What Is the Difference between Black Hat vs White Hat SEO?
With SEO, you will come across different opinions on what is the best. Many of these tricks work but, in order to be the most effective, it helps to know the differences between black hat vs white hat SEO.
What Is White Hat SEO?
This term refers to the right and ethical way to optimize your website. In order for your tactics to meet the definition of white hat SEO, you need to follow some criteria.
Following Search Engine Guidelines: The most accepted tactics follow webmaster guidelines for Google. These are the rules that Google has laid out to define the right way to optimize a website. You don’t want to be manipulative. If you aren’t attempting to manipulate rankings then you are likely following guidelines.
It Focuses on a Human Audience: When you are following white hat SEO practices, you are working to make your site more beneficial to the human audience. Google’s top priority is to give its users the best possible experience and this is why this is a requirement with white hat SEO. Fortunately, many SEO tactics do improve the experience for visitors. Things like high-quality content and improving the page speed improve the value, as well as help with SEO.
Use a Long-Term Approach: White hat strategies take more work and time than black hat methods. This means you will need to wait more time before you see results. However, these tactics also have a longer-lasting impact and when you use these strategies, you are achieving steady rankings for targeted keywords. Since you aren’t using tactics that could put you at risk for getting banned from Google, you can also rest easy knowing the long-term approach will pay off.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is the opposite of White Hat.
Violates Search Engine Guidelines: Black hat techniques will violate guidelines. In many cases, the techniques are directly referenced in the guidelines.
Relies on Manipulative Tactics: Black hat tactics work by manipulating a search engine’s algorithm to improve your rankings. These are tactics that trick Google into thinking that a site gives more value to the user than it really does.
It Focuses on Quick Results: Since white hat SEO is a more long-term approach, black hat SEO focuses on the quick wins. While many of these tricks do produce results, you will find these results are short-lived. Google is always improving the algorithm to give the best results to users and to prevent website owners who don’t have a great experience from ranking well. When you use black hat techniques, you risk losing your rankings when there is a new algorithm update.
There are many risks when using black hat SEO techniques. Not only can you be dinged if an algorithm update comes out but you can also face manual penalties from Google. These penalties are given by a human reviewer on the Google team to show that your site has been flagged when you violate the guidelines. Manual penalties can prevent your site from showing in search results altogether. Black hat tactics can then have the opposite effect of what you wanted, which is to increase Google rankings.
Gray Hat SEO
This isn’t as common of a term, but you may hear mentions of gray hat SEO. This is used to describe strategies that fall in between white hat and black hat SEO. Technically, these tactics are manipulative but Google hasn’t officially named them as practices to avoid. They could be less risky than those that Google has said are bad but there is also the potential for consequences. Some of these include submitting to link directories or including doorway pages.
Link Building as Black Hat vs White Hat
Creating backlinks is a common SEO tactic with the goal to improve rankings. Backlinking, when done correctly, won’t be considered black hat SEO, as long as you follow what Google has in its guidelines. This means you shouldn’t be participating in affiliate programs that don’t have value or engage in link schemes. You should also not try to buy links and manipulate the algorithm with unnatural and spammy links.
Sticking to white hat SEO will ensure that you don’t get penalized by Google and sticking to a solid backlinking strategy can improve your rankings over time.