When you begin to write SEO for clients, you may find that some people want you to write what you feel is "questionable" copy. It will depend, of course, upon the client, but sometimes the keywords just do not work (or the keyword is actually a phrase that is not grammatically correct, such as "Good BBQ Miami," but it cannot be modified as it is the client's "keyword" and, if modified, would no longer meet your client's specifications) -- or they ask you to really stuff the piece with the keywords (known, quite rightly, as "keyword stuffing").
It does happen. It may not happen to you, but if it does, know that this is part of what is considered "Black Hat SEO." The best thing to do in that situation is simply refuse the assignment.
Think of White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO like the characters from an old Western movie (as this is where the terms actually come from). The guy in the white hat is the good guy, and the guy in the black hat is the bad guy.
We want to only practice White Hat SEO.
White Hat SEO follows the rules. Black Hat SEO tries to find ways around them, and can actually earn you (or the client) a penalty.
White Hat SEO
By definition, White Hat SEO is the body of approved SEO tactics which have been designed to help increase a website's position on a SERP (search engine result page).
When these search engine results show up by way of the correct methods, which are the organic keywords we discussed in the last lesson, rather than by trickery, this is White Hat SEO.
The best ways to practice White Hat SEO to improve your website's placement, or your client's website placement, is to:
Include the important keywords in your title and URL.
Use the keywords sufficiently throughout the text, and do so only organically.
Add links that include the keywords that are designed to draw your readers farther into the main website.
According to Chitika, an online advertising network, the top organic search result receives about 33 percent of all search traffic. After that, for any results that appear lower on the page, the traffic numbers decline sharply.1
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO tactics include exploitative and/or deceptive methods that are used to try to improve a site's SERP.
However, while Black Hat SEO practices might, for a while, get your webpage to the top, these practices violate search engine terms of service, and will usually result in fines or other penalties.
While the term "Black Hat" still refers to these types of undesirable practices, today, when you hear the term, it often refers to a group of computer users, such as hackers -- those who create computer viruses, and anyone who does something unethical with computers.
If you are learning SEO to promote your own site, remember that using Black Hat SEO practices can get your site completely banned from search engines -- ALL search engines. If you are writing for a client, you may want to drop them a note that you feel the content that they have asked you to write may violate search engine protocol. What they reply is, of course, up to them, and whether or not you continue with the order is up to you. You do not want to get a reputation for writing Black Hat content, though.
When your website is banned from search engines, you have pretty much killed any chance you had of finding new business.
Black Hat SEO Tactics
Black Hat SEO practices are against a search engine's terms of service. Using them may result in a site being banned from a search engine and all of its affiliate sites.
If you check the Google Webmaster Guidelines2 (https://support.google.com/webmasters/?hl=en#topic=3309469), you will find the list of tactics and strategies Google has openly denounced. Bing has a similar set of guidelines (http://www.bing.com/webmaster/help/webmaster-guidelines-30fba23a).3
The best way to ensure what you are writing is not Black Hat is to check their guidelines, or ask yourself if the practice is going to add value for the reader, rather than the site. If the answer is no, and no value is added for the reader, but you feel the practice will help to increase the rankings anyway, then the practice is most likely a Black Hat SEO practice.
When in doubt, don't.
We have discussed keyword stuffing, and non-organic keywords, but there are also Black Hat practices such as:
Creating automated content
Creating hidden links or redirects
Article spinning (which lots of clients actually will ask for)
Adding spam links, malware, viruses, etc. into the content
Creating duplicate pages
Example of a White Hat SEO piece (After you read the article, we will discuss why this is White Hat, and how it works well for SEO):
Why this article works:
The reason that this piece works is that it draws anyone who is searching for "dog barking at night" or "stop dog barking" right to this piece. The client's SEO instructions were to utilize the keyword phrase "dog barking" 2 percent to 2.5 percent, which was done here.
The secondary keywords were "night" and "stop barking," which he wanted used at 1 percent. Ideally, the client can use this piece on his dog training blog and draw in some new clients, while also promoting a product that can help stop a dog's barking, such as training DVDs, Thundershirts, or even training treats for positive reinforcement.
He could put links to any of these items within the blog, taking the reader to another site where the items are sold.
Why is this White Hat? Because the keywords are added organically, they are not forced. The keywords are used at the percentage the client specified, and not more, so there is no keyword stuffing. The sentences make sense as you read them, there is no awkward phrasing to get them into the piece.
Now, it will be your turn to write a White Hat SEO article.
When you take on an assignment -- an SEO copywriting assignment -- not only will your client provide keywords, but he or she will also provide you with a keyword density percentage. This percentage is simply the number of times the keywords should show up in proportion to the overall number of words in the article.
The Importance of Keyword Density
Keywords are actually the most important part of SEO (when it comes to matching searches), so it just makes sense that the client will want them in the piece a specific number of times. After all, they are paying you to help them increase their SEO rankings, so they want this done right -- and that means you need to know how to do it correctly.
The term "keyword density" is used often when we discuss SEO; it is a vital component of every SEO article. When the term was coined, it led many writers, and non-writers (i.e. clients), to believe that the more times their keywords were included, the higher their web page would be ranked during any type of search. This is how the entire SEO industry came to be. However, it is not always true.
Just because you use a keyword or phrase a lot, does not mean it will show up higher in a Google search. In fact, Google looks not just at the number of times that keyword comes up, but also how many times it is used in combination with other relevant keywords or phrases.
Generally, web searchers do not search simply for one word (think of how many results you would get!) but for a combination of words. Google (or any search engine for that matter) looks for these combinations when it returns your search results. So, it is important to have more than one keyword per article, as well as keyphrases.
A keyphrase is a string of several words that the client wants placed in the article, in the exact order that it is written, with no other connecting words. For example, 'Houses Beverly Hills'. The client wants a sentence (or three) that contains that phrase, but not, say, "Houses for sale in Beverly Hills.'
How to Determine Keyword Density
Determining keyword density is not tricky, but it does require math (not every writer's favorite subject). The good news is that there are programs that will determine the keyword density for you. There are plenty of free keyword density checkers, tools and calculators available on the web. One of my favorites is http://kesor.net/keyword-density/ because it is simple and easy to use. (Oh, and it is free to use!)2
What the math boils down to is this: If the client wants 2 percent density of the main keyword, this means that it should appear two times per 100 words.
The client has already run the numbers and he or she knows what keyword density he is looking for. If he asks you for 2.5 percent and you give him 1 percent, you can bet that the copy is coming back to you for a rewrite.
Know your numbers, and utilize a tool that you like and trust.
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