Black vs White Hat SEO -- How to tell the difference and why you should care

I get calls all the time asking if I want to buy links, or reviews, or Facebook likes, and there are companies now advertising to write reviews, or have their staff like your Facebook page. Is this what your business should do for Search Engine Optimization? This recent court case involving several businesses getting fined heavily for reviewing themselves, or providing false reviews for other companies really sheds light on just how black Search Engine Optimization can get and what the consequences can be.

For a long time, the primary black hat Search Engine Optimization practice was buying links back to your site. Through years of adaptation and effort, Google has effectively stopped black hat link building. They have still managed to hold on to the importance of link building, but now, bad links not only count less but may even provide a negative value to your site. 

But other black hat practices have taken its place. Now, sketchy Search Engine Optimization practices include: paid reviews, creating landing pages that are jam packed with keywords for optimization but that provide little to no real content, and even creating invisible text and pages that only a search engine can see.  Some of these practices may lead to short-term gains in search engine rankings and traffic. However, these will be short-lived. Your site will be caught and penalized, and ultimately, your online presence (and business) will suffer.

There is nothing wrong with hiring quality-- or white hat-- Search Engine Optimization Services. We recommend that you take advantage of professional practices to rank higher and drive more business to your website. Please be advised, though, that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any service that promises rapid results or overnight success. It takes time to build quality links, consistently generate meaningful content, and get great organic search results. Focusing on the long term not only prevents penalties from black hat techniques, but it also positions your brand for a stronger digital presence over time, not just for today.