With any kind of industry as large as SEO, you will come across a lot of different opinions about the most effective ways of approaching site optimization. And although most of these tactics can work, and the idea of which is “best” is largely subjective, there is just one distinction you need to be aware of: Black hat vs. White hat SEO.
While some SEOs might paint these as two distinct schools of thought, they are not so much equal categorizations as a right and a wrong way of doing SEO.
Let’s look into the major differences between a white hat and black hat SEO, as well as the various strategies involved in each.
What is White Hat SEO?
In very short, it refers to the ethically correct way of optimizing a website.
But to give you a much more concrete idea of what it means, a white hat strategy meets the following three criteria.
1. Following the search engine guidelines
The most widely-accepted definition to give for white hat SEO is that it follows Google’s Webmaster’s guidelines. There are some rules that Google has laid out for defining the proper way of optimizing a site.
And while they enter into a bit of detail as to what an “ethical” SEO strategy looks like, they can essentially be summed up with just one simple idea: Do not be manipulative.
So, in general, if you are not attempting to manipulate rankings or otherwise deceive Google’s algorithm, you are probably following their guidelines and using a white hat SEO.
2. It focuses on some human audience
White hat SEO involves making several changes that are beneficial to the visitors of a website. And when you consider that, Google’s top priority is providing its users with the best results possible, it makes complete sense that this becomes an essential component of the “right” way of doing SEO.
Fortunately, a lot of the most effective SEO strategies already involve taking steps that can improve the experience a site provides to its visitors.
Tactics like publishing some high-quality content and improving page load times improve the value that users will be getting from a site, and the ease with which they can navigate it, making them upstanding to Google-approved strategies.
3. There exists a long-term approach
Strategies following Google’s guidelines and the ones that create quite a positive user experience are often more intensive towards time and work than black hat methods. This implies that it will take time to see the results that you want.
But on the other side, white hat SEO services also have a much more lasting impact. That is because when you make use of strategies that are designed for improving your overall website experience, you can achieve steady rankings for your targeted keywords.
Since it involves an investment in content that can generate results for many years to come and using tactics that do not put you at risk for consequences from Google, white hat is more of a long-term approach.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is essentially the exact opposite of what white hat SEO is. If a tactic starts meeting the following criteria, one can classify it as a black hat.
1. Search engine guidelines are violated
Black hat tactics violate several guidelines given by Google, and in many cases, are directly referenced in these guidelines as practices that you should not use.
2. Reliability of manipulative tactics
While white hat SEO involves looking for certain ways of improving the user experience, black hat SEO relies more on manipulating Google’s algorithm to improve the rankings.
Putting it simply, if a tactic is designed to make the Google search engine think that a site provides more value to users than it is really doing, it’s deceptive and it’s black hat SEO.
3. A good focus on “quick wins”
A lot of strategies involved in black hat SEO are focused on loopholes exploitation in Google’s algorithm that can lead to ranking improvements without much work. And while although some of these tactics can even produce results, they are mostly short-lived. That is because Google is constantly improving its algorithm for providing the best results to its searchers, and for preventing site owners who do not provide a great site experience from ranking well.
This implies that sites using black hat strategies are at great risk of losing their rankings each time there is a new algorithm update making this a much more short-term approach than the white label SEO services.
As one digs deeper they will find that White hat SEO is, point-blank, a better approach and one shouldn’t listen to anyone attempting to tell them otherwise. Although black hat SEO may enable a bunch of site owners to achieve quick wins, it directly violates Google’s guidelines and relies on manipulative tactics.