What are white hat and black hat techniques in SEO?

If you’re looking to improve your website’s search engine ranking (SEO), then you’ll need to be aware of both white hat and black hat techniques. White hat techniques are generally considered to be beneficial to the SEO process, while black hat techniques can have a negative impact on your site’s ranking.

Whereas, white hat techniques in SEO are the most ethical and beneficial techniques you can use to improve your website’s search engine ranking. On the other hand, black hat techniques in SEO are those that aren’t considered ethical or beneficial, and can actually harm your website’s ranking.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at white hat and black hat SEO techniques, and explain what each one entails. Additionally, we will cover gray hat SEO which is a mixture of both practices. We’ll also dispel some common myths about SEO, so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to which SEO practices you will utilize.

Just remember, Google is smart. Don’t be fooled by the quick gains that black hat techniques can give you. Google will penalize you sooner or later. Ultimately, it can lead to your site being blocklisted and result in it never being ranked.

Let’s start by taking a look at what white hat SEO.

Table of Contents

White Hat SEO:

White hat SEO methods consist of practices that SEO experts consider approved search engine optimization techniques. These techniques improve a website’s position or ranking on a search engine results page (SERPs). 

Search engine results that are displayed as a result of these approved techniques, rather than techniques that require some sort of payment or trickery, are referred to as organic search results. Moreover, since paid ads take up a portion of the search engine results, the top organic results are highly desirable, and thus businesses engage in black hat techniques at times. 

Although White Hat SEO techniques generally take longer to see results, they are considered the only safe and sustainable way to perform well on search engines. It will take time and effort to perform and rank well, but once it does, you will see a sustainable increase in website traffic. Three examples of what white hat SEO techniques include:

1. It follows search engine guidelines.

This is probably the most common and effective white hat SEO technique. By following the rules and guidelines set by Google, you can improve your website’s ranking in search engines and make it more visible to potential customers.

One of the most common mistakes that SEOs make is trying to game the search engines in order to get higher rankings. This is not only unethical but it also violates search engine guidelines, which can result in your website being banned from the search results altogether. Instead, white hat SEO techniques focus on following all of the official guidelines set by Google and other major search engines. This means that you will be able to rank higher for legitimate and consistent reasons, rather than relying on shady tactics that may backfire in the long run. 

2. It focuses on a human audience.

In order to be successful with white hat SEO techniques, you need to focus on building relationships with humans as opposed to simply targeting search engines. This means understanding their needs and catering your content accordingly, without shoehorning it in or bombarding them with Google adsense ads that they may not want or need.

You also need to make sure that your website design is user-friendly and easy to navigate, so that visitors can find what they’re looking for without any problems. By designing your website with a user-friendly interface and focusing on providing valuable information that is relevant to humans, you can improve the likelihood of increase organic traffic from search engines.

3. It takes a long-term approach.

White hat SEO tactics don’t just involve making small tweaks here and there; it’s about developing a long-term strategy that will achieve the desired outcome. The aim is always to find an approach that will work for the long term, without harming your website or its traffic levels in any way.

Now that we know what white hat SEO is, let’s discuss why white hat practices are better than black hat.

Why is white hat SEO better?

White hat SEO is better because it’s ethical, legal and follow’s Google’s guidelines

When you do white hat SEO, you’re working with search engines to improve your website’s visibility in a way that doesn’t hurt your site or infringe on any of their rules. This is in contrast to black hat SEO strategies, which involve doing things like stuffing your pages with keywords and internal links or even buying backlinks. 

One of the main benefits of white hat SEO is that it helps build trust and credibility with your users. This is because you’re working hard to provide them with quality content that meets their needs, without trying to trick or deceive them. In addition, white hat SEO also preserves the integrity of the search engine rankings system, which is important for businesses who rely on ranking in search engines as a means to attract customers.

Overall, white hat SEO is a more effective way of marketing your business because it builds positive relationships with your users and helps you achieve your goals in a responsible way.

Black Hat SEO

A black hat SEO tactic is any search engine optimization technique that goes against the accepted practices of web search engines. This means that black hat SEO techniques involve doing things that can damage your website’s visibility and ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Black hat SEO is an unethical search engine optimization strategy that involves manipulating search engine results to improve the ranking of a website. This can involve anything from creating hidden backlinks to submitting fake content to dubious directories.

Black hat SEO is often harmful to a website’s visibility and reputation, and it can lead to loss of traffic and revenue. It’s also illegal, so you should be aware of the potential consequences if you engage in it.

Some common examples of black hat techniques in SEO include:

  • Placing links to your website from low-quality sites or directories
  • Buying backlinks
  • Hidden links
  • Footer links
  • Duplicated content or article spinning
  • Using keyword stuffing, backlinking, and link farming tactics
  • Falsifying the information contained on your website
  • Manipulating or buying user feedback ratings and reviews

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the black hat SEO techniques

1.  Unnatural linking practices:

Buying backlinks from random sites and individuals promising thousands of links over a couple of days, is detrimental to your site. Google will see the massive influx of links and become skeptical, penalizing you, or even blacklisting your site. Instead, focus on building strong content that provides valuable information. If it is valuable and insightful, people will link to your information. Get links from relevant sites in your niche that have their own traffic.

2. Unreadable or invisible text:

Previously, one Black Hat strategy that content developers would engage in was filling the bottom of the pages and articles with keywords that were the same color of the background. Making them invisible to users, but readable to Google’s algorithms. That may be no quicker way to get blacklisted than engaging in this practice. 

3. Keyword Stuffing and Duplicate Content:

Websites and content developers may want to try to rank for specific keywords by ‘stuffing’ them into content where they do not belong. Another practice is to duplicate content and produce similar pages that utilize the same keywords over and over again. This is a sure fire way of getting penalized by Google.

The graphic below, from Inbound Marketing Inc. breaks down what the difference is between the two strategies and provides some food for thought when developing content. Although black hat search engine optimization may seem appealing, because of the quicker benefits, we believe that long term and sustainable growth is what individuals should be aiming for instead of quick results. Thus, we utilize, as well as recommend that other websites use white hat SEO principles only.

Don’t fret if your content does not follow White Hat strategies to a T. There is a practice known as Gray Hat SEO as well. In the section below we take a look at what gray hat SEO is.

Comparing black hat vs white hat SEO

Comparing black hat and white hat strategies
Comparing black hat and white hat strategies

In the table below, you can see a break down and comparison list of black hat and white hat SEO.

Black Hat SEOWhite Hat SEO
DefinitionBlack Hat SEO is the use of aggressive SEO techniques that focuses on search engines and not on humans.White Hat SEO is the use of techniques that focus on the human audience as opposed to search engines. These SEO tactics follow search engines rules and policies.
What it is used forBlack hat is used to manipulate search engines in order to outrank other websites and gain financially in the quickest possible way.It improves your search performance on search engine result pages by maintaining the integrity of the website through approved SEO practices. Moreover, white hat is used for the long-term goals and benefits of a website.
What does it means for content?Content will stuff and spam keywords into the on-page contents in order to manipulate search engine rankings.The content is usually high-quality and has utilized proper research, keywords, titles, matedescriptions and other factors that adhere to Google’s webmaster guidelines
BacklinksIt consists of irrelevant backlinks, backlinks that have been purchased, utilized link schemesOther websites naturally link to the content because it is high-quality.
Does it follow guidelines?Considered to be unethical SEO and goes against Google’s guidelinesConsidered to be ethical SEO and follows the guidelines put forth by Google
Techniques used
– Keyword stuffing
– Cloaking content
– Doorway pages
– Comment spam
– Hidden texts
– Hidden links
– Buying backlinks and other link schemes
– Proper research and analysis
– Using keywords correctly throughout the content
– Natural link building schemes
– Redesigning website for user experience 
– Prioritizing mobile-friendliness
Does it match user intent?It doesn’t fulfill the search intent and It degrades the userIt satisfies the aim of the search and it’s beneficial to the user.
What it means for website quality.Black hat tactics are not concerned with producing high-quality content. The tactics used also reduce the trustworthiness and authority of the website because it has been manipulated.White hat SEO focuses on producing high-quality content. These techniques improve the credibility and authority of the website as they have been built naturally.
Comparison list of white hat and black hat SEO elements

What is Gray Hat SEO?

Gray hat SEO is a type of SEO that isn’t completely honest. It involves using manipulative methods at times. Gray hat SEO tactics can include link building, article spinning, cloaking, and spamming. These unethical practices are usually employed in order to gain an unfair advantage over your competition, or to get around Google’s strict rules about how links must be earned.

The main reason why gray hat SEO is considered unethical is because it takes advantage of the fact that search engines are designed to find the most relevant websites for a given query. By stuffing your pages with irrelevant keywords, you’re effectively giving yourself an unfair advantage over other websites.

The biggest disadvantage of using gray hat SEO tactics is that they’re often ineffective and can backfire on you really quickly. You may end up getting penalized by Google for your efforts, which could have serious consequences down the line. So if you’re looking to boost your website’s ranking without breaking any rules, then gray hat SEO is not the way to go.

What optimization techniques does gray hat SEO use?

Gray hat SEO is a term used to describe optimization techniques that fall outside of the traditional white hat and black hat search engine optimization models. These techniques can be used for either good or bad purposes, but they all have one common goal: to improve your website’s ranking in search engines.

There are a few different types of gray hat SEO, but the most common ones involve using hidden backlinks or deceptive content to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Backlinks from low-quality domains and spammy links are two of the most common methods used by gray hats.

Let’s take a look at 7 gray hat SEO techniques:

  1. Buying expired domains
  2. Keyword stuffing
  3. Adding fluff in content to increase word count
  4. Using web 2.0 for building links (user generated content)
  5. Social bookmarking sites
  6. Partaking in link exchanges
  7. Generating multiple social media accounts

By using these tactics, gray hats are able to generate traffic and improve their website’s visibility without risking any penalties from Google. However, it’s important to remember that there is a risk involved with any type of optimization. If you’re not sure what technique is being used on your competitors, then you should avoid using it until you’ve checked out the associated risks first.

Takeaways: White hat vs black hat

A good rule of thumb is to produce high quality content that people want to read to be more informed about a certain topic. Moreover, the content should not have any manipulative techniques that try to beat the system. Remember, Google is smart, these techniques may work in the short term, however in the long term, your site will get penalized and blocklisted.

Google ranking, and the SEO rules that safeguards it, are continuously changing and evolving. One way to think about it is that what you do is important, but the biggest thing is how you do it. As seen in the example above, if you are guest blogging and producing high-quality content to build backlinks, that is ok. However, if you are purchasing these backlinks, or using an automator to create low-quality and irrelevant content, your site is going to get penalized.

If you need help looking over your SEO strategy, or help building your website with white hat SEO techniques, then contact us! Clear Door SEO is an SEO agency in Portland Oregon that has an extensive background in ranking websites and increasing organic traffic!

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