Black Hat vs White Hat SEO

White hat SEO techniques versus black hat SEOIf you have ever visited an SEO blog or read an article, you have likely seen the terms white hat or black hat used. This week we will look at the two concepts, examine what they are, and explain what it means for you.

 

Black hat

Black Hat SEO refers to the practice of aggressive SEO tactics in order to get a high position on search engines. This means that the person or company in charge of SEO uses certain techniques that are meant to target search engines instead of actual people. In short, they favor a quick financial return instead of long term investment and content.

Here are a few techniques that black hat SEO people use:

Keyword Stuffing – Filling a web page full of keywords in order to trick search engines into thinking that a certain page is relevant to a web search.

Invisible Keywords – Another form or keyword stuffing except this involves inserting repeating keywords into the webpage that are hidden from actual visitors, but can still be scanned by search engines. The keywords are either hidden in hidden fields, or by making the text the same color as the background.

Doorway pages – Also called gateway pages, doorway pages are pages that act as an entry point to a website. These pages are usually stuffed with keywords in order to gain a high SEO ranking. Usually, the page will either quickly redirect to the actual website homepage, or require the user to click to continue.

Page Swapping – Once a page has been ranked by search engines, the user will completely change the web page to something different.

 

Many SEO firms still use these techniques to boost sites to higher search rankings. This is why you should be extra careful when choosing a SEO company. There are countless SEO companies that promise quick SEO results, and often end up using black hat techniques. Search engines constantly are on the lookout for practices like these and punish the offending sites when found.

 

White hat

White hat SEO is a technique that focuses on the human audience rather than search engines. It focuses on organic searches rather than manipulating search engines. White hat is designed to be a long term approach as opposed to achieving quick results like black hat. It follows all search engine rules and policies.

White hat SEO follows practices that are often talked about on this blog: keywords, keyword analysis, backlinks, link building, quality content, etc.

White hat is considered Ethical SEO because it focuses much more on the site’s actual content as opposed to manipulating the search engine algorithms. If you intend for your website to be a long-term investment, white hat techniques are advised. If you are looking into companies to work on your SEO, always ask what techniques they use and how they plan to boost your rankings. Nothing is secret in SEO. If they won’t tell you how they plan to boost your ratings, they are often using black hat techniques.

Looking to get some SEO done? Contact us today for a free consultation. You can be assured that we will always follow good white hat techniques to help build your organic search results.

Are QR Codes Still Effective?

qrcode.22925811It’s been a little over one year since our last blog about QR codes, so it seems like a perfect time to do a follow up. If you don’t know what QR codes are, here is the post giving you an overview on what QR codes are. Go ahead and take a minute to reread it, its short.

Originally, QR codes were used for manufacturing purposes as a way to track parts in ways that classic bar codes couldn’t. Eventually, businesses discovered that they could use them for marketing purposes. QR codes offer a lot of benefit for businesses by encouraging audience interaction. They act as an easy way to provide people with more information about a certain topic or to drive more traffic to a website. The codes are also extremely simple to make. Tons of sites will generate QR codes for free. Coupled with the fact that they were new, cool, and took advantage of new technology, these are the reasons that QR codes became so popular for businesses.

As mentioned in last year’s article, there are some limitations for QR codes. More people have become aware of what they are, or can recognize them when they see them. The problem now is that many people don’t know how to use them. They know that you can scan them on your phone, but some people are not aware of what app to use to do so.

There is also the problem that people are not using QR codes as much as they used to. The widespread use of the codes has taken away that initial “coolness” factor that drove much of their earlier success. Many businesses themselves are to blame for QR codes falling usage. There has been very poor implementation across many businesses. There are countless examples of poor usage of QR codes. Here are some of my favorite examples: on the back of a Pepsi truck, on a subway, behind an airplane, billboards. Even the TSA is guilty of poor QR code usage when their own posters direct to the wrong site.

None of these examples are isolated examples of bad design. This is a common practice among many businesses both large and small. The poor use of QR codes leads to a low click-through rate, which means that developers won’t devote as much time to developing quality content if no one is going to view it. This again leads customers to have low expectations with QR codes, further lowering click-through rates.

So the ultimate question becomes: are QR codes still worth using? For the most part, I’d say no. They are easy to make, but these days, people will often only scan the code if there is a good incentive for them to do so. This means that you have to produce good quality content, which takes time. If you can produce something that is worth peoples’ time, and can place the QR code in an easily accessible place, then by all means use them. But for the majority of businesses, it simply isn’t worth the effort that it used to be.

Do you have any good or bad QR code stories? Let us know in the comments!

How to Tell When it’s Time to Update Your Website

outdatedtechFashion trends change quickly, probably more so than any generation before. When I was a kid in school, there were two types of pants that were cool for guys. There were the big baggy jeans with holes in them or those cargo pants with the zip-off legs. The really cool kids would get multiple colors of the same type, then mix and match the zip-off leg parts. That was really the pinnacle of fashion in my adolescent mind.

It seems that almost all pants manufactures collectively decided that those zip off pants were a bad idea and stopped making them. However, on rare occasions, you can catch some people still wearing old cargo shorts that are designed to have legs attached. I know this because my former roommate used to wear a pair regularly. When I would ask him about why he still wore them, his response was usually something along the lines of: “Whatever, they are comfortable and they work.” He is absolutely right, it doesn’t matter what you wear when you are grocery shopping on the weekends. However, it can be problematic when you apply the same logic to your website.

Far too many businesses are complacent about updating the look of their website. They are stuck with their old “zip-off pants” version simply because it works and they are comfortable with it. People are afraid of change and will often make the excuse that as long as it works, that is all that matters. Too bad this is not true at all.

Design and looks are one of the most important elements, even in the B2B world. Here are some statistics to back up that claim:

94% of a website user’s first impression is design related.

75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design.

So what is a person to do? Where do you start when you want to update your website? Well if you have a little experience in coding, the steps are very similar when you want to update your fashion wardrobe as well.

Start small. Examine a couple websites that you like the look of. Don’t directly copy their design, but look at how the elements come together to make it work. Maybe it’s simply the way the pictures are laid out, or their use of a unique font to create an interesting branding image. All artists take inspiration from something else. Spend some time and find your inspiration.

If you don’t have any coding experience, or simply don’t feel like taking the time to update it yourself, there are always professionals that can do exactly what you want. Take a look at our portfolio, or give us a call and see if we can help design the site you have in mind.

Simple Advice For Working With IT

Angry Computer UserIn a perfect world, nothing would ever go wrong. We would buy new computers or equipment and they would work perfectly forever no matter what kind of stress we put them through. We all know that this is far from reality, unfortunately. That’s why we hire IT professionals to assist us.

While working here at iPoint, I find myself in a unique position where I regularly interact with IT professionals. I get to hear all of the stories about the things they do, the problems they face, and sometimes the crazy interactions with customers. While I usually know enough about computers and IT that I can get by without consulting anyone, I am not an IT professional and sometimes resort to asking for help from someone who knows more than me. That is what an IT team is for after all. Seeing both sides of the situation has given me valuable insight on how to deal and talk with the IT department. The following is my advice on what you can do to improve the quality of both their lives

 

Take steps to prevent a problem before it becomes an issue.

You would rarely have to talk to the IT department if nothing is going wrong. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way. You wouldn’t drive your car without changing the oil every so often, so why would you use a computer without ever making sure it is updated? Spend a little time to make sure that your anti-virus software, malware protection software, and operating system are all updated.

 

Communicate and educate

Many people think of tech support as these wizards who sit atop their ivory tower looking down at the rest of the company waiting for something to stop working so they can swoop down and perform some magic and make it work again. Take some time to learn what it is that the IT department does. Nothing that they do is magic, and often times, it is very simple procedures they are performing. Try searching for your problem online and see if there are any solutions before consulting IT.

 

If you have a problem, make sure to detail exactly what happened.

It is inevitable that something will go wrong eventually. When it does, make sure that you detail exactly what happened. It is hard to diagnose a problem when all that the IT professional has to go off of is: “Well it gave an error but I don’t remember exactly what it said. Something about Windows.” If you receive an error, write it down. Often times, there will be an error code associated with it. This information can be very valuable to the person fixing the problem and can help get you back up and running faster.

 

This is probably the most important thing to take away from this whole blog. If you are going to remember anything from this, let it be this part:

Remember that they are people too.

It’s easy to get frustrated when something isn’t working the way you think it should. Perhaps your problem has been persisting for a while now. No matter how frustrating it gets, remember that they are people too. They have feelings too and just want to help you. You would not believe some of the stories that you hear from IT people about customers yelling at them. Many people will even blame IT saying that it is their fault that something broke or is missing. No matter how frustrating it is dealing with IT, getting impatient or angry will not make them work faster or harder. They want to resolve the issue just as much as you do.