If you’ve ever looked into SEO, you might have come across two terms that actually of great importance: Black Hat, and White Hat. Black hat, in the tech world, refers to practices in software programming, website design, and online marketing which could be seen as unethical at best, and criminal at worst. Black hat designs include those that harvest user information without their awareness, the design or sale of spyware, malware, or spambot networks, and the creation of websites meant to mislead users in an effort to generate more traffic.
White hat philosophy, on the other hand, uses techniques which are considered both extremely ethical and completely legal. In many cases, white hat methods are meant to be beneficial to users, and to exalt value over trickery. In the SEO world, white hat and black hat methods both have their respective users, but companies rely on white hat methods far more often for a good reason; if Google detects that your site is using black hat methods, it will not only reduce your ranking, it will build you a bad rep that can make it much harder to bounce back and win the engine’s trust again.
One of the hallmarks of black hat content is that a lot of it is copied from legitimate sources. Google’s coding has made it much more adept at sniffing out copies and giving them the appropriate boot down the rank ladder, but those that generate original content itself are seen as more valuable assets. You can write about the same topic as hundreds of other blogs, but your take on it, and your text, has to be original. The more original the content is, the more valuable it will be, both to readers and to Google.
Another hallmark of black hat content is misdirection, or sending users to sites they did not want to visit when they clicked a link. Irrelevant advertising can lead to users avoiding a site. Irrelevant content could lose you regular readership. Stick to what your site is about, and draw within the lines accordingly. If you are a sports site, it’s okay to have a movie review every now and again, but stay on course. It makes your site easier to rank, and it makes your readers happy.
Cleanliness is also important. Not just for your home, but for your website as well. Google ranks sites according by content, traffic, and many other metrics, but one area that may not get addressed as often as it should is the cleanliness of your web code and your structure. Internal linking, images and videos which are not broken, and links which aren’t dead and dated are signs you take care of your site, and thus your readers. Google prefers it when a site’s tidy, so make sure that yours is well managed. The more well organized, consistent, relevant, and original your site is, the more likely it will be that Google will tell people to check it out.