Companies live and die by search engine traffic. It’s little wonder that companies pull out all the stops in their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts, but you can go too far. Not sure where the line is?

What’s “Black Hat” SEO? In a nutshell, practices that are designed to deceive search engines and garner juice that isn’t earned. While nobody (outside of ) knows exactly what uses to rank sites, or what triggers their banhammer to bump sites out of the rankings, here’s 10 practices that every business should avoid to be on the safe side.

Most of this is, or should be, common sense. Don’t “cloak” a site so that the search engine sees one thing and users see another. Don’t use false keywords or “stuff” keywords. Be careful what sites you link to, and look for “linking partners” that are good for Google juice. (You might find online poker sites that are more than happy to exchange links, but that’s not likely to do much good for you.)

But a few things that you might not think of, like malware distribution. Are you sure that your site is secure? That real black hats haven’t managed to use your site to distribute malware unknowingly? Distributing malware is a good way to lose Google’s good graces pretty quickly — so it’s imperative that you are ensuring that your site is secure.

Automated submissions are a no-no: “Yes, manual submissions take time. Use this time wisely and it will pay off big time. Manually review and select the directories you want to be listed in and choose the highest quality, highest PR directories you can find and submit your site carefully and completely. You will find that Google will reward this activity far more than any automated submissions out there.”

By the way, this isn’t just Google. Real people prefer it when you take the time to engage in social networks rather than just shoveling content onto , Twitter, etc. Don’t take my word for it, though — ReadWriteWeb’s Robyn Tippins found this to be true by comparing automated posting and manual posting on : “I found that automated posts saw significantly less views on . An auto-posted story that received x views on would receive, on average, 2.5x views on when published manually. Because more people saw the manually posted stories, their engagement was roughly doubled (likes and comments).”

Read the list carefully and you’ll see a common theme: Don’t deceive users, provide useful content, and trust Google (or another search engine) to find quality content. Building traffic and search engine love takes time, and cutting corners rarely does the job. Optimizing copy and providing quality content in order to drive users to your site is a good strategy, trying to game search engines in the hopes of driving hordes of users to your site and make a quick sale is not. Let usefulness to users be your guide, and you’ll find it hard to go wrong. Not only will the search engines be kind, but your audience will appreciate it as well.

a896a3e3bdinders.jpg How to Avoid Being Tagged for Black Hat SEO

How to Avoid Being Tagged for “Black Hat” SEO