Black Hat or White Hat SEO?

You’ve probably heard about search engine optimization being divided into two camps, “white hat” and “black hat.” The distinction between the two changes over time. However, there’s always an approach you can choose based on the target you have in mind and your mind-set. Today, we’ll look at how these camps stand apart and what you need to know to make a better decision on the course you want to take.

While we are going to speak about both black and white hat SEO, when we talk about black hat, we are talking about tactics and rules that are not part of Google’s set – activities like hacking websites and other outright illegal methods. To be clear, while we are putting general ethics aside, we are definitely not endorsing any activities that are illegal.

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO refers to various methods of rapidly gaming Google into believing that your website is as genuine as the established players. Keep in mind that, while these may work, they are generally short lived and Google is getting far better at catching on to these tactics. Google is on a continued offensive to find people who are trying to con their domains up in the rankings. That being said, here are a few tactics that are in use.

Link farms – These are websites that are programmed to link to each other within the group. They are obviously quite easy for search engines to catch onto.

Blog and forum spam – There are automated programs available that will visit several websites and submit comments while leaving a backlink to other websites. These are generally nonsensical comments which are easily caught and removed manually.

Hidden text – This is the practice of having links within pages and then hiding those links by using color or blocking the block via CSS so human visitors can’t view the links but search engine spiders can.

Cloaked and doorway pages – Cloaking is illegal and is the activity of presenting one version of a web page to search engines while showing completely different text to human visitors. Doorway pages refers to webpages with some text for search engines and some programming for web browsers that will redirect to a different domain. Both these activities will result in domains being kicked out of Google if caught!

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO means using methods that are okay with search engines and avoiding automated pages or any of the methods mentioned above. While some agencies will tell you that they use only white hat methods to ensure your pages never slip in search results, keep in mind that these terms are often changing. For example, it used to be acceptable to have keyword-rich domains, links in the footer or paid links with no penalties until quite recently. Now all these activities are frowned upon.

Guest blogging – The process of writing posts for other websites in return for a link to your website will help your rankings and generate relevant traffic as well.

Viral campaigns – If you have ideas and infographics to share on your website that are of importance to your industry, you can be sure they will be shared, tweeted, bookmarked and passed along.

On-page optimization – Ensure that your pages have the correct titles, are named correctly, have well written HTML and do not employ hidden links.

Well written posts – Make sure your domain has regularly updated and well written content. The more relevant your posts, the more traffic you can get from search engines. A five-page domain can attract only so much traffic.

Sitemaps and internal links – Have a sitemap that search engines can use to link all the pages in your website. The easier you make it for content to be found, the quicker you can get indexed and bring visitors onto those pages.

SEO is an evolving field, and there may never be a clear-cut definition of what is right and ethical. However, following a slow and steady link building practice from relevant domains will never get you into trouble. There are tempting advantages of black hat SEO. It may allow your domain to get ranked quickly, but you may tank just as quickly. At the end of the day, your moral compass allows you to decide on which side you want to be and how much risk you want to take with your marketing campaigns.

Need to Brush Up on Your Internet Marketing Knowledge?

The IMA Certified Internet Marketer (CIM) professional certification program provides participants with the foundational Internet marketing education needed to succeed in today’s fast-changing online business environment.

Participants will learn from experienced Internet marketing practitioners. These practitioners draw from decades of combined Internet marketing experience at pioneering companies such as Microsoft, Omniture, Adobe, Foresee, and others. The roster of instructors includes both senior marketing leaders as well as a published author on web analytics who share their expertise to provide program participants with highly sought-after information delivered with the ease and convenience of an online learning platform.

Click here for more information on IMA Certified Internet Marketer certification.

Ireland Trip Offers Unique Opportunity

This event is reaching capacity and will sell out. So reserve your spot now.

Ireland will proudly welcome the Internet Marketing Association to its shores in June 2013. This special event will be led by the IMA’s friend, the Honorable M. Finbar Hill, Hon. Consul General of Ireland in Southern California since 2002. During our journey, Finbar will explain the development of a small island on the northwest corner of Europe from its origins in the mists of time to its leading role today in business, digital and social media.

We will share in Ireland’s culture, history and love of sport and meet business, political and cultural leaders at a time when Ireland holds the Presidency of the EU. We will interact with business and political leaders at special receptions and learn about opportunities afforded in Ireland for business development, with tax incentives, throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Whether you come from the Irish diaspora or elsewhere, join us for business, fun and laughter in convivial surroundings with fellow leaders of the IMA.

Click here for more details and to RSVP, contact Deirdre O’Neill Machin at

Save the Date!

IMA Impact 13
September 25-27, 2013
Aria Resort & Casino
CityCenter, Las Vegas

The 2012 IMA Conference and Awards held this past September at CityCenter in Las Vegas was a landmark for the Internet marketing industry. This year, we’re raising the bar to make the event even more memorable and valuable!

Impact 13 will again be a three-day event in the breathtaking environment of CityCenter, featuring distinguished keynote speakers on vital Internet marketing topics, a series of breakout sessions presented by the industry’s leading experts, and the 2013 Impact Awards dinner.

The Internet Marketing Association is one of the fastest growing professional organizations in the world. Its mission is to provide a unique knowledge-sharing platform where proven Internet marketing strategies are demonstrated and shared in to increase each member’s value to their industry and their organization.

Don’t miss this extraordinary event focused on innovation, education and recognition.

Protecting Your Valuable Brand: The Importance of Trademarks

Benefits of Registration

As an Internet marketer, you know the importance of developing brand recognition. The brand is usually part of a company’s web site address. It is often entered into search engines to find a company, its products and services. Since the brand is vital to how a company’s consumer traffic is generated on the Internet, what should a company do to protect its brand? One of the simplest and best things to do is to use and register your brand as a trademark.

In the U.S., the process for registering a trademark begins with the filing of an application for the mark and the associated goods and/or services with the United States Patent & Trademark Office. The application is examined and assuming no issues approved for publication. The application is then published, allowing time for third parties to object to the registration. Again, assuming no objections, if the mark is in use and a declaration of use has been filed and accepted, a Certificate of Registration is issued. Once a registration is issued, the registrant obtains additional rights in its mark for the goods or services identified in the registration certificate. These additional rights increase the registrant’s ability to deter and/or prevent others from using the mark – which is really what protection is all about.

A trademark owner only has rights in its mark in the areas of the country in which it has used its mark or has an established reputation. Federal registration grants nationwide rights, subject to a limited defense for a user in good faith who can establish use prior to the complaining party’s application filing date. Thus, a registrant has the ability to stop subsequent users of its mark throughout the United States, provided it can establish a likelihood of confusion.

By obtaining a federal registration, a registrant also increases the mechanisms for deterrence against an unauthorized use. First, a registrant is able to use the ® symbol in association with the mark. Use of the ® symbol is in some cases enough to prevent a would-be infringer. Second, as part of the registration process, an applied for mark is compared with already existing registrations and pending applications, and if the applied for mark is likely to cause confusion with an already existing registration, registration of the applied for mark will be refused, which often causes the applicant to decide not to use the applied for mark. Third, a clearance search is often conducted when companies are developing new brands to find bars to use of the proposed mark. A federal registration shows up on such a search, often causing a mark confusingly similar to registrant’s mark to not be chosen. Fourth, if improper use of the mark in a domain name or on a social media site occurs, a federal registration enables the registrant to prove its rights in the mark under the ICANN Uniform Domain Dispute Resolution Policy to stop cyber squatters and under the various social media site policies to stop misuse of the mark. Lastly, a registrant can register its mark registered on the Principal Register with the U.S. Customs Service and have the Service assist in stopping counterfeit goods from entering the United States.

A registrant may also be able to claim the U.S. filing date as a priority date for applications filed in foreign jurisdictions if such applications are filed within six months of the U.S. filing date. Trademark rights are geographically based. In many countries, unlike the United States, trademark rights are only created upon registration of the trademark. The earlier priority dates can often make a difference in obtaining the foreign registration and the resulting trademark rights in a foreign country, an important benefit in the increasingly global marketplace.

Obtaining a federal registration also gives the registrant the automatic right to sue in U.S. federal courts for unauthorized use of the mark and certain evidentiary presumptions which ease registrant’s burden in litigation. A registrant can also make an elective filing after five years of continuous use after registration which limits the grounds of challenge to its mark. These rights may only be needed when faced with litigation, but if litigation does arise, having these rights helps the registrant protect its brand in the litigation.

These rights obtained upon federal registration are why registering a trademark assists a company in protecting its brand. Isn’t your brand worth it?

DOT Report: SEO Oddities and Little Fixes

Tips and Best Practices

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about a lot of little things coming together to get you ranked for that one big target you’ve set for your website. Here’s a quick rundown of five tips and tweaks that we at the Internet Marketing Association have put together for you to get the most from your website. These are focused on search engine best practices to help make sure you’re covered for common mistakes and are up to speed with changes on the SEO front.

Domains and Dashes. As a rule of thumb, stay away from dashes in domain names or sub-domains. When you use dashes for domain names, you give out mixed signals. For example, if your domain is, you probably chose it because the domain without dashes was not available. Google may think you’re just someone who is trying to con the original Magic Marker Mary out of her effort by squatting on another domain name that is similar to hers.

Files with Dashes. Although dashes are not a good idea in domains, it works otherwise for files and folders. With files, it is best to use dashes in the name vs. underscores. The reason this works well is that Google uses the “_” as a literal for search terms, in the sense that if you search for “some_term” vs. “some term,” you will see a difference in the search results.

Use of Lower Case. When it comes to file or folder names, use lower case. This will ensure that you have a uniform method of linking from within your website and externally. Capitals in file names are viewed completely differently on Linux. Some-File.html vs. some-file.html will refer to completely separate files.

Limiting Flash and Other Plugins. When you use content that is heavy with Flash or other plugins, search engines often don’t know what you have in the pages and will index your page accordingly. Use flash to enhance your website where you must, but stay away from excessive use and keep in mind that iOS devices don’t support it.

Crafty Content. When you have HTML markup that does not show up in the webpage, you are technically cloaking the content. In other words, you are showing one version to the search engine crawlers and another version to visitors. This is a big no-no for search engines and will result in your website getting kicked out of the index. You may be doing this without even realizing it. For example if you have a page with a white background where you have links in white text to other pages, your website could get caught for cloaking and kicked.

Visit the IMA Dot Report blog often, and get in touch with us if you need help with your website marketing!

Frost & Sullivan Survey Gathers Info on Marketing Challenges

2013 Survey Now Open

The Growth Team Membership (GTM) is a research group within Frost & Sullivan that provides case-based best practices, tool kits and events to address the role-related challenges of marketing executives. To accomplish this goal, GTM conducts annual surveys on the challenges influencing marketers’ decision-making.

The Growth Team Membership’s 2012 Marketing Priorities Survey revealed that marketers’ attention was focused on developing a compelling value proposition in response to changes in customer needs and purchasing behaviors. This challenge required marketers to re-evaluate their segmentation schema, re-prioritize markets and segments, and reassess their demand generation activities.

Differences in marketing priorities emerged when comparing budgets by business model. B-to-B marketers were investing more in online and social media. On the other hand, their peers in B-to-C companies were pulling back slightly on social media and spending more on knowledge management and training.

When looking at specific demand generation tactics, satisfaction levels varied. The majority of marketers struggled with developing effective social media and mobile marketing campaigns. This issue may have reflected the constantly evolving technologies and applications in these areas. On the other hand, most of the respondents were satisfied with the effectiveness of their ability to leverage and generate customer segments.

As we enter 2013, the question becomes: have marketers made strides in pinpointing the “right” customers and ensuring relevant and compelling messaging? And are marketers more confident in their ability to integrate social and mobile tactics into their arsenal?

Take the 2013 marketing survey. It includes questions on top internal challenges, resource trends, and a special interest topic: mobile marketing. All responses are confidential and participants will receive a copy of the complete survey results.

Adobe Leadership Forum Focuses on Technology and Entertainment

Warner Bros. Hosts Unique Event

John Mellor, Vice President of Adobe Systems, and Lisa Gregorian, CMO of Warner Bros., were the hosts for a special Adobe Leadership Forum held on Feb. 15 at Warner Bros. Pictures in Los Angeles. A distinguished gathering of executives engaged in a thought-provoking discussion on the role of technology and entertainment. The event was attending by over 50 representatives of industry leading companies like Bank of America, Microsoft, NBC/Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Co. and Fox Sports. Also highlighting the event was a private, VIP tour of the Warner Bros. back lot.

Click here for a photo gallery of the event.

Ireland Opens Doors to Delegation from Internet Marketing Association

Focus Will Be on EU Business Opportunities

Ireland will welcome the Internet Marketing Association to its shores in June 2013. This special event will be led by the Honorable M. Finbar Hill, Consul General of Ireland in Southern California since 2002. During the visit, Hill will describe the development of a small island on the northwest corner of Europe from its early origins to a leading role today in business, digital and social media.

The focus of the trip will be meetings with business, political and cultural leaders at a time when Ireland holds the Presidency of the EU. Topics will include opportunities afforded for business development, with tax incentives, throughout Ireland, Europe and the Middle East.

Long-Tail Keywords Can Improve Search Results and ROI

IMA DOT Report

Selecting the right keywords for your website is fundamental to successful search engine marketing. For example, if the website is for Adam’s Amazing Aardvarks, it doesn’t make much sense to try to rank for the term “aardvark” right out of the box because it’s simply too general for the business results it will probably generate. Short keywords, typically one- or two-word terms, may have a higher number of searches but will have a lower success rate in terms of conversions. Which is why, when you start up, you should build your website’s keyword pyramid from the ground up.

Optimizing your website for shorter terms usually involves a large amount of effort with lower conversion rates. For example the people who come to Adams Amazing Aardvark website on the term “aardvark” are most likely looking for research information or photos at best. People who have a real intention of transacting will most likely be looking at other terms which will define their query better.

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank and will also have a higher rate of conversion. For example, if Adam is selling ants to his customers as aardvark food, he should have a webpage called aardvark-food.html with details on the ants he sells. This approach will help Adam attract customers based on what they specifically want to buy and also allow him to optimize for quicker success.

Once you start generating traffic with long-tail keywords, you can start having success with shorter keywords as well. Long-tail is the building block of long-term success and is essential to making sure that your website gains a strong presence in your business segment.

If you look into the analytics of your website, you will find a surprisingly large amount of data that points to long-tail keyword volume. In fact, most websites have about 70% of their traffic from varied, longer-term searches vs. one- or two-word queries.

When researching the right long-tail terms for your website, look to your competitors, see what pages they have. You won’t be able to tell which ones convert best, but you will get an idea of a good model to follow. Also, think like your prospects, imagine which keywords your target audience might be looking for, ask a friend or your customers what terms they used when they found your website.

Lastly, make sure your pages are named according to your target terms. For example, Adam’s site should have a page named something like buy-aardvark-food, buy-aardvark-medicines, aardvark-habitat. etc.

“Aardvarks” may not be the best example for a website planning to generate large sums of revenue. But the idea here is to give you a picture of what long-tail keywords are and how you can use them for your website.