sites and blogs, blackhats will comment on these sites and blogs for the sole purpose of posting a backlink back to their site. The comments usually offer no valuable information other than “Great post! I like your points! Good read!” The problem with this blackhat technique is that many blog comment sections don’t even allow dofollow links, so the link actually doesn’t help your SERPs. Blogs that allow dofollow links in their comment sections usually moderate their comments heavily.

So the whitehat equivalent is to leave smart, engaging comments that add to the discussion. When left on dofollow blogs, these comments will stick around and the link will help out your site’s SERPs. Even if the site you’re commenting on doesn’t allow dofollow links, a good comment establishes a positive relationship with the site’s owner and audience. The site-owner may check out your site based on your comment and decide to link to you in future posts or put you in their blogroll, and other readers may check out your site and subscribe.

Keyword Stuffing

As I mentioned earlier, keyword stuffing is fills your content mostly with keywords you want to pick up in search results to the point that the article is unreadable to a sane person. The idea is to abuse the words people might use to search for your page by repeating them senselessly.

The obvious whitehat technique to this is to moderate keyword usage. Reduce your keyword density though that your content reads naturally (and so that your content is actually fun or easy to read). You want to produce content that people will want to read so they will come back for more. Spamming keywords may bring some traffic in from searches, but that traffic will never come back.

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