I’ve heard a number of stories recently about people feeling “pressured” or “bullied” by their industry colleagues, network, and sometimes even customers, to give black hat SEO tactics a try. This context is analogous to the familiar “just say no” scenario, and requires the same strong resolve to do the right thing, and not give in. If you find yourself being coerced with the following propositions, we’ve armed you with best practice information to remain above the influence.
1. Everybody Is Doing It: You may hear that black hat tactics are common practice, that everyone engages in these tactics in one way or another, and that you are missing out in a big way if you decide to avoid tactics such as link exchanges or purchased links. The truth is, the best links are those that are produced organically, period. Even if you hear that people are doing this, there is no way around creating great content and engaging your community via social media to drive healthy, clean links to your site the right way.
2. It’s Really Easy to Hide It, You’ll Never Get Caught: Maybe you’re hiding links by blending with them in with the page background, or you removed the default formatting of links (i.e. color and underline) to make the link look like body text. Sneaky, sneaky, but you can’t fool the search engines. You can be sure that Google and others are ALWAYS on the lookout for all black, and even grey-hat practices, and will eventually penalize you, no matter how sly your tactics are.
3. Doing It Once Is Ok: Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point, regardless of how many black hat tactics you have applied, your website will be penalized. Using these strategies, while possibly effective at first, leave you open to detrimental repercussions ranging from losing money invested, to dropping in ranking, or being completely banned by Google. All of your hard work can be thrown out with window, with one bad decision.
Just say no to black hat tactics. The marginal benefit you may gain from these approaches today is NOT worth being penalized in the future (meaning no traffic, which equals no leads or new business). As you hear about different “link building strategies” that “everybody is doing,” a good rule of thumb to follow is, if you have to ask, it’s not white hat. Focus on creating compelling content that people want to link to, to maintain the integrity of your website.