Distinguishing between Black-Hat and White-Hat Search Engine Optimization

A quick lesson idea for teaching information literacy and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to high schoolers…

Audience: High School Students using Google as a source for homework help

Activity: To show students the importance of being able to distinguish black-hat and white-hat SEO results, I would model an example of how they use Google inefficiently as a source to complete assignments. For example, I would copy a question they might search for verbatim, complete with WH- words and question marks, so that they could see how much time they waste by using search terms that produce black-hat results. In this way, they could see examples of black-hat and white-hat SEO results before they get started on the activity.

Then, students will participate in a “Bad-Match Scavenger Hunt” activity. Students will use homework assignment prompts from one of their actual core classes (such as U.S. History or Biology) and will use the questions on the worksheet to try to encounter as many black-hat results as possible. Once they find some, they will show a screen shot of the result summary and then the actual page of the black-hat website. Each student will prepare their “top-3 ridiculous results” to share with the class (or within small-groups, depending on class size). A discussion will follow to help students identify the markers of black-hat SEO in their results and how they can avoid them in their search terms.

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