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Digital Advantage: Avoid 'black hat tactics' to increase site rank

By By Jason Holmes
Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.


If you own or run a business in today's world, you know it's crucial to have a professional web presence. Of course, this includes a quality, highly trafficked website.

For this reason, most business owners are intent on making sure their site ranks well for relevant search engine queries.

In Internet marketing, website creators use various search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to accomplish this goal. However, there are some businesses that use what those in the industry call black hat tactics to get their website noticed.

Basically, black hat SEO uses unscrupulous methods to increase a site's rank on search engines such as Google through aggressive techniques in violation of certain codes of conduct.

In fact, Google's quality guidelines state, "don't deceive your users," which these techniques generally do. These tactics are not designed to help a human audience find what they are looking for. Rather, they're designed to fool a search engine.

There are several different methods to black hat SEO. Some examples of these include page stuffing, keyword stuffing and doorway pages.

Page stuffing involves creating a page that becomes one of the top search results and then duplicating that page several times with the hope that the duplicates will appear high as well.

The problem with this method is that most search engines can recognize duplicated pages.

Keyword stuffing is used to skew search engine results by overusing keywords or phrases on a page. They do this because the search engines can perceive these pages to be more relevant because of the sheer volume of a particular keyword. This tactic can be very effective in getting a page to the top of the search results but in the long run will only hurt a site's ranking.

According to Google, this will result in a negative experience for the user because the content doesn't represent their actual search query.

Doorway pages are pages designed specifically to rank high on search engines. Also known as jump pages, entry pages or bridge pages, these are poorly designed and created solely to catch the attention of the search engines using keywords and phrases. The fake page will then direct you to the real one that the black hat practitioner intends you to view. By creating these, they are able to funnel several different users searching for different things to their intended Web page. However, this practice tends to frustrate users.

So why do these techniques matter to you, the business owner? Since black hat techniques can be effective in the short term, you have to be careful not to contract with a firm that uses these or other methods that violate Google's guidelines. Doing so will eventually land your site in what's called the supplemental index, essentially banning your pages from search results. By the time this happens, your consultant has already moved on to their next victim, and they are no longer concerned with you because they have already been paid.

Jason Holmes is the general manager of Advocate Digital Media, a sister company to The Victoria Advocate that focuses on digital marketing. He welcomes questions and column ideas at jtholmes@advocatedigital.com.

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