What is the difference between white hat SEO and black hat SEO? This is a question many people who are new to search engine optimization are asking.
SEO (search engine optimization) is a series of tactics and techniques that allow websites to show up in search engine results. Like with anything, there are many ways to apply these techniques. White hat SEO achieves results through following current best practices, while black hat SEO uses more questionable means.
Knowing the difference between these two sets of techniques can significantly impact your ability to rank in search engines. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between white hat SEO and black hat SEO.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO uses tactics to help improve a website’s visibility, albeit by violating search engine guidelines. These techniques attempt to trick search engine algorithms into increasing a site’s rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
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If you were to step back about 10 or so years ago, Black Hat SEO was simply known as SEO. It was a manipulative set of tactics that made search engines like Google think a website had the best answer for a search query.
Search specialists intend to prioritize providing the best results for their audience. But the algorithms of Google several years ago were less advanced, particularly when it came down to identifying web spam.
Today, popular search engines like Google and Bing have made it clear which practices go against their guidelines. They are also quite clear on the possible outcomes for people who violate their terms.
Websites that employ black hat SEO techniques can be penalized (either through manual action or the algorithm), resulting in reduced ranking positions, a decline in organic traffic, and a ban.
Black Hat SEO Techniques To Avoid
It can be difficult for people who are just getting started in search engine optimization to know which tactics are allowed and which are not. Although most of the SEO basics are clear-cut white hat techniques, the more advanced tactics require more attention.
It is important to avoid black hat SEO techniques since it will only spell disaster for any website.
Speaking of disaster, just ask J.C. Penney how they feel about trusting black hat work in back in 2011. They were completely removed from Google SERPs and lost millions in business. Read the article here.
Tactics that budding SEO specialists should avoid are listed below.
Keyword stuffing is the act of pasting as many instances of a keyword on a single page without providing value to the reader. Excessively repeating the main target keyword of a page is a trick many marketers applied in the past.
Nowadays, Google has algorithms that identify keyword stuffing and can penalizing websites that practice it. Keyword stuffing is usually applied in random blocks of text found outside of the primary content or in paragraphs that do not make sense.
Here is an example of keyword-stuffed content:
“We sell custom jewelry boxes. Our custom jewelry boxes are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom jewelry box, please contact our custom jewelry box specialists at email@example.com.”
Automatically Generated or Duplicate Content
Developing great content is not easy, which is why it remains one of the top-ranking factors for Google.
One prevalent black hat tactic is generating content automatically to rank for several keywords without providing readers with useful, unique information.
If you're worried about duplicate content or simply have never checked your site for plagiarized content before, Copyscape is a great tool to check.
An example is a website that has several location pages created using the same content for each one. Except for replacing the location’s name, the rest of the page content is the same.
Hidden text has a similar color to the background of a page and is positioned behind an image or off the screen. It intentionally uses web code to hide its presence from users or uses a zero font size.
The tactic is deceptive but can also be used to stuff keywords. Black hat SEO marketers would add long lists of their keywords and apply them as hidden text on their pages to rank in search engines.
Doorway and Gateway Pages
Pages that are meant to target specific search queries using content that only acts as a funnel to another page are a violation of Google guidelines. These pages are known as gateway or doorway pages.
Each piece of website content should have a specific purpose. Website owners should not create pages to rank for keywords that are not fully relevant to the site.
Some examples include:
- Creating pages that focus on geographically-targeted terms in places where a business does not have a physical presence and then funnels users to a different page
- Pages made solely to start ranking for search queries instead of meeting the needs of the user
Paid and Manipulative Links
Another common type of black hat SEO technique is the use of link schemes. Although marketers should write content that is valuable to their users, link building can be a little more complicated than that.
The point is that links have to be earned, especially since they are considered editorial votes of trust. This means that people should avoid techniques such as:
- Blog comment spamming
- Forum spamming
- Paid or sponsored links that do not contain a rel=“nofollow” or rel=“sponsored” tag
- Too many link exchanges
- Automated link building
- Large-scale guest posting or article marketing campaigns
- Links that use commercial or exact match anchor text
What Is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO refers to the techniques in search engine optimization that are in line with the rules set forth by the major search engines, such as Google and Bing.
The difference between white hat SEO and black hat SEO is that the former is the right way of doing search optimization. Generally, white hat SEO means the practice of improving search rankings while maintaining website integrity and following the guidelines of the search engine’s terms of service.
It's all there in black and white. If you want to know what to do for white hat SEO, Google lays it all out.
White hat SEO involves making a website easy to navigate, speeding up its loading time, performing keyword research appropriately to optimize content, and attracting backlinks from trusted sources.
The goal in doing white hat SEO is to focus on the people first and the search engines second. Additionally, the concept prioritizes the long-term approach in optimization. Websites that practice white hat SEO techniques are not at risk of being penalized by Google.
Why Are White Hat SEO Techniques Important?
Failing to engage in purely white hat SEO practices can result in websites being banned from Google and the other search engines.
Being the top search engine in the world, Google receives billions of visits each day, with each of these visits presenting the potential for a website to be discovered.
There is no doubt that Google is the most powerful traffic source for any website and being banned by it can result in a significant drop in site traffic, and eventually, business.
Even worse, once a website is banned by Google, there is no guarantee that the search giant will re-list it. Receiving a Google lifetime ban has tremendous consequences for any company.
White Hat SEO Techniques To Implement
Applying white hat SEO practices is the best approach in creating an ethically sustainable website for any business.
Here are some tactics website owners should follow to ensure their SEO techniques are strictly white hat.
Write for the Reader
Writing quality content for the benefit of the audience is one of the most vital elements of modern-day search engine optimization. This is the best way to be rewarded by the search engines, as it is one of the determining factors in the rank of a website or blog.
It is important to remember that quality content is vital when it comes to optimizing for search engines.
Use Content-Relevant Keywords
Make sure that the keywords used on a page are relevant to the content it displays. Paying attention to the number of key terms incorporated is essential, or else it will lead to keyword stuffing.
A good rule of thumb is to stick with one main keyword and about two or three supporting terms.
Pay Attention To Page Titles and Meta Data
The title of the page and its metadata is important as well. It can be easy to overlook or underestimate these sections, but they can be very beneficial when done correctly.
Acquire Authoritative Inbound Links
Links directing to a website from a high domain authority source is an essential element in SEO. Gathering these authoritative links takes time and effort, but the result leads to increased overall website traffic.
Fast Page Loading Times
Fast-loading pages and mobile optimization are necessities in modern SEO. These responsive websites are ranked higher compared to others that do not load fast or are not optimized for mobile devices.
Be mindful of features and functionality added to a website and how they can affect load times.
If you want to find out the speed of your website, Google has a tool for you.
White hat SEO practices are now the norm in modern-day search engine optimization. Gone are the days where marketers could trick search engines using shady techniques that resulted in irrelevant content.
Today, search engines like Google prioritize websites that provide quality content and a good experience to their users. That is why white hat SEO reigns supreme, and black hat techniques should be avoided.
By knowing the difference between white hat SEO and black hat SEO, companies can apply the right type of optimization for their website without being penalized by search engines.
Free website tools like this one from Agency Jet can help determine where a website stands in its SEO efforts. Check it out to see how your site is doing.