If you’re one of nearly six million Americans who used to tune in every Thursday night to catch the latest on Scandal, you may have heard the phrase “white hat” and “black hat” before. But did you know those terms aren’t just a way to describe the shady characters and good faith actors in Washington?

I’m talking about white hat and black hat SEO practices. How your company uses SEO could make the difference between you being ranked highly in search engines like Google or your website being punished for seemingly no reason. Let me explain how you can avoid black hat SEO practices that could penalize you in the long run.

Black Hat SEO Practices

If the website you are working on has low rankings, you may be tempted to engage in some aggressive SEO strategies, more commonly known as “black hat” SEO. You may be wondering what’s wrong with using some aggressive SEO strategies. After all, you want your website to be the best of the best, no matter the cost, right?

Well, black hat SEO practices are looked down upon because they don’t make your site particularly useful for your site visitors. Instead, they are geared toward gaming the search engine ranking system with little regard to user experience. Strategies like link farming and keyword stuffing make websites look overengineered while also making it difficult for potential clients to navigate your site and access your services successfully. Not to mention, search engines like Google and Bing often crack down on sites like these, meaning you could face penalties that cause your rankings to tank.

White Hat SEO Practices

On the contrary, white hat SEO practice focus on the user and their experience first while thinking of rankings second. While it is always important to make sure you have a sound SEO strategy, white hat SEO focuses on improving a website’s rankings organically, without the use of deceptive tactics that boost rankings artificially. Examples of white hat SEO would be using relevant keywords on a website, using backlinks that relate to the content, and original content that focuses on what the reader needs to know instead of focusing on the impact it has on an algorithm.

Why Do Search Engines Care?

Have you ever searched for a term and the resulting website suggestions have nothing to do with what you’re looking for? It can be frustrating. Google and Bing want users to be able to trust that their search engine results are going to be as accurate and helpful as possible. If you’re using black hat SEO practices like keyword stuffing to game the system and elevate your site, then Google could see that as a threat to their credibility.

Ranking Organically is Better in the Long Run

Whether you’re writing content for another company or optimizing the SEO for your own website, you may feel like white hat SEO practices take way too long for you to get the end result you’re looking for. But if I’ve learned anything from Scandal after 7 seasons, it’s that the white hats always come out on top in the end. White hat SEO may take more time to rank, but if you are consistent in your craft, it is well worth the wait.

Learn more about content marketing strategies that will really work for your business.

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