Choose the right hat for SEO – white, black or grey?

For all that’s good and pure in SEO you have the white hat, for those who look towards the dark side there is the black hat. For everything else that’s uncertain it’s the grey hat.

There’s no doubt that performing search engine optimisation on a website can raise lots of questions and doubts as to what is best for the brand and for delivering results.

When dealing with brands and SEO, the choices are limited as to what can be performed on and off-site. The well-documented BMW saga obviously delivered a glaring example of black hat and a consequent big no-no from Google.

Black hat or unethical SEO practice is frequently profiled and dissected in SEO forums so there really is no excuse for an SEO’er to use it and not be aware of the damage it can cause to a domain.

The majority of SEO strategies involve common sense; delivering content people and search engines will love. Search engines essentially read content as any normal person would, so if you are cramming keywords into a footer, or redirecting via a keyword-stuffed page, you should ask yourself would I want to read that? The robots and spiders of the search engine world certainly won’t, and will eventually reward right from wrong.

So, having chosen to use good SEO practice, you find your domain tearing up the natural listings. You think great; all my good work is finally paying off. Then one day your ranking starts to slip. This is the point where grey hat practices may start to creep in. As any good SEO’er would, you care about the domain and achieving results. You may consider using the odd redirect here, or more keyword stuffing there, and before you know it you’re walking about with the grey hat on. The grey hat opens doors to many more SEO options, but common sense prevails in most cases.

This only leaves the white hat. White hat SEO is focused on delivering the right message to the search engines. But with most online brands it can be hard to deliver targeted content to the end user; this is where logical thinking should come into play.

SEO shouldn’t be a case of delivering 20 similar pages about one keyword topic. If you are on page one for a competitive term then Google and the other search engines will have placed you there for a reason. The reason, in most cases, is that you are delivering relevant content that users want to read.

Three or four years ago search engines would rank your site based on frequency of keyword, among other factors. Today the clear focus on is on content relevancy. Continually focusing on the end user will make sure you are wearing the right hat for SEO.