The Importance of promoting your Website
White hat, black hat, or shades of gray ?

A word or two about the importance of promoting your website, ways to do it, and some ways not to do it.

Far too often, the common belief is, if you build it and it's up on the net, it should be found and used. Well, at one time that might have been true, however the simple fact remains, that the sheer number of sites on the net in the current day, demand a lot more of the webmaster to get their site out there and noticed. There are many ways to do this, you will see page after page of "how to" out there, some of it good information, but unfortunately, a lot of isn't.

Bogus SEO Idea number one is ?
Good site promotion takes money :

This one is the first and foremost that you will hear, and to my point of view, it is a lie,  one most often stated by the very companies that want you to spend lots of money with them to promote your site. And you can of course pay for such things, however, understand, there is almost nothing that any of these companies can do for you, that you cannot do with your own hands. All it takes is the time to do it, and the understanding of what to do, and where.

Such information is available for free all over the net, posted by normal people, just like you for the most part, who, like me, have taken the time to learn. So, pay for promotion, if you want to, if you don't have the time to learn how to do it yourself, that's perfectly fine, but do not believe that you Have to pay to play. It takes money to make money, true enough, but site promotion doesn't have to be one of the costs, if you are willing to invest the time.

Real site promotion:

Real site promotion can cost a grand total of 0.00 in terms of money, other than your time and investment to learn how to do it. Plain fact, the ways and means are out there and anyone can learn them. The means are ...

Get on the engines: There are literally millions of search engines you can get on for free, and you can do it all yourself.

Word of mouth: As with any business, it's still your best form of advertising, happy customers, who tell their friends.

Link it up: Links to and from related and decently ranked sites, yet another thing you can and should do yourself.

Keywords: Be sure the content of the text on your site contains the right keywords for the viewer you want to draw in, in other words have good text copy.

Do all the background stuff: Which means your meta tags, the tilting, the descriptions etc., it's easy to learn about it and to do it.

Provide the best service: You don't have to be one of a kind, although that can help in some cases, you just have to be good at whatever you do.

Do email promotions and newsletters: Gathering an email list of users who "want" your information is simple and cost effective.

Promote yourself off line: Hand out your business cards, take out a newspaper ad, put up tear off bulletins in the local shops, take your pick.

and that's it.. other than creating the site itself for visual appeal.. which again, you can do yourself, if you want to take the time to learn the skills.

Now, for a "White hat" webmaster, or a decent SEO company, these are no problem, they are legitimate and above board, and are considered "good" sound business practices, which means to most people, that it's safe to do business with you, you care about how you do things, however take a look at what are considered,  'black hat' techniques.

 'Black hat' techniques:  What that term means is any company, or person, that uses "spam" tactics to boost the ranking, rating or traffic of a site.

Things like:

Keyword stuffing: As the name says, planting the keywords to excess and or planting keywords that are unrelated to the real site content.

Invisible text: Hidden text, the same color as the background, or buried inside comment tags. Used for keyword spamming.

Doorway Pages: A form of cloaking, in that a page that is engine friendly is the one indexed, but it's automatically re directed to a page that isn't engine friendly.

Cloaking: Meaning showing one content to the engines, and another to human visitors.

Code swapping: Similar to the above, that once rank is achieved, the engine friendly page comes down and human viewer page goes up.

Misleading Re-directs: Meaning a redirect that goes off to a site that is not related to the original links stated content.

Linking to Unrelated Sites or Link Farms and bad neighborhoods: Links for the sake of links, that are not related to the site.

Duplicate Sites: Having site, after site, after site, of all the same content, all linked into each other. This is done not just for the links, but to dominate the field for that subject or keyword, so their site comes up, no matter what, shoving out other sites.

Buying up or using mis-spelled or sound alike domain names: This was becoming common, example: Having a domain called Pay pals, would be a take off on Pay pal (tm), and would likely slip by the engines for the key words pay pal. This tactic is used, but it opens the webmaster up for lawsuits by the legitimate name holder. Several such suits have been filed and won by the legitimate name holder, so this practice is falling out of favor.

Email spamming, article spamming, search engine spamming or guest book spamming: As the name implies, spaming peoples inboxs with unwanted mail, blasting blogs with your articles with links to your site, ditto dropping in bogus guest book entries, just for the link attached, or bombing the engines with site submissions.

Now the reason not to do these things has little to do with morality, legality or ethics, as some of these were, at one time, considered legitimate SEO tactics, in the early days of the internet, like redirects, FFA link pages, duplicated content, but they are being abused for purposes they were never intended to be used for, by companies that are out to make money by whatever means. But if you don't use such things yourself, and are planning for a long term solid business, what's the big fuss about ?

It has to do with a simple fact of any sites functional life, the search engines, almost anything currently classed as a 'black hat' technique, is likely to get you banned off the engines eventually, as all of the above defy the search engine rules, it's a simple game of rolling the dice, you might get away with it, for a while, but eventually they will notice, and off goes the site into the cyber black hole of oblivion. And if the intent is to keep the business you have built, such tactics are not reasonable or worth the risk.

For those who create such businesses on purpose, they know they are going to get banned off the engines for it, but if they have made their money, they quite frankly don't care, they have another one waiting in the wings to take its place. The site, its domain, and their customers are all disposable from the onset.

Now the question often comes up of.. why should anyone care if they do this, other than the customers they might leave hanging out in space when they disappear ? Simple, for one, most anyone who would do business this way is not one to be trusted. Example: I would not believe for one moment that any medications I ordered from such a site, for example, was really what they said it was, for the simple fact they lied to me to get me there, why wouldn't they lie to me about that the meds are ? It's a matter of credibility. But the main reason any legitimate webmaster should be concerned is what such sites are doing to how legitimate webmasters are viewed.

Notice, that the black hat tactics are often the same tactics you take for white hat SEO, your keywords, your links, submission to the engines, re directs, allowing others to post your articles and content for links or credits, and using similar domain names, sending out newsletters etc., all can be perfectly legitimate, and even recommended practices.

The engines have the job of trying to figure out, if a thing is legitimate SEO or not, as the line can be more than a bit blurred, into shades of gray. In fact, they tend to dislike the whole idea of SEO period, as it's tailoring the site for the engines, not for the human visitor, which as noted, has been abused.

So you could use a perfectly legitimate SEO tactic and find yourself banned off the engines, why ? Because some spammer is using the same tactic in an unethical fashion, and you, the legitimate business will pay the price for it as the engines and other filtering systems, often use a very limited criteria to make the decision of "is it good or is it spam ?"

Example: I tried to send a common letter to my sister the other day, the letter contained words about various software she should get and urls to sites for her to go find them. Her email filter sent it back to me, why ? Because the spam filter assumed I was trying to sell her software, based entirely on the wording used. The letter was perfectly legitimate, but since it resembled the typical spammer emails in some fashion, it was rejected. So we have to tailor the email even to avoid being considered one of the "bad" guys.

However, legitimate businesses are forced to address the matter of catering to the engines, as we depend so heavily on the engines for our traffic, that taking what they want and require to get noticed and found, becomes paramount to any webmaster who wants their site to survive.

Not listed or not found means no visitors, so search engine requirements have to be considered. But is how you do it that matters for long term stability.

It's a matter of intentions, do you promote the site by " any means possible" or by "accepted means"  it's like Karma, Karma is all about a persons intentions, and the engines have the task of trying to figure out your intentions, and it's assumed if you use any of the black hat tactics, your intentions are not within their standards of a "good" site and they will make a point not to promote it.

But first they have to figure it out, as it's a machine that is doing the analyzing for most of the major engines, not a human being. It's why human directed engines are a lot "cleaner" in terms of having less spammy sites. Because a human being can easily see the spam tactics, but the sheer number of sites that are submitted daily, make this a difficult task, requiring massive amounts of personal to really "look" at a site with their own eyes.

This is not practical for most of the major engines in terms of manpower, so black hat sites, can slide by the engine spiders, and the engines, in an effort to weed out such sites, tweak the algorithms all the time, unfortunately they often boot legitimate sites, right along with the trash sites.

So, we, the webmasters have to try our best to satisfy the engines spiders, and get the traffic we need to do business. But, we tread a fine line between white hat and black hat, and most of the time, we end up wearing a gray hat, as what makes for good search engine optimizing, and what are the "dirty tricks" of the internet, is often a matter of degree and intention. And to stay on the engines, we have to make our intentions perfectly clear.

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