The goal of Google’s panda update was to ferret out black hat SEO, however in the process it penalized some websites which were not perhaps intentionally duplicitous, but happened to be filled with plain bad SEO. Even if your legal website or blog was not one of the many who were slapped by the new update, it could be time to do another “once-over” to ensure your legal site does not employ any of the tactics which could garner you a penalty.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Sooner or later Google will catch most all black hat tricks, so it’s important that you know exactly what to look for. If you are not clear on what black hat SEO really consists of, it basically refers to search engine optimization “tricks” which are downright underhanded and unethical. Black hat SEO seeks to deceive the search engines, giving your legal site a ranking it may not deserve. The most common ploys used during black hat SEO consist of keyword stuffing, hidden or invisible text, cloaking, content farming or link farms. While these tactics will get your website noticed quickly by the search engines, they fail to provide your potential clients with anything of real value.
Keyword Stuffing, Content Farming and Link Farms
Keyword stuffing consists of filling your legal website with information which is almost unintelligible due to the overuse of keywords. Unethical SEO companies also write keywords in white text onto a white background—you or I are unable to see the keywords with our human eyes, yet search engine spiders can easily see them, bringing about an immediate bump up the search engine ladder, at least until the search engine discovers the ruse. Spinning software takes one article which might have started out as high quality copy, then spins it into hundreds of articles used by many companies as a means to link to their site. Again, most search engines will eventually figure it out if you are using content farming or article spinning techniques. A link farm consists of a website which is set up with no other purpose than increasing the link popularity of other sites by increasing incoming links to those sites. These links are generally totally unrelated, and will be picked up by the search engines.
What is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO will enhance the quality of your legal website by giving value to your reader, and, although it will take longer than using black hat SEO, you will eventually earn a high website ranking. White hat SEO chooses a solid keyword phrase which accurately represents your legal page, then uses it in the Meta tags. White hat SEO contains content which accurately reflects your business and your website, and gives your reader value and worth. When your legal website garners other high-quality websites linking to a legal blog post or page within your legal website, you have a quality inbound link, further boosting your search engine rankings. This is in sharp contrast to black hat SEO which incorporates a less than stellar link list which is traded simply to boost search results. In short, any SEO tactic which conforms to the stated guidelines of search engines, making no attempt to deceive them, is considered white hat SEO.
What if Your Legal SEO is Just Plain Bad?
Even if you have avoided being penalized for obvious black hat SEO techniques on your site, you still need to be hyper-vigilant about checking your legal sites often to ensure the content is superior, the links are legitimate and of excellent quality, and, while your keywords are used judiciously they are also used in a way that makes sense and doesn’t alienate your reader. Using white hat, organic SEO will get your legal website noticed—in a good way!