Star Wars & SEO: Tactics Reviewed

Author Allison Smith
by Palmer Barr , SEO Specialist

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, optimizing your website in order to have it land at the top of search engine result pages (SERPS) was fairly straightforward and could easily be manipulated. This gaming of the results allowed websites which were potentially filled with Malware and unfriendly redirects to land in the first few spots. Google, as well as other search engines, have since enforced rules which prevent the results from being gamed, however, there will always be a certain sect of SEO specialists, whose tactics are often referred to as black hat SEO, who would rather find ways to work the system rather than provide new and useful content for users.

When it comes to figuring out which tactics in SEO are black hat and which are white hat (the opposite end of the SEO spectrum) I always try and think to myself ‘is this something a Jedi would do or is this something a Sith would do?’ The Jedi are, of course, typically seen as the good guys who use the “Light Side” of the Force to serve and protect their world, whereas the Sith are typically seen as the antagonists who use the “Dark Side” of the Force in order to accomplish their own goals.

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Has your SEO company gone to the dark side?

The same is basically true for White Hat and Black Hat techniques. When running an SEO campaign we must examine whether or not the techniques we are implementing are for the betterment of just the site itself, increasing irrelevant traffic numbers without leading to a positive shift in conversion rates, but make us look impressive (temporarily) as an SEO company, or are we actually building out a site with better content, making it easier for consumers and potential clients to both find and use, ultimately leading to great conversion rates.

A simple definition of what constitutes White Hat technique is “a technique that conforms to the search engines’ guidelines and involves no deception.” These are techniques which have durability are going to last for the long haul in regards to attempting to rank a site higher on SERPs. White hat techniques are also commonly seen as creating content specifically for users (humans) rather than search engines (robots.) Examples include creating relevant content users will find helpful such as articles or infographics, performing keyword research and implementing these results into the site in an natural (or organic)way, and finding high quality inbound links from other reliable sites in a similar field.

Black hat techniques are just the opposite of this, they are techniques which seek to game the system, improving rankings in ways which are frowned upon by search engines and often include some sort of deception. These techniques include hiding text on the page (sometimes by making the text the same color as the background of the site itself), link farming, which is when a site exists only to link to other sites (although this technique has recently been all but eliminated with Google’s Penguin algorithm update) and “cloaking” which is when a different page is presented depending on whether a human is clicking through on a link or a search engine is clicking through on a link. Can you see already what the problem with Black Hat techniques is? They’re usually very temporary solutions to improving traffic statistics, and in the long run either fall apart, or are all together eliminated by updates to a search engine’s algorithm once they learn the full extent of these tactics.

Then there are Gray hat techniques, techniques which are temporarily unknown to search engines and not (yet) restricted by search engines. Typically Gray hat techniques are done without malicious intent. Google defines gray hat as “risky and ill advised.” At OuterBox we find it best to stay away from Gray hat techniques as much as possible seeing as we never know when Google or the other search engines will update their algorithms and possibly ban a certain practice, which can result in certain sites being dropped from SERPs all together.

To summarize, Black hat SEO techniques are like Darth Vader (looking out only for himself and those closest to him), White hat techniques are like Luke Skywalker (hard working and able to stay around for the long haul), and Gray hat techniques are like Jar Jar Binks (best to avoid all together.) We hope this clears up any confusion around the different types of techniques used in implementing and SEO strategy.