I-COM are a well known Manchester SEO company, and they recently published a blog post that asks big questions of the internet marketing industry. We originally saw this on the Econsultancy website as it had caused a lot of discussion on Twitter.
Basically the blog post talks about black hat SEO and White Hat SEO practices, and questions whether or not Google actually upholds it’s own regulations with any real effect. For those that don’t know, black hat SEO refers to unethical or spam techniques outside of Google’s guidelines which are employed to deceive the search engines and can get results fast. However, if you are caught you risk being penalised or removed entirely from Google’s cache. White Hat SEO (or ethical SEO) refers to the the best practice methods of optimising a site to be accessed by search engine robots. These techniques may take longer to see real results in the rankings, but you don’t have the risk of suddenly dropping out of the rankings if you’re penalised!
In I-COM’s blog post, they talk about how after some recent analysis using an SEOMoz tool, the highest ranking sites all seemed to be using some questionable techniques. In particular, they had all been using aggressive link building strategies. These link building strategies are normally the result of purchasing or leasing links from specialised suppliers and brokers, something that was always frowned upon as a ‘grey area’ (grey hat SEO) and was recently the result of a number of high ranking sites dropping in the rankings that had obviously paid for their inbound links. So what does this say about Google? Here is what I-COM had to say:
“It would seem that, even though Google tells us that ‘black hat’ SEO doesn’t work, it clearly does, even in the long term. Otherwise, these sites wouldn’t have topped the rankings for competitive keywords for such long periods.”
“At I-COM, we always advise clients against using ‘black-hat’ techniques such as keyword-stuffing and purchasing irrelevant links solely for the purpose of improving rankings, and still believe that ‘white hat’ SEO is the best way to develop a high quality, relevant SERPs.”
“What I would question, is the reason these techniques still work. If these high-ranked, in some cases respected, companies are using ‘black hat’ methods and breaking Webmaster Guidelines, why haven’t they been penalised? The answer may be that in cases where the violations aren’t actually damaging relevancy of the search results, Google turns a blind eye because cleaning things up wouldn’t make much of a difference to user-experience”.
I would agree with all the points raised by I-COM, as we ourselves have noticed websites using spam techniques that seem to consistently well in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). It can be frustrating to see other websites manipulating search engine results through black hat SEO when we always use ethical techniques. Hopefully this is something that will improve this year with the future updates to the Google algorithm.