Hacking is something that computer security systems try to prevent every single day. It is something that can cause a lot of problems for people. People get infected with computer viruses, and so on and so forth. Everybody is well aware of the dangers of hacking and getting your computer infected. It can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars to get your computer fixed once someone has hacked into it.
But not all “hacking” is bad. In fact the U.S. government employs “white hat” hackers all of the time. They are constantly testing and developing computer security systems – which is making this country a better place. And this brings me to the first similarities between hacking and SEO – the branding of morality of each in each separate job.
Just as there are white hat, black hat, and grey hat hackers in the world, there are white hat, black hat, and grey hat SEO’s (search engine optimizers) out there. And as you have probably guessed black hat hackers and SEO’s are those that are there to cause trouble for people, whether it’s infecting your computer with a virus (hackers) or trying to get to the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages) by using SPAMMY linking techniques or doing things like cloaking. The grey hats are the ones in the world that think they are doing good for people and are really not (there different shades of grey), and the white hats are the ones that are providing true value for the world, and “playing by the rules.”
But this isn’t the only similarity between hacking and SEO. In fact, I like to refer to SEO sometimes as “search engine hacking.”
Google uses an algorithm to identify who should be at the top of the SERPs by using certain signals, like back links, social media, and things of the like. For many SEO’s in the world (SEO’s of shades of black and grey) getting to the top of the SERPs means manipulating the search engines as best they can.
Just as hackers develop code to break into a system, SEO’s develop strategies and use signals to break into the top of the SERPs. The difference is that hackers use a programming language while SEO’s use their knowledge about search engines and how they react to different signals.
For example, before the whole “nofollow” attribute came along, the way people used to build a lot of backlinks was to SPAM blog with comments (it still happens today). Since people are able to put their link in when they comment on things, it was a very popular (yet black hat) way of building links. The nofollow attribute was introduced because of this whole system of trying to “hack” your way to the top of the SERPs.
Content farms were another example of SEO’s trying to hack their way to the top of the SERPs. A content farm is a website that pays freelance writers to come up with poor to mediocre content – except for they are able to make it profitable by doing it on a very high scale. eHow would be an example of an upper tier content farm. But an algorithm update called Panda (named after the engineer that designed it) that came out in February of 2011 hit the content farms hard, and a lot of them fell to the bottom of the SERPs.
Which brings me to my last and final point about how search engine optimization and hacking is similar: You will always get caught! Just as the blog comment spammers and the content farms both had to anne up (all of their hard work spamming eventually added up to nothing), due to Google “catching them” with algorithm changes or extensions to HTML ( the rel=”nofollow” tag), and just as of the likes of Mark Zucherberg get caught for things like hacking into the Harvard University network, everyone who uses black hat techniques will eventually get caught! So grab your white hats and get to work!
This article was written by Philip Russell. Philip helps to run and maintain www.inetzeal.com – which is a SEO company. He enjoys writing articles about SEO, SEM, and everything else to do with Internet marketing.
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