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Yesterday Red Olive attended a conference about SEO ethics at Utah Valley University. Ash Buckles, President of, spoke on black hat vs. white hat SEO and the respective techniques to avoid and participate in. He first defined what the search engines consider to be black hat tactics. Black hat SEO tactics include website cloaking, keyword stuffing, hidden text, link farms and stealing content from other websites. He cited examples of major corporations that have been impacted negatively in the search engines and how their rankings have especially struggled on Google. JCPenny, Forbes, Overstock and BMW were all sites that Google had devalued in the past year due to the use of paid links, a popular black hat tactic. Many of the sites that were effected by Google’s devaluation took 30-90 days to bounce back to their original keyword rankings! On the other hand, there are many ways a website’s SEO can participate in white hat SEO. Some great examples of white hat best practices are creating unique content for your website, implementing keyword targeted pages titles, meta descriptions and header tags as well as developing a well managed social media presence. There are many white hat SEO techniques that can be implemented but these are some of the bigger ones that should be addressed. Ash cited Wikipedia as a site that is going about SEO the right way. He pointed out that they have incredible internal linking between articles and thousands of external back links that make them an authority for many Google search queries. In fact, Wikipedia’s approach has worked so well for them that they rank for 92% of 100 of the most searched terms on Google according to Matt Tuens, CEO at AcuVox.

Ethical SEO Takeaways

– Black hat SEO might work in the short term, but your site will definitely be burned in the long run.

– Search engines provide SEO guidelines/expectations, and as Greg Shuey, VP of Client Services at, tweeted:

– As an SEO, keep your self educated in what will harm your client’s sites and what what will add SEO value. Be aware that what might have worked last year may not now.

You can find Ash Buckles’ full presentation in its entirety here: