In the world of SEO, you will find two species battling it out for web supremacy. Meet White Hat Willy and Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy. White Hat Willy makes an honest living optimizing web pages, developing original, useful content, and pursuing genuine internet marketing strategies. The same cannot be said about Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy, however. He makes a living by lurking in the shadows stuffing keywords, link farming, and spamming. But it doesn't stop there. Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy is actually threatening White Hat Willy on a daily basis. He doesn't get the nickname "bloodsucker" for nothing. If not properly dealt with, this hungry zombie will devour the honest, hardworking Willy. It's a battle that takes place deep in the tangled web of the internet and is displayed for the entire world to see in search engine rankings.
But there is hope! Behind closed doors, in Google's R&D Warehouse, weapons are being developed on behalf of Willy - weapons designed to fend off Bloodsucking Billy's apocalyptic mission.
The Walking Dead
In the 1990s and early 2000s, SEO primarily consisted of backlinks, keywords, and site structure. Once upon a time, it was all about developing the perfect scientific formula, applying it to a website, and pushing it to the top of the rankings. Old school SEO was essentially what we would call black hat SEO today. But with the changes to Google's rules and algorithms, things began to change. Google decided to start rewarding webpages for their usefulness and quality of content. This shift in thinking punished black hat SEOs and rewarded white hat SEOs following the rules.
It would seem the shift in SEO relevancy would eliminate black hat SEOs entirely, but that has not been the case. Instead, they have become blood-thirsty zombies lurking around the web, searching for something to devour. While their techniques have changed a bit, many are essentially playing the same games they did before. They just disguise themselves in better ways. Some of Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy's favorite techniques include:
- Hidden content - The most popular tool of SEO zombies is hidden content. Billy will attempt to boost SEO rankings by hiding content and keywords within the code of a website. The reader of a website is completely oblivious to the invisible content, but the search engines pick it up. This is frowned upon by Google, the Great Zombie Defender, but it can sometimes go unnoticed.
- Keyword stuffing - Keyword stuffing primarily takes place in the meta description of a webpage. This one or two sentence description is supposed to provide a summary of the page, but is often used by Billy to improperly stuff keywords.
- Link farming - Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy loves crawling through slimy link farms. These are pages that exist for the sole purpose of linking unrelated websites together. It's essentially a junkyard.
The Human Survivors
While Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy is tearing through webpages, White Hat Willy is quietly surviving off of genuine, honest SEO techniques. Willy is also trying to save those around him: clients and coworkers. Just as zombies like to devour human brains, they also enjoy munching on rule-following SEOs. If Billy has it his way, he will ruin the entire SEO industry's name and perception. Here are a couple of ways Willy can work to defend the survivors:
- Quality is king - The most beneficial tool in Willy's arsenal is to produce original, quality content. The search engines love long, rich, semantically-structured content. If the human survivors band together and focus on quality content, Billy will be defeated. Quality content is like taking a shotgun to a zombie's face.
- Effective keywords - Keyword stuffing is bad, but effective keyword usage is good. One of Willy's best defense tools is to research keywords, properly place them, and monitor their success. Zombies are not smart enough to do the research.
- Inbound links - Willy cannot defend the zombies on his own. His survival depends on linking up with others. By developing highly regarded inbound links, Willy and the rest of the survivors can get a leg up on Billy and his zombie friends.
The R&D Warehouse
Willy is surviving off of strengths and smarts, but the longer Billy sticks around, the hungrier he is becoming. There comes a point when Willy cannot stand on his own strength and needs proper weapons and tools. That's where Google's R&D Warehouse comes into play. These scientists and medics are hard at work providing Willy with the necessary technology to fight off Billy. Here is a brief look at an SEO's Zombie Apocalypse How-To Survival Guide:
- Understand the zombies - In order to defeat Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy, Willy needs to understand what makes Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy tick. He needs to understand what hidden content, keyword stuffing, and link farming is and know how to spot it. Every successful human survivor knows how to spot flesh-eating zombies.
- Report the zombies - Odds are Willy will not be able to take on Billy and his friends alone. He has to report the zombies to the authorities. Matt Cutts notes that SEOs can report black hat techniques directly to Google's Webmaster forum.
- Take action - The best thing Willy can do is be proactive against Billy - which means following the white hat techniques and producing useful content. This is the quickest way to destroy hungry black hat zombies.
Google Is Working Hard
Over the past few years, Google has been hard at work helping White Hat Willy fend off Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy. Google's recent algorithm updates - Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird - have the ability to investigate and report sites not following the rules. This can be seen in Google's bust of J.C. Penney in 2010. They are beginning to take the zombie apocalypse more seriously by the day. With the influx of quality content from white hat SEOs combined with Google's increasingly defensive mindset, White Hat Willy will soon live in a world where Black Hat Bloodsucking Billy is no longer a threat to the livelihood of search engine rankings and web traffic.
Take that, Zombies!