The Ethics of SEO

Search Engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! each produce results based on their unique algorithm, or set of parameters that the search engine generates results from.   Search engines reward website creators for formulating content that is useful, unique, and is written for people. In the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), focusing on these tactics is called “white hat” SEO.

Black mask SEO - black hatOn the other hand, there is also “black hat” SEO or manipulative, sneaky techniques used by some search engine optimization specialists to get their website to rank higher in search engine results. “Black hat” SEO techniques include things like stuffing webpage content with keywords so that it creates a poor user experience, including white keywords on a white background so as to hide the keywords for SEO use only, and making fake pages that are solely for search engine spiders.  These “black hat” techniques can get a website ranked higher, but these methods are not advised in SEO circles because a website can be black listed by search engines and permanently damaged in search engine results.  If you are looking to hire a SEO specialist, steer clear of those agencies that engage in techniques that don’t add any value for your website’s users or for search engines.

But what about those SEO approaches that fall into middle ground between “white hat” practices and “black hat” practices?  Let’s call these strategies “gray hat”.  These SEO methods might not necessarily be immoral and sneaky like some “black hat” practices, but “gray hat” SEO is definitely still questionable.  These are SEO practices like:

– Buying an expired domain and redirecting all of that sites incoming links to your website
– Article spinning where someone else’s article is changed just slightly and claimed as someone else’s article

“Gray hat” SEO techniques are methods that are questionable and may only slightly help in the grand scheme of your SEO plan.  In future years, these practices might even hurt or penalize your website due to constant algorithm changes from search engine leaders like Google. Because of search engine’s vested interest in only displaying the highest-quality, most valuable content to their searchers, it’s only a matter of time before grey-hat practices are discounted by Google’s algorithm.

The beauty of SEO is the fact that quality techniques will only become more valuable overtime, often having a snowball effect and compounding in value. To take advantage of this, you should choose an online marketing specialist that uses only “white hat” SEO techniques which will stand the test of time. Some good examples of SEO best practices include:

Quality, original content – Make sure that you are creating well-written content that solely belongs to the author and has never been published any where else on the Internet.
Building online communities – Always look for ways to engage your customers through social media, forums, etc.  Build these relationships gradually and over time to get the most benefit.
Link building – Find those customers, suppliers, and friends that truly believe in your products and business.  Ask these people to put a link from their website to your website. 

In general, “white hat” SEO techniques take a lot of time and effort, but will ultimately give your website the best return on your SEO investment and stand the test the time through every search engine algorithm change.

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Eric Wagner

Eric is a CEO with a background in marketing and search engine optimization specialist (SEO). In his free time, Eric enjoys exercise, gardening, technology, a good book, and spending time with family and friends.

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