WHEN THINKING ABOUT SEO, it is important to consider the fundamental purpose of search engine results and then use this purpose to guide your strategies. Google’s stated goal is to sift through every corner of the Internet and find the most important, relevant Web sites (Segal, 2011). Therefore, our goal should be to develop relevant content, not to rank at the top of Google search results. Ranking well is meant to be a meritocracy where the most relevant brands get recommended first. Undermining this purpose invalidates the usefulness of search engines altogether.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the process of getting traffic from the free, organic, or natural search results on search engines (Rose, 2021).
While white hat SEO involves looking for ways to improve user experience, black hat SEO relies on manipulating Google’s algorithm to improve rankings.
To put it simply, if a tactic is designed to make Google think that a site provides more value to users than it really does, it’s deceptive — and it’s black hat SEO (Zheng, 2018).
Over the years, several high-profile companies have used manipulative SEO practices. In 2011, J. C. Penney was exposed by The New York Times for its use of over 2000 inauthentic links that drove traffic to its site, landing them at the top of Google’s search results. Someone paid to have thousands of links placed on hundreds of sites scattered around the Web, all of which lead directly to JCPenney.com. Some of these sites seem all but abandoned, except for the links (Segal, 2011).
This Black Hat SEO behavior on the part of J. C. Penney resulted in a damaging P.R. crisis that was difficult to recover from. A brand’s reputation is based on its trustworthiness and authenticity, which J. C. Penney damaged significantly. The direct result of the SEO manipulation was an overnight drop from ranking No. 1 in Google to No. 71 for certain search quires. This disaster was not worth the short-term profits they had experienced.
Attempts to game the systems may have short-term wins, but they don’t often offer long-term benefits. Google is always working on its algorithms, developing ways to subvert manipulations. Cleaver loopholes can be shut down instantly, defeating manipulations and landing bad players back at square one.
Good SEO ranking doesn’t mean much if gained through misleading practices. Many consumers are savvy to manipulations and turn quickly away from sites that fail to meet their expectations or answer their queries. Once distrust is established, it can be impossible to reverse. Visitors to a website that fails to meet their needs will bounce quickly and likely never return.
The best way to ensure long-term payoffs is to develop an authentic voice for your brand, offering genuine value to your followers. Begin by creating content that solves your customers’ problems and validates you as an expert in your field. This strategy will help you build a strong foundation, brick by brick. By studying your site’s analytics and visitor comments, you can develop a more in-depth understanding of their needs, which will guide you in developing future relevant content.
Rose, Charlie. (Jan 2021). SEO 101: How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working? SEO Mechanic. https://www.seomechanic.com/seo-101-how-long-does-seo-take/
Segal, David. (Feb 2011). The Dirty Little Secrets of Search. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13search.html
Zheng, David. (May 2018). White vs. Black Hat SEO: What is the Difference. https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/black-hat-vs-white-hat-seo/