SEO has garnered a reputation outside of the industry as being somewhat responsible for web spam. A quick search online will throw up all manner of forums and blogs slating the practice of search engine optimisation.
I myself work in the industry and even I sympathise with the views of the anti-SEO contingency. But what is often overlooked by those attacking such practices is the fact that there are two types of SEO-ers. There are spammers and there are loyal White Hatters (well, three perhaps… let’s not forget the ‘inbetweeners’). So here, I’ll attempt to profile the habits and behaviours of each of these species and yes, champion the cause of the white hat methods!
Habitat: Often found around forums, link farm sites and link brokering areas.
Feeding Habits: Scavenger. Will feed on rewrites of content that someone else did first and will rewrite it, paraphrase and juggle it about over and over and over….
Social Behaviours: A solitary type, alienates many.
The spammers are those trying to manipulate the search engines into showing their sites at the top of the pile. They do this through paid links, mass distribution of rewritten, unoriginal content and by spamming blogs and forums with meaningless comments and links. They stuff homepages stuffed full of keywords to a point that the content stops making any sense and stops having any real value.
Habitat: Often found participating in genuine blog networks, taking part in discussions (with meaningful contributions).
Feeding Habits: Predator. Will identify new and original opportunities and strike upon them.
Social Behaviours: A networker, giving and taking and becoming an active part of a community.
The White Hat SEO-ers are those trying to give the search engines exactly what they want! They want to show the most relevant and high quality content for the searches made by their users. As such, White Hat SEO starts on-page and by creating original, quality content that people will actually want to read. White HAT SEO will involve link building through natural means, such as taking part in discussion with valuable points and by contributing unique, well-written material to other people’s blogs. Good content will accrue links naturally if you’re taking advantage of the social networking functions available.
So Who Wins?
No matter how much I complain about spam SEO practices, there’s no denying that, infuriatingly, some of them work – albeit often temporarily. By ‘work,’ I mean that they increase rankings and pad links will often take effect more quickly than many white hat methods.
However, it’s really not sustainable. A ‘Payday loans’ link on a blog about weight loss products doesn’t look natural and if you have a large number of those going live in a short space of time, your site is at risk of raising eyebrows back at Google HQ. It wouldn’t take a genius to see that sort of link profile is incredibly unnatural and thus, a site ranking through spam-infested means is at risk of Google penalty if it comes under manual review.
Natural link building is far more sustainable. You could argue that it takes a little longer to get there, but natural links won’t be eating up your budget on a recurring monthly basis. Nor will they see you plummet into penalty-obscurity if you’re manually reviewed. Links placed on people’s sites for their editorial value (rather than a quick payment) offer value for the readers and the webmasters alike.
It seems really unfair to see people using paid methods actually ranking up there. I know… But Matt Cutts of Google’s web spam team continues to reiterate that paid link detection tools are getting better and better all the time. So eventually, if we keep the faith in the web spam team, we should be assured that natural link building will be king!
Now here’s an area where the white hatters win hands down! SEO isn’t all about rankings. After all, what’s the point in ranking for a keyword with no, or with low quality, search volume? None! When it comes to getting traffic that will convert into a sale, the white hat original content creation methods have the upper hand.
I know if I personally am unfortunate enough to end up on a spam site, I take one look at the keyword stuffed content and click away again, before virtually disinfecting myself through a visit to a decent site!
Consumers are savvy. If something looks spammy, it loses its trust element. If it loses its trust, it loses potential leads/sales.
So to sum up… I’m a White Hat fan. That’s not to say certain paid methods don’t work, of course. But I prefer a White Hat focus on campaigns. In fact, since the Mayday Update and Caffeine Indexing changes, I’m finding that campaigns with a core White Hat focus are enjoying more success than ever before….