SEO: The Good and the Bad

Anyone remember a Buzzfeed writer’s essay-length potshot at The Oatmeal‘s Matthew Inman?

I do. As an avid reader of The Oatmeal, I read both the original essay and Inman’s rebuttal, but the thing that stood out to me from both articles was Inman’s past job as an SEO marketer.

SEO the good and the bad

According to Inman, he: “did SEO for a few months in my early 20s, sucked at it, and got banned by Google … I hated SEO when I did it, and I hate it now.”

That was my first introduction to SEO, and it was enough for me. I decided that SEO was bad and stupid, and I moved on.

Fast forward to this past week’s readings, and I learn that good SEO is what makes the web go ’round, especially for strong online communities. So what is this dark side of SEO that I hated so much?

Shady SEO is commonly known as black hat SEO. Black hat refers to a hacker who uses the Internet for selfish or harmful reasons, so someone who practices black hat SEO takes good SEO principles and exploits them for personal gain.

So what are some common black hat SEO techniques?


If your website serves different set of content to search engines and users, you’re practicing cloaking. Cloaking usually involved baiting search engines with popular search terms; but when a user comes to your website, they find completely different content. Cloaking was one of the first abusive SEO practices to get banned by Google.


If you are creating multiple webpages with the same content, you’re practicing duplicate content. The concept behind duplicate content is simple: the more pages you own with that content, the more likely users looking for that content will come to your pages than your competitors. In the long run, however, this makes your website less effective and confuses users.


If you are paying irrelevant websites to link back to your site to increase your perceived usefulness by search engines, you are link buying. SEO relies on the fact that the most websites that link to you, the more authoritative you are for that content. Link buying is like paying for


If you have pages of content that are simply popular keywords that aren’t relevant to your content, you are keyword stuffing. Another simple tactic that is pretty obvious upon discovery, and does more harm than good.

Search Engine Watch, E3ngage, and Forbes can give you more info on these tactics.

It seems that the key to avoiding bad SEO is that when creating your content, think of your users first. SEO does have a place in the success of a website, but only as a supplement to quality content to your community.

Have you heard of or personally encountered bad SEO before? Or did you have an opinion about SEO that changed after our class readings?

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