What Is Black Hat and White Hat SEO?

May 19, 2014

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Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO The Difference

The term Black Hat and White Hat originates in Western Movies to distinguish the “bad guys” from the “good guys”. The bad guys wore black hats and the good guys wore white hats. More recently the terms have been used in computing where Black Hat describes computer hackers, virus creators and those that perform unethical actions with computers.

In SEO, Black Hat is a practice that increases a website page’s rank in search results through means that violate the search engines’ terms of service. Implementing Black Hat SEO tactics is by description bad.  Black Hat SEO can get your site demoted in the search results or even banned from search engines entirely. At the same time, some Black Hat tactics if undetected are remarkably effective (if only temporarily) and therefore can be tempting to use.

To the contrary, White Hat SEO is a practice used to improve search performance that is in line with the terms and conditions of a search engine. White Hat SEO maintains the integrity of your website and stays within the bounds of what is allowed by search engines like Google.

Both can deliver results. White Hat SEO is long lasting and safe, Black Hat SEO is short-lived and risky.

Black Hat and White Hat SEO

How To Know If Your SEO Strategies Are Black Hat Or White Hat:

Tactics used by Black Hat SEO exponents have been published extensively in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and this should be the first place you go to ensure you are working within the boundaries of Google’s terms. Any doubts not satisfied by Google’s Webmaster Guideline documents can be answered by asking yourself this question:

“Is the work I am doing adding value to the user (White Hat) or am I just doing it for the search engines to see (Black Hat)?”

Black Hat SEO tactics are employed by webmasters aiming to trick the search engines into showing their website higher in the search results than it deserves. They serve no value to users. Black Hat tactics most often involve automation or tools to replace the genuine work of real humans.

Black Hat SEO Tactics Include:

  • Paying For Links – Buying links from other websites is strictly prohibited and will likely result in a penalty from Google.
  • Doorway Pages – A page optimised for one keyword intended only to direct users to a different page.
  • Cloaking – Showing a different version of your website to search engines than humans see.
  • Duplicate Content – Repeating the same content on multiple pages to increase page views.
  • Hidden Text – Blending text into the background so it’s seen by search engines, not humans.
  • Link Farms – Acquiring links from site networks built with no other purpose than to link to other non-related websites.
  • Automation – Using tools to trick search engines into believing content was created or posted by real humans.

White Hat SEO, on the other hand, focuses on practices that make a website more usable or valuable to users thus increasing the likelihood that search engines will return the site higher in the search engine result pages.

White Hat SEO Tactics Include:

  • Quality Content – Useful and relevant content that is helpful to users and answers their queries.
  • Intuitive Navigation – A well-structured site that is easy to navigate creates a good user experience.
  • Keyword Optimised Meta Tags – Creating descriptive keyword rich meta tags is helpful to users as its tells them what your website pages are about.
  • Content Distribution – Creating content for other websites where your prospects might be online. This helps you reach new audiences and creates a stronger brand for you online.

Whilst I have witnessed instances where Black Hat SEO tactics have gotten results, those results have invariably been short-lived. The search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to better detect Black Hat tactics and it is becoming harder and harder for spammers to manipulate results.

If you want long-lasting SEO results it’s best to play it safe. I strongly recommend you employ 100% handcrafted organic SEO techniques that are both effective and ethical. White Hat SEO done by hand is often more time consuming and expensive than Black Hat SEO, however, the rewards and removal of risk are well worth the effort.

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James Reynolds

About the author: James Reynolds is passionate about helping you get more traffic and sales from search engines.

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