Light Bulb Web Design Blog
What is Black Hat SEO, and is my web designer using it?
What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Search engine optimisation (often called SEO) is a frequently mentioned phrase when talking about website design. In simple terms, SEO is making sure that your website is structured and written in a way that helps the search engines categorise your web pages to then return them to people searching for related content online.
Google's own Webmaster Guidelines offer a straight forward message - design your website for visitors, not for search engines. If your website pages are full of relevant and engaging content, and are well structured with use of good navigation, then this is the best way to improve how well your website performs in search results.
There is a never-ending move in recent years to find methods that trick search engines into ranking your website higher up the search results, however on the other side of the coin, the search engines are also getting more intelligent and each new update from Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. sees more websites drop off the search results due to use of such tricks. These tricks are often referred to as 'Black Hat SEO'.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO covers a wide range of methods that some web designers and search engine optimisation companies use to try and trick the search engines into ranking their websites better in search results. These tricks include, but are not limited to:
- Use of hidden text that only search engines will see through looing at the website code
- Use of very small text, containing key words and phrases, placed at the bottom of web pages
- Creating a menu on the website that as above, is so small and suitably coloured that only search engines will see it
- Writing web page content specifically for search engines, stuffing as many key words and phrases into the paragraphs as possible, usually resulting in a page that is not easy or pleasant to read by real visitors
- Creating hidden pages on the website which can only be found by search engines
- Making repeated pages containing the same basic information but perhaps changing one word such as a 'location' where services are offered (repeated content is seen as a negative by most search engines)
- Listing your website on as many other websites and online directories as possible
- Using keywords which are not related to your website content and purpose, but are very popular in general
- Re-direct pages which contain lots of key word and phrases, but automatically move you to the main website if you visit them
- Hiding key words and phrases in the code of the website such as description tags which should be used by the designer to help them document the website code
Why should I question my web designer if they are using these techniques?
All the major search engines are getting better and better at spotting when these techniques are used. Whilst initially they may see your website jump up the search results, it is highly likely that in the longer term your website could disappear from the results altogether! As the search engines continue to improve and address such poor techniques, the more chance of your website being affected.
With so many positive 'White Hat SEO' techniques that can be used, there really is no reason that any website designer or SEO 'professional' should be using any of the above techniques when creating or performing SEO on your website.
When looking for a website designer for your business, check out their previous work and see if you can spot any of these techniques - if you can, question whether this person or company is one you wish to deal with, it really could have a negative impact on how well your website performs online, and is not worth the risk!
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