Recently while going through a blog discussion thread, I came across a comment, where the author expressed his frustration on being strongly affected by Google Penguin update April’12, in spite of having a well-optimized site. He was so disappointed that he had outrightly mentioned, “White hat SEO seems to be useless right now.. White hat SEO is dead.”
Before we talk more about whether white hat SEO is dead or alive, let’s quickly go over the key terms mentioned here.
April 24, 2012: A big day in the search industry – Google launched Google webspam update alias ‘Google Penguin Update’. The update has majorly penalized the websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and practice webspam practices, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, link building, deliberate creation of duplicate content and others.
On Penguin update, Matt Cutts (Search Engine Expert and head of Google’s Webspam team) clarified at SXSW, “Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.”
Web spam and White Hat
So Google has cleared that it only intends to penalize the web spammers. But then why this complete loss of faith in white hat SEO.
While In definition, both terms are poles apart…
White Hat SEO refers to the usage of SEO strategies, techniques and tactics which revolves around the human audience and not the search engines at the same time it completely follows search engine rules and guidelines.
Webspam refers to using SEO tactics that are against Google guidelines. These can be Content spam (keyword stuffing/density), Link spam (Link-building software, Buying expired domains) and some other types like Cloaking.
In practice, there is only a fine line of difference between ‘white hat SEO’ and ‘webspam’. When we optimize our site, we are doing white hat SEO, while when we overdo it we end up web spamming.[/vc_column_text]
Symptoms of Over Optimization
There is a thin line between optimization and over optimization and while no webmaster wants to cross the line, yet many are blinded. Below are some symptoms of an over optimized site:
1. Keyword Stuffing: To rank on a specific keyword, we do placement of keywords within a page to raise the keyword count, variety, and density of the page. Like placing the same term in the Page title, Meta tags, Body text, Alt text, H1 tags etc. Google analysis of a page for keyword stuffing considers a keyword’s frequency. Repeating the same keyword (instead of related/synonym keywords) may upset Google crawlers.
2. Link schemes: Maintain your distance from any offerings giving you 100+ (any number of links for that matter) links for $X. Links are your votes– work towards earning them.
3. Same/similar sources for back links: If all of your links come from only single web source or if your website links to lots of other unrelated sites, Google spiders will not take too long to detect the ‘unnatural activity’ and penalize you.
4. Redirects: URL redirection takes the user to another page without his or her intervention. Be careful not to redirect too many sites to your main business, and if you do, make sure to follow recommended procedure as given by Google.
5. Doorway pages/thin affiliate: Is the main goal of your site to get people to another site? Doorway pages are low-quality web pages created with very little content but are instead stuffed with very similar keywords and phrases. Although this practice is dying its death – given that today SEO is more than just keyword stuffing, if you are still using it then be prepared to get penalized by Google.
6. Mirror Websites: When two websites on the same server with conceptually similar content but using different URLs can cause either/both of them to be punished.
7. Cloaking: Practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engines. Cloaking is considered a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines because it provides our users with different results than they expected. A black hat technique, cloaking is better avoided.
To avoid Webspam and content violation, it is advised to follow the Google Webmaster guidelines and monitor your website on Google webmaster tools for rectifying the crawler errors, while simultaneously measuring the health of your website on Google.
White hat SEO is very much alive. All you need to ensure is that your techniques are in sync with what Google explains as white hat and not what SEOs think it to be.
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