The battle of good vs evil exists even in the technologically advanced world of SEO. Black hat, white hat - what does it all mean?

Most of the 'Black Hat' techniques below are either completely useless (ie, they don't work) or they only provide short term results. It is essential that you are aware of and can easily spot bad practices so that you don't get scammed into the next "wonder product" or service you see (and there are hundreds of these).

The following are some of the common "Black Hat" SEO techniques...

Link Farms - Link farms are a whole bunch of websites set up with one job in mind - to link to other websites and create backlinks. They have minimal or zero useable content and simply link out to other sites. You can usually purchase links from these farms (so as to increase your number of backlinks) for a price, but this is simply not worth it. As soon as the search engines recognize the site as link farm, they ignore all the links. It's quite possible that you could get "blacklisted" for this sort of thing and end up ruining all your efforts.

When I was new to SEO, I bought 1000 backlinks from one of these link farms and anticipated huge results. Google Webmasters only picked up about 30 of them (out of a thousand!) and within a month or two they were lost (or removed). I was just lucky that I didn't get banned!

Cross Linking - Similar to link farms, this is the practice of linking between a whole lot of websites that you own. Apart from being ineffective, the cost of this sort of practice is simply a waste of money (considering that you can easily get links from writing articles, etc).

Cloaking - Cloaking essentially involves having two different pages - one that your visitors see and one that the search engines see. This allows you to create a heavily optimized page for the search engines, and a very "pretty" page for users. This practice is strongly frowned upon by search engines and will in most cases get your site banned within a few months.

Duplicate Content - Whether it the same content placed on different pages within your website, or content copied from another site - the search engines don't like this for one reason - there's no value to the visitor. This re-emphasizes the importance of ensuring that your website has quality, original content. Should you need to use content from another site, be sure to link back to them for copyright purposes.

Keyword & Tag Stuffing
- This involves stuffing your title, meta and header tags with keywords unnaturally. Remember that SEO is all about keeping a balance between search engine readability and human readability. A header stuffed with keywords doesn't make much sense to either party!

Hidden Text - In order to create keyword rich content on pages, some sly optimizers will insert a whole lot of keyword rich text at the bottom of the page, which is the same colour at the background - thus making it invisible to humans but visible to search engines. This used to work quite well, until the search engines caught on... Don't waste your time trying this.

Link Pages/Exchanges - Often you will find websites with "Link Pages" or "Resource Pages". They will use this page to exchange links with other sites (thus increasing backlinks). The search engines don't give this tactic much attention when it comes to your website rankings. They simply see it for what it is and ignore the links thereon. One-way, relevant links is what SEO is all about!

Excessive Internal Linking - Using internal links to direct visitors to relevant content on your site is an excellent practice. Using internal links excessively simply for the sake of creating links is not. Create internal links where you feel that they would make your site more user-friendly - don't overdo it.

Spamblogs - These are machine generated blogs (or sometimes user created) that exist purely to push keyword rich content onto a blog and draw search engine rankings. If you are going to use a blog on your website (which I recommend you do), write quality content which will draw real visitors, not just search engines. A good blog can generate a huge amount of trust for you or your company and make the sales process infinitely easier.

Wiki Spam - Due to the fact that anyone can edit the pages on a Wiki, like, sly optimizers used to insert their own links on relevant Wikipedia pages to get ranked well. This is now a fruitless effort for two reasons:

1.These links are usually removed by other users before you can blink

2.These links have what a called "nofollow" tags - which means that even if Google saw the link in time, it would disregard it in any case.

There are countless other "Black Hat" SEO methods available, with new ones developing every day. The bottom line is this - if you want long term SEO success, you have to do things the right way.

Doing SEO the "right" way does take a lot of time and effort, but it is undeniably worth it. Keep in mind that black hat requires time and effort, all of which will be wasted as soon as Google figures it out...