White hat vs black hat SEO – what’s the difference?

Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader

Batman vs the Joker

Harry Potter vs Voldemort

The world is full of heroes and villains. You may be interested to know that the same applies to search engine optimization (SEO) too!

White hat SEO and black hat SEO can both help your website climb the search engine rankings, but only one does so by following the rules.

In this article, we’ll take a look at both types of SEO, what they involve, and which is the best strategy for your business.

What is white hat SEO?

White hat SEO is when you carry out search engine optimization using the guidelines laid out by search engine providers like Bing and Google.

Google has a very comprehensive set of webmaster quality guidelines that all websites must adhere to in order to be featured on Google search. If they don’t, there are consequences.

Here are some examples of techniques that follow the guidelines and as a result, are seen as white hat SEO:

  • Creating high-quality content that answers website users’ questions
  • Blogger Outreach
  • Reducing page speed
  • Using relevant and descriptive meta descriptions
  • Making your website easy to navigate
  • Developing a mobile-friendly website
  • Utilizing structured data (such as schema)

What is black hat SEO?

Black hat SEO is when you carry out search engine optimization using tactics that go against the guidelines laid out by search engine providers. While the majority of black hat SEO techniques aren’t illegal, the practice is frowned upon and can potentially get you in a lot of trouble.

Some of the predominant black hat SEO techniques include:

  • Keyword stuffing. This is when you use too many keywords on a page or mask keywords with code. A common black hat strategy is to make keywords invisible on a page. That way, users can’t see them, but search engine spiders can
  • Content cloaking. Content cloaking is when search engine spiders are shown content that doesn’t appear to web users. This means that web users are shown content they didn’t search for
  • Paying for links on other websites. Links should be earned, not bought. If you buy paid links for your website, they should be marked as nofollow. Similarly, offering free products and services in exchange for links should be avoided. Blogger outreach is a natural way to earn backlinks, since you are adding value to another website with good quality content (if you use a service like ours), which Google is more than happy about – when it comes to a blogger outreach service, you are paying for a process, not a link.
  • Publishing irrelevant or low-quality content. For example, if your business sells shoes but you host a blog about electric vehicles in an attempt to get links from other websites, this is a major red flag
  • Anything that can lead to negative SEO for your competitors is black hat SEO too. If you submit your competitor’s website to spammy link directories because you want to reduce trust in their site, you can get in trouble for this

As a rule of thumb, anything that tries to manipulate the search engine rankings is classed as black hat SEO strategy.

Why do people use black hat SEO?

Businesses like black hat SEO as it promises a fast outcome. A comprehensive SEO strategy can often take between six to twelve months to see results, but black hat SEO can be implemented more quickly.

Cheaper SEO agencies and freelancers often use black hat techniques. So, if you are offered a deal that seems too good to be true… it probably is!

What are the penalties for black hat SEO?

Black hat SEO can cause several long-term issues for businesses.

If a search engine provider finds out you are using black hat techniques, it can ban your website from appearing in the search engine results. This can mean you will experience a significant reduction in organic traffic as well as a potential loss of sales.

JC Penney, a retail store in America, came under fire for using black hat SEO techniques. Its website was found to have a lot of links on unrelated websites. This implied that the company had paid other sites to link back to improve its search engine rankings. As a result, the site was blacklisted by Google, meaning it lost out on sales and had to spend time getting the links removed and disavowed.

A third type of SEO – grey hat SEO

Grey (or gray) hat SEO is a mixture of black hat and white hat SEO techniques. These are strategies that haven’t been named as ones to avoid, but ones that SEO experts prefer not to use.

Some examples of grey hat SEO include.

  • Buying expired domains
  • Carrying out a link exchange with another website
  • Creating microsites
  • Spinning content (rewording an existing article so it can’t be recognized)
  • Creating duplicate content
  • Submitting your site to web directories. Submitting your site to one or two directories is generally seen as okay, but submitting it to several sites can be seen as grey hat SEO

Which type of SEO is the best one for my site?

White hat SEO, without a doubt. This SEO strategy may take a little longer to deliver results, but you can use it safe in the knowledge that your website will not be penalized in the rankings.

If you are carrying out your own website’s SEO, be sure you follow the quality guidelines and don’t carry out any work that the search engines may see as deceptive.

If you use an SEO agency to carry out your search engine optimization, make sure they are using ethical SEO techniques and are aware of any search engine algorithm updates.

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