Search engine optimization is an ever-evolving tool that helps website creators stay ahead of the competition. If you are new to the game, you may have seen SEO consulting firms use the terms white hat, black hat, and grey hat SEO and wondered what they mean. Below are some examples of each, as well as an explanation of why white hat SEO is the best approach.
The Difference Between White Hat, Grey Hat, And Black Hat SEO.
A good way to look at SEO terms is through a color scale. On one side of the spectrum, there are the white hat principles. Think of this as the purest form of SEO, the good witch casting the right spells over your online performance.
On the other side, there is the black hat approach, or the dark side, if you will. It is important to distinguish between the two when devising the best SEO strategy for your business. One could make things a lot easier to get traffic, and the other could land you in trouble. Let’s look at the different approaches in more detail, as well as the alternative grey hat approach.
White Hat SEO.
All search engines have clear rules about what they like and dislike when ranking content and search results. We tend to refer to the Google rules as this is the most common and powerful tool out there. White hat SEO abides by these rules to work within best practices and ensure that websites rank higher on results pages. Additionally, there is a focus on marketing content with value rather than creating something merely for clicks and revenue. Techniques include the following.
1) Creating unique quality content. This means text that isn’t plagiarized, sounds like it was written by an expert human, and is relevant to the search query. We recommend copyscape.com to discover unique content.
2) Organic use of keywords. Keywords can help with rankings, especially ones phrased around common FAQs on search engines. But, they have to be there naturally among other related content of worth.
3) A good user experience. This covers a range of tools, from the overall layout to the optimization for mobile users. Basically, it is about making visitors want to stick around. No bombarding them with advertising, pop-ups, and a mess of content.
4) The right use of links. Optimized back-links and internal links can help build rankings while also adding cohesion and navigation to a website.
Black Hat SEO.
Black hat SEO is the opposite of this. Here, companies will use underhanded tactics designed to generate great results with minimal effort. Essentially, companies are trying to fool the search engines to get rankings without putting in the work to create quality content. Examples of black hat SEO techniques include the following.
1) Keyword stuffing. You don’t want too high a keyword percentage with terms crow-barred into inappropriate places.
2) Inappropriate keywords. Latent semantic indexed keywords are a great way to enhance text when used correctly. But this doesn’t mean random terms unrelated to the content.
3) Doorway pages. These are pages set up simply to bring visitors to a website via a search engine. They offer no real content other than links and have no value.
4) Cloaking. This is an illusion to make it seem as though the webpage is more valuable than it is. Google may like the preview and rank it highly, but visitors get something completely different when they arrive.
Grey Hat SEO
We also need to talk about grey hat SEO for a moment. As the name suggests, it is a grey area between the two other SEO strategies. It is neither completely above board nor completely devious. Many companies such as JEBSEO.com use this middle ground to save time and money. They may use 80% white hat tools for creating a better user experience.
Why Is White Hat SEO So Beneficial For Companies?
All companies looking to improve SEO for their business and advertising are encouraged to take the white hat route. There are two main benefits here. First, there is the chance to widen your reach and increase traffic. The higher you rank, and the more consistently you do so, the better the chance of people clicking on your links.
A well-crafted page with a good meta description, links, and appropriate keywords goes a long way. You might even be able to become the Google Snippet, which is the ultimate position. This is what people turn to for instant answers to questions. They may then click the link to find out more.
Then there is the benefit for the visitor. You want them to not only stick around on the page but visit the rest of the site too. Build their interest in concepts and products so that they explore other services or online stores. A quality homepage with naturally-written text, strong back-links, and other white hat tools will reduce your bounce rate and show you are a trusted source.
Is It Better To Use White Hat SEO Than Black Hat SEO?
Yes. Any SEO consulting expert will tell you that the benefits outweigh the negatives. It takes a lot of work to create content with good white hat SEO and to maintain those standards across the website. You need to keep content fresh, update pages as needed, fix broken links, and make sure there is always value for the visitor.
It can be tempting for companies to work with these black hat techniques to save time and effort. However, the long-term damage isn’t worth the short-term rewards. For a start, visitors that click a page once and see sub-standard content aren’t likely to return. There is also the risk that companies will receive penalties for their actions. Minor penalties could see the website downgraded in the rankings. Worst-case scenarios see them banned entirely.
White Hat, Black Hat, Or Grey Hat?
To summarize, while there is an understandable appeal in taking the easy route with black or gray hat SEO, it is better to stick with white hat. You can build better content and a respectable website with repeat visitors, all while keeping Google happy. It takes effort to implement the best white hat SEO marketing strategies, but they are worth it.