Search Engine Optimization, SEO for short, matters. Everybody knows this nowadays. If you’re anything that has anything remotely to do with maintaining a website, you will undoubtedly have heard about SEO, know about SEO, maybe even researched it, and you will definitely have received spam from sketchy companies promising to take you to first place on Google in just a few weeks.
Yes, SEO is important. It’s how many visitors find your website. SEO is definitely not dead, far from it, although some Social Media gurus (advertisers) like to claim that SEO is dead and social media is the new black. The new way to be found. The new and best way to get traffic to your website. Friend recommendations, social proof, highly targeted ads and so on. Sure, social media matters too, but SEO is not dead. SEO has evolved and will continue to in the future.
But did you know that there are both “White hat SEO” and “Black hat SEO”? With “white” obviously being the good guys, just like the white cowboy in the movies versus the dressed-in-black cowboy.
So let’s get up in the helicopter and take a brief glance down on how SEO has evolved and which are black hat methods and which are white hat methods.
Keyword Stuffing – a Black Hat technique
Back in the good ol’ days, all you had to do was stuff your “meta” tags with keywords, then the search engine robots assumed your page was about the keywords you had written in the meta tag. They didn’t stop to think twice about why a used car dealership would have meta keywords such as:
healthcare, computer hardware, financial services, toyota, pamela anderson, etc. etc. etc.
Basically, a bunch of keywords that covers a wide area of content, that is not even on the page, but simply to get people to visit your page because your page appears in the search results. It didn’t take long for search engines back then to learn how webmasters started abusing the system, so now the search engines started looking at the actual page content instead, ie. what was actually written on the page.
So we went from “meta keyword stuffing” to now “content keyword stuffing”. In this time, it wasn’t unusual to read articles where every other sentence somehow contained a keyword that you wanted to rank high on, in the SERP’s (Search Engine Result Pages).
We sell quality Toyota Corolla’s. Our Toyota Corolla’s are cheap and well-maintained. If you are looking for a brand new Toyota Corolla, we have those as well. Come try your new Toyota Corolla today!
A text clearly written for search engines, not human readers. Google, and other search engines, figured this one out too, obviously. Google even published guidelines instructing webmasters and content writers to build their websites and write content for humans, not for search engine robots.
The White Hat version?
The opposite method, which is not frowned upon by Google even to this day, is obviosly not to keyword stuff, but keyword optimization. You carefully select, often by reserach, which keywords are most beneficial to your page and make sure you include them in your page in as naturally as possible, so it’s also a joy for the readers to read.
So with meta keyword stuff and content keyword stuffing out of the question, what came next?
Link building – both White and Black hat technique
Having links to your site is usually a good thing. In recent times, having too many links and from bad sites, can cause you harm also, this was a way to combat link building. Again, back in the days, people would go around “if you link to me, I’ll link to you, then we both benefit in the search engines”. Websites that only focused on having link indexes also became popular, so called link farms. They got shut down too by the search engines, by simply giving links from such sites very low value in terms of ranking, almost effectively killing such sites. This is external link building, also known as off-site SEO.
Besides external links, internal link building also became popular. One of the sketchier methods was having a ton of links in your footer, with either very small font, or silver font on white background, making it impossible for humans to see but easy for machines, that would link to certain pages on your site. Kinda like a sitemap, but with a different aim… Your footer could look like this, very small example, they were usually much bigger (and imagine all the words have links on them, to various pages on your site):
Toyota Corolla, Toyota, Corolla, used Toyota, used Corolla, used Toyota Corolla, cheap Toyota, cheap Corolla, cheap Toyota Corolla, etc.
With this method, you link to a given page with the words “used Corolla”, this tells Google that the page you link to, is about “used Corolla”. This is also, somewhat, true today. But the method mentioned above, has very little value – again, it got abused, webmasters couldn’t contain themselves.
Not only in the footer could you see huge paragraphs with links, but the page content would be stuffed with links too, on certain keywords. Imagine all the words “Toyota” and “Corolla” in this article, would have a link to it. It was the mindset of “the more links you have to this page, with those keywords, the better”. It was not a joy for humans to read, but machines ate it raw. Until the search engines put a stop to that practice too.
The White Hat version?
In order to do proper link building, the way Google wants it to be done, you need to do grow your incoming links organically by making good content that other websites wants to link to. Sometimes it’s difficult to get found, even with great content, so that’s where you might need to do a little link building outreach to get your site known, among those that might want to link to you. This is the proper way of doing Off-page SEO.
You definitely also do not want a footer stuffed with internal links. Make your internal links in a way that it’s enjoyable for a human reader to read, and understandable.
Now, after link building, another method got popular…
With relevant links, things got interesting. Now you needed not just a link from a random website, but from a website that is somehow relevant to your own website. This means, a link from a “joke of the day”-website, to your used car dealership, would no longer have any (or very little) value in terms of SEO. But, if you got a link from other car-related websites, it would have meaning and value in the eyes of Google.
Links like that, relevant links that is, still caries value to this day! They are also more difficult to obtain.
Tha’s basically the historic highlights of the most important SEO techniques.