SEO Etiquette. White Hats, Black Hats and Google Penalty.
My previous article offered a beginners guide to SEO, but SEO is not always that straight forward. There are many SEO agencies that will offer companies services to improve their SERP visibility however, some agencies (and individuals) do not play by the rules and there is such a thing as being penalised by Google for your SEO methods, this is through black hat techniques, there are also more genuine white hat techniques. These techniques are analysed to offer companies direction to keep their SEO know-how up to Google’s standards.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO, otherwise known as ethical SEO is the practice following search engines rules and regulations to create organic search results. Moreover, its main audience target is for human interaction, white hat SEO follows long term objectives and uses genuine quality writing content, link optimisation and building. Additionally, white hat SEO involves writing quality and genuine content.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO, otherwise known as unethical SEO, disregards rules and regulations applied by search engine results. This practice may involve key-word stuffing, invisible text on pages to create linkages and page swapping, a practice of completely changing the webpage once the SEO has been optimised. Black hat SEO targets search engines and tries to manipulate them as opposed to naturally targeting human interaction.
Google penalties happen from either two ways, manually or algorithmic. Manually from someone from Googles team detecting unnatural links on your webpage, regardless of what has been found as unnatural on your page, it is your job to fix the problem and re-submit your website for reconsideration for Google’s search results (Bigcommerce, 2015). An algorithmic penalty is where a site has alerted a breach of filter or safeguard in Google’s algorithm. This can happen in one of two ways, a Panda penalty or a Penguin penalty.
Panda penalties relate to the usability of webpage and the content your webpage contains, reasons for a Panda content penalty could be: Having thin (unnecessary) content, creating fake reviews, having ads that do not close . These checks are made by Google, monthly and unannounced (Walters, 2016; GotchSEO, 2015).
Penguin penalties relate to over-optimisation, an updated algorithm by Google which detects the likes of low quality backlinks, text advertisements passing PageRank, having too many links with optimised anchor text and excessive link changes. Penguin updates are made not as frequently as Panda, however Penguin updates are announced (Langdon, 2014).
Google Penalty Receivers
Some well known brands have been on the receiving end of Google’s Panda and Penguin penalties:
The BBC received a Penguin Google penalty in March 2013 for a single page violation which was deemed to have unnatural links towards it. The penalty that was awarded is unknown (Sullivan, 2014)
Yes, you have read that correctly, Google. Google has (on numerous occasions) penalised itself. One occasion, being Google Chrome. Google found itself purchasing links to better its rankings of its Google Chrome page. This was a Penguin penalty as it was link based, Google accepted the breach and the penalty was that of Google Chrome having its rankings lowered for “Google Chrome” for two months (Sullivan, 2014).
How to avoid Google Penalty
These steps will help you avoid a google penalty by following the white hat suggestions. If you are using any of the black hat techniques exampled below, it may be time to disengage in these practices to avoid receiving a Google penalty.
If you do find yourself in the travesty of a Google penalty then try out this 30 second analysis tool provided by Google themselves to delineate your penalty and you will also be provided with a personalised step by step recovery program: Google penalty analysis and recovery.
White Hat – Use keywords strategically and sparingly in a way that allows search engines to determine what your webpage is about.
Black Hat – Overusing keywords in content and metadata. Cramming an abundance of keywords and descriptions into text the same colour as the background of the webpage.
White Hat – Provide natural links that encourage users and affiliates to link with.
Black Hat – Buying or selling links.
White Hat – Creating new pages on your website that will provide users with more valuable information about your company and offerings.
Black Hat – Replicating pages to create a ‘larger’ site and creating low quality pages for the use of bundling in keywords.
White Hat – Creating unique and relevant content specific for your users of the webpage.
Black Hat – Creating irrelevant content and creating content for the use of keyword stuffing (TitanSEO, 2016).
SEO is one of the prominent promotion techniques of todays search engines. Rules and regulations will adapt regularly so companies must do their utmost to stay straight edged and not distort the lines between white and black hat SEO. It must be noted that todays white hat SEO rules may in the future become black hat SEO rules, allowing the two conflicting sides to somewhat learn from each other (Mangala, 2008). Furthermore, white hat approachers should not ignore the black hats as there could be important lessons to be learnt from them (Mangala, 2010). It must be the companies responsibility to create specific and honest content, otherwise the risk is run of an algorithmic update penalising your webpage, which may result in a reduction in the search rankings or most worryingly, a complete ban from the search engine altogether.
When attempting to optimise you search results for your webpage remember to abide by the rules of white hat SEO offered above, if you receive a penalty you run the risk of loosing traffic to your website or being pushed down the ranks of the SERP. Stay specific, stay natural and stay relevant and your webpage shall be sporting a white hat.
This short yet helpful video helps to understand and review SEO Etiquette and how to avoid Penguin and Panda!
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation
SERP – Search Engine Results Page
Bigcommerce. 2015. What is a Google penalty? [Online] Available at: https://www.bigcommerce.co.uk/ecommerce-answers/what-google-penalty/ [Accessed 22 March 2016].
GotchSEO. 2015. How to get a Google Panda penalty. [Online] 5 May. Available at: https://www.gotchseo.com/google-panda-penalty/. [Accessed 22 March 2016].
Langdon, S. 2014. How To recover From a Google Penguin Penalty. Entrepreneur [Online] 29 May. Available at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234211. [Accessed 22 March 2016].
Malaga, R.A., 2008. Worst practices in search engine optimization. Communications of the ACM, 51(12), pp.147-150.
Malaga, R.A., 2010. Search engine optimization—black and white hat approaches. Advances in Computers, 78, pp.1-39.
Sullivan, D. 2014. 10 Big Brands That Were Penalised By Google, From Rap Genius to BBC. Marketing Land [Online] 12 February. [Accessed 22 March 2016].
Sullivan, D. 2014. 5 Times Google Penalised Itself for Breaking its Own SEO Rules. Search Engine Land. [Online] 12 February. Available at: http://searchengineland.com/google-penalized-breaking-seo-rules-184098. [Accessed 22 March 2016].
TitanSEO. 2016. Google Penalty? How To Avoid A Disaster. [Online]. Available at: https://www.titan-seo.com/NewsArticles/avoidpenalties.html. [Accessed 22 March 2016].
Walters, M. 2016. Google penalties & the causes of them. [Online] SEOmark. Available at: http://www.seomark.co.uk/google-penalties-types-causes/. [Accessed 22 March 2016].