Helping Google stifle Black Hat SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) seemed to me a strategy that web vendors and spammers used to generate traffic to their sites. As a web user and novice web designer, understanding how Google separates white-hat and black-hat SEO—literally, the good guys from the bad guys—helped me make sense of it a little more.

Google also depends on regular searchers to help by pointing out when something is wrong with your search results. If you do a search, and there is something that doesn’t fit or is sketchy, you can point it out to Google. Kevin Purdy, in his TechRepublic article “Give Google better feedback and get better results” shows us how. 

screenshot of Google Feedback link and popup

Have you ever noticed the “Send feedback” link at the bottom of your search results and thought, “Yeah, no thanks. I’m not writing an email to Google or going to another tab to fill out a form. I just want some better search results, so I’d rather spend my time trying it again.”? As it turns out, it’s Javascript that keeps you right in the page, where you describe in words and then show Google by highlighting what was wrong. And you can go back to your search. Google takes the feedback seriously and uses the user feedback to improve its algorithms. Maybe you don’t see the direct results, but it’s for the “betterment” of the web!

I also have to give credit where credit is due, I learned the most about SEO and what Google does from this article I read in another library school course, LIS 451 (but liked Purdy’s visual view of one of the biggest takeaways I got from the article): Cahill, K., & Chalut, R. (2009). Optimal Results: What Libraries Need to Know About Google and Search Engine Optimization. The Reference Librarian, 50(3), 234-247.


Purdy, K. (2012, February 21). Give Google better feedback and bug reports and get better results. TechRepublic. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from 

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.