White Hat Vs Black Hat - (The Light and Dark Sides of SEO)
Yesterday, while doing some research on the controversy surrounding the contrasting Black Hat and White Hat SEO techniques, I stumbled across a common theme in the comparison. In keeping with the sci-fi geekery of most of us involved in the IT or Internet industry, SEO’s tend to be Star Wars fans. This fact shines through in their descriptions of their respective SEO ‘hats’, and that of their opposing counterparts.
This doesn’t come as any surprise to me. Actually, the only surprise is that it took me so long to notice. However this realisation did give me the idea to write a few articles on Black Hat and White Hat following this Star Wars theme.
The first in this series of six is, quite fittingly:
SEO Wars: The Phantom Menace – SEO Black Hat Cloaking
A popular Black Hat SEO technique is that of providing two sets of website content, one for the search engines and one for the human visitors. The technique is known as cloaking. The ‘phantom’ content (that never seen by humans) is often machine-generated rubbish. Loaded with keywords and phrases, the content aimed at the search bots helps sites achieve the high rankings their real content doesn’t deserve.
There are, admittedly, more uses than this for cloaking. The technique attracts visitors according to whether or not they meet certain criteria, and therefore can be used to enhance the searchers experience, when used in the right way. Providing a page in several languages, presented depending on that of the user, for instance.
“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny”
The Short Step To Black Hat
The problem with these justifications for cloaking is that they flow too freely from the mouths of Black Hat practitioners.
Using cloaking for the benefit of drawing visitors who will best profit from certain of your sites pages is a far cry from using cloaking to provide search engine crawlers with false information to increase your sites ranking.
Cloaking is basically an easy out. A short term solution to a long-term problem. If you use cloaking to attract visitors to your site, while providing them with little to no valid content, you’ll find that, very quickly, the stream of these visitors will run dry. In addition you’re tempting the wrath of the search engines and might find your domain being banned.