By Megan Donaldson
Few things in life are strictly black and white, but in the SEO (search engine optimization) world it is important to be able to identify and understand the difference between White Hat and Black Hat strategies. In the simplest sense, the two can be described as follows:
White Hat SEO – Ethical SEO tactics in which you follow the guidelines established by the search engines for long term stability and success.
Black Hat SEO – Unethical SEO tactics in which you try to trick the search engines in order to gain quick results.
While the search engines still have a lot of work ahead of them, they strive to keep search results as genuine and helpful as possible for searchers. To accomplish this goal, the search engines, with Google leading the pack, have established usability guidelines for websites to follow. By following these webmaster guidelines, you can ensure that your website will remain in the good graces of the search engines and have the ability to grow in strength (and improve search rankings) on a long term scale.
White Hat SEO tactics revolve around following the webmaster guidelines. White Hat is all about playing by the rules in order to garner long term stability for a website. White Hat SEO takes a great deal of work and creativity – it is definitely a challenge – but the hard is what makes it great. By taking the time to invest the proper, and approved, SEO strategies in your online campaigns, you will see a payoff in the end. White Hat tactics won’t get your site to rank immediately, but in the end you will have a website that is built with good content, clean linking, and the ability to bring you traffic, leads and funds into the future. At Astonish Results, we pride ourselves on employing and advising only White Hat SEO campaigns. We do our best to educate clients on SEO best practices so they don’t get falsely lured into the short term charms of Black Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO is a strategy for getting short term results. Through Black Hat tactics such as keyword stuffing and link farming you can get your site high rankings quickly, but you can generally anticipate that a Black Hat site will be banned or penalized once the search engines catch on to the unethical behavior. Websites that utilize Black Hat strategies are generally looking for a quick fix or to turn a quick profit. Companies who are trying to develop a long term web presence will only hurt their reputation if they participate in Black Hat SEO. We understand that Black Hat SEO can be tempting, primarily because it will work – for a short period of time. However, if you want to be considered a legit source on the web, you need to follow the rules.
Here are some of the major Black Hat SEO strategies you should be sure to avoid on your website:
Keyword stuffing: Loading a page with a bunch of keywords and nothing else. You need to spread keywords throughout your content to avoid being penalized by the search engines.
Hidden text: Displaying text or links so that they are invisible to the reader but available for the search spiders to crawl. This can be done by putting white font on a white background. If it appears that your website is trying to deceive the search engines with hidden text or links, the site could be removed from the search results.
Doorway Pages/Cloaking: Pages that are built for the search engines to crawl, and not for humans to see. They are hidden pages that are built with the intention of tricking the search engines into thinking a site has more content than it actually does in order to rank higher in the search results.
Overall, if you want your business and its web presence to be considered legit, you should steer clear of Black Hat SEO strategies. They are simply not worth the risk of having your website either temporarily or even permanently removed from the search results. Stick with White Hat SEO practices and you’ll be in the pink.
About the Author
Megan is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish, spending most of her professional time fine-tuning inbound strategies, evaluating websites, and researching, researching, researching. After studying Marketing Communications in Western Massachusetts she dedicated herself to the online world through online retailing, web design and search engine optimization. Megan is a native Rhode Islander who loves baking crazy confections in her spare time. Have you ever tried an 8 layer cookie cake? YUM.
Businesses that are new to digital marketing often ask, “How do I make social media work for my business?”. Social media supports and enhances business functions that are focused on achieving specific business objectives, such as expanding brand awareness, driving leads, customer service, and more. However, just as in any other department of your business you want it to be well planned. Producing an effective and successful social media campaign comes down to three factors:
(Source: Google Images)
- Clear Vision
Having a Clear Vision
Clarity about what you want to achieve with your social media campaign is of most importance and must be discussed thoroughly before you even begin your campaign. Get with your staff and outline what it is you will be using it for. What is the focus of your campaign:
- Cut cost on customer service?
- Expand your reach and brand reputation in your market online?
- Encourage repeated business?
- To gain valuable information from your customers on how you can make your business better?
Regardless of what your goals might be, they must be clearly defined before you even think about registering your twitter account!
Purpose = Value
As important as what your goals are for the social real, what is equally, if not more, important is “why” they are of valuable objectives. Don’t get caught up in the mindset of, “We have to have a twitter account because our competition has one” or “We can rank better for terms in the search engine.” While these have some truth to them, they should not be the driving force of your campaign. Purpose creates value, and customers can smell it a mile away. If your market sees that you are there for a specific reason and feel you care for their needs, they will know where to go when they have issues. Make it more about the sale, make it about the customer, for without them there is no sale.
Execution Requires Time and Patience
You may have heard the common phrase, “Social Media doesn’t happen overnight.” Well there is a reason it is common, because it’s true. Developing a successful engaging social presence doesn’t happen on your first try. It requires trial and error, which implies failure. Temporary failure. Finding out what doesn’t work is just as important is discovering what does work, by learning not to make those mistakes again. What can ease the sting of failure is being hones with yourself about all the things that can go wrong and create a plan of action should that situation arise. Make small objectives and take them one at a time until you find what works. You will see your wins increase as you patiently press forward in your social journey.
Go For It!
Combine all these elements Clear Vision, Purpose and Execution and no doubt you will begin to see astonishing results. Olivier Blanchard from from the BrandBuilder Blog said it best,
“Understanding the objectives, clarifying the value, and demonstrating that you understand the risks, hurdles, and challenges ahead will go a long way toward deflating fear and instilling confidence in your endeavor.”
Remember you are the expert in the field and you know your customer’s better than anyone, give them what they need in a way that only you can. Speaking with authority and confidence will build a customers trust for your brand. A little trust goes a long way.
We would love to know how you organize your campaigns, define purpose and brainstorm for social media success! Comments are always welcomed and appreciated.
Previously, we discussed, Alligator wrangling on the rise in Florida: Over-development and drunk idiots to blame, discussing how there is approximately one alligator for every 12.5 humans and the insurance-related challenges this co-existence can create.
Moving further offshore, in honor of last week’s Discovery Channel, “Shark Week”, we’re exploring a health insurance related issue brought to life by one predator of the sea and its appetite for human arms. The high-profile ordeal of a vacationing Florida man recently brought a media feeding frenzy to the topic of sharks, traveling abroad and insurance.
Luis Hernandez was swimming off a boat in the Bahamas when he was attacked by a shark that shredded his arm to pieces. Blessed to be saved by his wife who pulled him safely onto the boat, the man literally had to sit and wait, bleeding in a large transport plane while his credit card was run for $7,500, covering the cost of the medical evacuation. Also using his credit card, the shark-bitten man was able to pay an additional $13,000 for Bahamian medical care and transportation to a specialized U.S. hospital, but all told, Luis was on the hook for close to $700,000 in medical costs for surgery and recovery.
Facing financial ruin and reduced mobility with his arm, Luis followed all the protocols of his insurance company, which were extensive, and was able to recuperate his medical expenses while gaining 70% of his arm strength. Despite the somewhat happy ending, this whole scenario raises many questions about health insurance coverage when travelling out of the country. The fact is, not all health insurance plans operate the same when you leave the country.
Fortunately, the government has taken steps to provide information for those travelling abroad by creating the Travel.State.gov website. On its homepage the site states the following:
Before going abroad, learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the United States, REMEMBER to carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance and a claim form. Although many health insurance companies will pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States. Medical evacuation can easily cost $10,000 and up, depending on your location and medical condition.
Underscoring a message for retired or senior citizen travelers, the site makes it clear in ALL CAPS and bold that: THE SOCIAL SECURITY MEDICARE PROGRAM DOES NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR HOSPITAL OR MEDICAL COSTS OUTSIDE THE U.S.A. Supplemental life insurance is available as a backup.
Additionally, Travel.State.gov offers additional resources for travelers going abroad including:
Air Ambulance/Med-Evac Companies
Avian Flu Fact Sheet
Foot and Mouth Disease Fact Sheet
Chemical/Biological Agents Fact Sheet
Responding to Radiological and Nuclear Incidents
Next time you or a customer plans an adventure vacation that involves diving with sharks, going on safari or a jungle expedition, it’s a good idea to review what IS and IS NOT covered by insurance, just in case your arm ends up as a meal.
The topic of Errors and Omissions insurance as it relates to insurance agencies and specifically social media and technology, has been a hot one over the past few weeks.
Insurance Journal featured a comprehensive look at all risks associated with social media usage in, “The Growing Risks of Social Media,” while industry thought-leader Steve Anderson mentions E&O policies when discussing coverages needed to protect against the risk of data breaches, where personal information is stolen or made available accidentally.
To get a clear understanding of how Errors and Omissions policies are relevant to technology and social media, it’s important to first define E&O. According to BusinessDictionary.com, Errors and Omissions liability insurance is defined as:
Insurance coverage that protects professionals (such as accountants, architects, brokers, consultant, engineers, lawyers) against claims arising from their actual or perceived negligence, errors, and mistakes in the performance of service for others.
A slightly different explanation is offered on the International Risk Management Institute, Inc. (IRMC) website which defines E&O as:
An insurance form that protects the insured against liability for committing an error or omission in performance of professional duties. Generally, such policies are designed to cover financial losses rather than liability for bodily injury and property damage.
Understanding the types of coverages needed to mitigate the risk from your agency’s social media usage is not only good for your own protection, but valuable in determining how to protect business partners that are active on the social web, potentially opening up new streams for “rounding off” accounts.
Insurers have been slow to create policies that address social media usage specifically (they’re still learning how to use it). For this reason, knowledge from someone who has years of insurance and social media experience is more readily available than anything you can dig up from an insurance company. While they are few and far between, Leslie White, risk manager for SocialFish.org, wrote a groundbreaking post titled, Social Media, Liability and Insurance, in which she discusses the liabilities involved for any small business engaging on the social web.
I encourage you to read the entire piece, but in discussing Errors & Omissions coverage specifically, Ms. White states:
“Associations with extensive media activities should consider a media liability policy. However, if your association has an Errors & Omissions policy for its professional programs, the E&O policy can be modified to extend coverage for media exposures.
One advantage of a media liability policy is it can provide coverage for losses arising from the content of the publication. If the blog posting or article explains how to do or make something and someone gets hurt or suffers a financial loss, the association may be held liable. The policy can also be endorsed to cover claims arising from bodily injury or property damage arising from the content or subject matter.”
There is some gray area in defining the words “media” and “matter” so Ms. White encourages companies to make the definition as broad as possible to cover all web properties, electronic publications and even volunteers and authors.
As mentioned previously, data breaches are a concern, especially when sensitive information is available. Fortunately, most agencies will not have to worry about their websites, since the quote forms or other lead engines present only ask for very basic information. However, LOSS of data is a huge concern as operations become more digitized and CMS systems expand.
Aside from protecting data, bloggers and social media users always have to be aware of things like plagiarism, copyright infringement and defamation, which can all be easily avoided with some basic common sense training and a social media policy. Don’t badmouth the competition. Don’t steal other people’s work. Give credit where credit is due. Don’t post sensitive information about clients.
Benchmark-setting court cases and legislation is needed before a precedent can be set. Until then, it’s best to listen to the experts, formulate E&O coverages that protect your agency’s specific liabilities and apply a similar model when assessing the risks of clients active with social media and digital insurance marketing.
Since the insurance industry is playing catch-up in the social media marketing space, it may be some time before a forward-thinking insurer develops a specific coverage to address the risks faced by bloggers and social media practitioners. But when it happens, it’s likely they’ll get plenty of attention from the people it matters to most.