Why you should keep your SEO tactics clean
Search Engine Optimisation is all about getting your website to the top of the pile and beating your competitors at any cost, right? Not necessarily. We were recently asked by one of our clients to carry out Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) on their website so that they would be found at the top of the list in key search engines like Google and MSN. This is something we’re good at and we know a lot about so we confidently told our client all about the sort of strategies we would be implementing, mainly focussing on ensuring that there was plenty of keyword-rich textual content on the page. Now by keyword-rich, I don’t mean just writing big lists of keywords like: “… search engine optimisation, SEO, search engine optimization, search engine friendly, search promotion …” or whatever, I mean writing informative and useful content for your website visitors and ensuring that it has plenty of relevant keywords in it in a way that does not make the site difficult to read.
We duly warned our client that we would not use any “black hat” tactics (this involves doing anything which goes against the Google webmaster guidelines or appears in any way sneaky), since the penalties for getting caught breaking the rules can be severe. We also pointed out that you really can’t fool Google much these days and if you do somehow trick your way to the top, your success will be very short-lived. It’s only a matter of time before you’re found out.
So we were somewhat puzzled when our client showed us a competitor’s website that was blatantly using black hat methods and yet was doing very well in the search engine results with Google. The site in question was a landscaping company that had stuffed well over a thousand keywords into its page titles, and a similar number in the meta tags (special keyword and description code that some search engines read).
The official line is that page titles should be no more than around 120 characters long and that anything past that tends to be ignored. Well this site weighed in at over 10,000 characters and was filled with pretty much every town name in the UK. If that’s not spamming, I don’t know what is!
So now I had to explain to my client why we shouldn’t be doing the same thing for his website and getting one up on his competitor. There’s a very simple answer to this and that is that they may not have been caught yet, but they will get caught, and when they do, they’ll be removed entirely from Google and maybe the other search engines too, their website designers will have their website removed from Google (they used the same trick on their own website) and the web designers’ other clients might get removed as well.
Given that most people rely on search engine traffic for business on their website, it could easily destroy a company if they were blacklisted on Google, especially since it can take months or even years to get the blacklist removed once you’ve de-spammed your website.
To quote someone else’s explanation of the difference between black hat and white hat SEO, it is like driving to the bank with your black hat on and then robbing the joint and driving off. Sure you got the money but the police are on your tail and sooner or later you’re going to get caught and then you’re out of the picture for a long time. And meanwhile the good guy wearing his white hat wanders down to the ATM, gets some cash out completely legally and walks off whistling a merry tune. And tomorrow he’ll back for more.