All SEO service providers are not created equal. Some may offer quick results for cheap, but unfortunately these results will only be short-term and can cause your site to be harshly penalized, or even banned, by search engines. One of the biggest problems for people looking for SEO and local SEO services can be determining which provider to trust. To get a better idea about what to look for from an SEO agency, it is important to know the tactics they will be using to increase the traffic on your site and how these strategies will affect your site in the long term.
SEO and local SEO tactics are generally classified in one of two categories: Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO. White Hat SEO uses trusted, proven techniques to attract visitors to your website and is seen as ethical and honest SEO. White Hat SEO tactics include creating content that is search engine friendly as well as valuable to website visitors; providing content, such as informative articles and news stories, that encourages people to link to your site; appropriate cross-linking and site optimization techniques such as good titles and good meta tags; building relevant inbound links and tweaking content to maximize its search engine friendliness. White Hat SEO may not provide the fast results of Black Hat SEO, but results will be longer lasting and visitors will find the site inviting and relevant.
Black Hat SEO uses what most consider unethical tactics to quickly increase the search engine ranking of a website. When a website is caught using these kinds of techniques they suffer long-term consequences such as search engine penalties or being de-indexed altogether. Many of the SEO providers offering fast results for cheap utilize these tactics, since they have no interest in the long-term well being of the website.
Black Hat SEO is ever-changing, since search engines are quick to adapt to the latest Black Hat techniques to prevent low-quality sites from appearing in the top of the search results. Black Hat SEO basically offers low-quality content and often links that are of little to no use for most site visitors. Black Hat SEO may use techniques such as:
- Hidden text – This is text on a website which is not seen by visitors but that can be seen by the search engine crawlers that index the site. This may include text hidden in the coding, or text that is the same color as the background, making it invisible to site viewers.
- Keyword stuffing – Keyword stuffing is the act of overloading keywords into the meta tags or website content. Keyword stuffing leads to low-quality content.
- Plagiarizing content – Plagiarizing content is both unethical and illegal, but some Black Hat SEO providers will plagiarize content to attract web traffic.
- Link farms – Link farms are groups of websites that all link back to each other without providing any useful content to the user.
- Paid links – Paid linking occurs when a website owner or SEO professional buys links purely to increase search engine ranking.
- Portal pages – A portal page is a search engine friendly page that immediately redirects visitors to another website.
- Parasite hosting – This occurs when a website is hosted on someone else’s server without their consent in order to improve search engine results
- Blog spam – Blog spam is posting inappropriate comments, links, and advertisements on unrelated blogs, message boards, etc.
Because Black Hat SEO is so fluid in nature, this is far from a comprehensive list of Black Hat techniques. However, being equipped with basic knowledge of White Hat SEO should make it easier for those seeking SEO services to weed out the unethical SEO providers.
When working with an SEO professional, you should ask about the SEO techniques they will be using. An honest SEO professional will have no problem with transparency throughout the process. If anything sounds suspect, ask questions. Always be wary of SEO providers that promise a certain ranking within a certain time period, since White Hat SEO is a long-term strategy, not a quick fix, and search engine results are always being adjusted and changing. Finding a good SEO professional takes time, but it can yield fantastic long-term results for your website.