Don’t Tip Your Black Hat to SEO The black top hat is synonymous with magic: a mysterious, cloaked magician pulls a rabbit out of his hat to enthrall audiences of young and old. (French magician Louis Comte was the first person to use a top hat to produce a white rabbit back in 1814.) Frosty the Snowman comes to life when a magic black hat is placed on his head. There is even an account of the first top hat worn in 1797. According to Victoriana Magazine, “when the first top hat was worn by the haberdasher John Hetherington, it caused a near riot. A newspaper account stated, ‘passersby panicked at the sight. Several women fainted, children screamed, dogs yelped, and an errand boy’s arm was broken when he was trampled by the mob.’ Hetherington was taken to court for wearing ‘a tall structure having a shining luster calculated to frighten timid people.’” As time went on, all types of black hats began to symbolize the bad guys – like the Penguin in Batman movies, the Man in Black in Westworld and countless villains in westerns. Today black hats are just as intimidating and dark – at least when it comes to SEO tactics. What is SEO? Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important technique to master so your website will be identified by search engines such as Google and showcased on those search engine results. In order for search engines to find your site among the millions of sites online, they use algorithms to scan your site for things like specific content that is continually updated, page titles in the source code, quality links between websites and quality link titles. Those algorithms are always changing in order to supply internet users with the most accurate and helpful information possible. What is Black Hat SEO? Black hat SEO is a tactic used to improve your website’s search results. While this sounds good on the surface, it actually involves practices like: Keyword stuffing: adding an unnatural amount or string of words that describe your page, your location, your business specialty, your phone number, etc. Often this practice makes the page difficult to read because the content becomes nonsensical. For example, if a website is selling socks, including content like this on your page would be considered keyword stuffing: Silly Sock Company has thousands of socks in Colorado to accentuate every outfit. From socks with giraffes to socks with balloons to socks with Einstein on them, we hand-make the very best quality socks in the world. Our socks are made from the best materials by sock sewing experts. People say wearing our Colorado socks make them feel silly but also powerful. If you want to take your fashion up a notch, buy Colorado socks from Silly Sock Company in Colorado today and become the sock king or sock queen in your circle of friends. Fake keywords: websites can embed invisible keywords to trick search engines into serving up their websites for certain keywords – even when the website contains no valuable information about that topic. This also tricks the end user and is frowned upon by search engines. Cloaking and structured data: think of this like the cloak of invisibility from the Harry Potter When you cloak information on your website, this means you are hiding your true content from search engines while showing search engines different content that can rank your site higher. Essentially, you are telling the search engines what they want to hear. You will also be tricking website visitors into visiting your site when you don’t really have the information they are looking to find. Structured data that contains inaccurate information can also be used to fool internet users into going to your page. Stealing/duplicating content: copywriters put a lot of time and effort into creating quality content for websites. If your website decides to take the easy way out with content and piggyback on the efforts of a competitor’s website, this is also considered a Black Hat SEO tactic. Paid links: while quality external links in your content can help boost your SEO, if your website pays another website to have their links on your site, both parties will be penalized. This also includes link farms and blog networks that offer a large number of low-quality content links back to your website in order to boost SEO. URL redirects: when internet users click on a specific URL found in search engines, they expect to be delivered to that page. Sneaky URL redirects can take users to an irrelevant page just to boost SEO. Why is Black Hat SEO So Bad? Sneaky marketers use Black Hat SEO tactics to move up the page ranking in search engine results. This sounds good on the surface, but it will ultimately backfire. It’s unethical. It’s trickery. Even if your website gets away with these tactics for a while, your site will eventually be penalized. Once your site is penalized, it could take a very long time to get back in good standing with search engines. The longer it takes your website to get back on top, the longer your business will suffer. Tip a White Hat to SEO Instead The marketing experts at Fast Track Marketing never recommend or use Black Hat SEO tactics to boost our clients’ SEO rankings. Instead, we focus on what we do best: creating quality content, using just the right amounts of keywords, improving our clients’ online reputations and incorporating quality links in our clients’ websites in order to boost SEO organically and respectfully. To learn more about our services, contact Fast Track Marketing’s Director of Business Development, Brandi Musgrave, at (303) 731-2634 or email@example.com today. Or, if your website has used questionable SEO tactics in the past, we can help your site get into good search engine standing once again.