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White Hat SEO and Google

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a major part of serious internet marketing techniques over the past decade, but as the search engines themselves continue to evolve, the optimization process for websites has had to change to accommodate them. In the past, many people have abused the search engines by using a variety of devious methods to gain a higher ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for their low quality web pages, and these practices have come to be known as ‘Black Hat SEO’. Web pages that have genuinely valuable content which has been crafted to attract a good ranking using valid and reputable methods have been deemed to be using ‘White Hat SEO’. Often the line between the two is a bit uncertain and the recent changes in the Google algorithm have made some White Hat methods look decidedly Black Hat now.

Matt Cutts, the head of the Webspam team at Google, says that White Hat SEO is methods that improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster, which is good for both users and search engines1. He goes on to define Black Hat SEO as webspam and indicates that Google’s focus is on keyword stuffed content and low quality link schemes that are intended to do nothing more than artificially raise the ranking of a page of cheap advertising. The recent Penguin update to the Google search algorithm also has an “over optimization penalty” which has caught a few websites that were on the edge of being Black Hat and dropped them down the SERPs. All of this has changed the SEO strategies that are now considered to be White Hat and the general shift is away from link building and towards valuable content.

Internet marketers have spent a lot of time and money on creating websites with a professional spread of keywords and internal links because these things showed the search engine’s crawlers the depth of the site’s valuable content. The crawlers are now looking at the content more semantically and the repetitive use of the keywords is no longer the best practice. Similarly, too many internal links, especially centered on one or two keywords, seems to flag sites as being webspam and Google applies the over optimization penalty.

Back links used to be the staple of internet marketers SEO programs but the proliferation of link farm pages designed to point links at low quality pages to improve their ranking in the SERPs has seen Google move away from what it is calling unnatural links. The crawlers are now looking for pages with a good balance of inward and outward pointing links as well as an organic amount of internal links.

All of this will see many businesses having to update their websites in order to conform to the new standards of the search engines. Many websites that were thin on content in early 2011 when Google’s Panda update was launched fell in the SERPs and the same thing will happen this time too, although Google says that Penguin will affect only 3% of queries in English1. The key to these latest changes is that Google is looking for content that at least appears to be organic and Cutts has even said that it may be best to do no SEO at all. While there won’t be many marketers that are willing to take Google at its word as far as that is concerned, they will need to start producing more high quality, organic content in order to appeal to the search engines once more. is abreast of all of the changes to the search engines and can create a website for your business that will take advantage of the evolution of the search engines to your benefit.


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