What Is the Difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO?

Business owners invest in SEO because they know that it will bring more of their customers to their website where they can interact with them directly and convert clicks to sales or other intended outcomes. Not all SEO is the…

Business owners invest in SEO because they know that it will bring more of their customers to their website where they can interact with them directly and convert clicks to sales or other intended outcomes. Not all SEO is the same, however. If you do not hire a trustworthy and reputable company to do SEO, they may sell you “black hat” SEO services. Black hat SEO is easier to implement, but it can result in a huge penalty that is essentially internet invisibility. Understanding the difference between black hat and white hat SEO is important for this reason.

What Is Black Hat SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. These are techniques that can be used to improve a website’s search engine rankings. All companies want their website to be among the highest search rankings for keywords related to their products or services. The trick is to make that happen. There are ways to do it that search engines like Google or Bing approve of, and there are ways they do not encourage. Black hat SEO is breaking these search engines’ rules to “game” search rankings for better results.

To fully understand what these rules are, you have to be familiar with the goals of the various search engines, especially Google. SEO has been around for over two decades now. Over time Google became the site people went to get their questions answered and eventually the most powerful search engine. Back “in the day” Google’s algorithm was easier to understand and predict. This meant that SEO experts could make changes on a client’s website that would trigger the algorithm into bumping that website higher up in the rankings. Some of these practices were (and are): keyword stuffing, scraped content, link spamming, and fake reviews.

There are problems with this approach. While these practices were straightforward, simple to implement, and worked temporarily to increase individual websites’ search rankings, they were creating an internet that was designed to please the algorithm and not the people who would read the site. Most people don’t want to read endless comment spam or content that reads like it was computer generated instead of written. As a result, Google moved to change its algorithm, making it continuously more opaque with each update. The new versions punished behavior that did not conform to Google’s vision of the future internet. They rewarded websites that offered the user real, unique, and helpful content that answered their questions.

What Is White Hat SEO?

White hat SEO is search engine optimization that follows webmaster guidelines. It centers around creating content meant for a human audience to interact with organically. Google lists its rules as:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

White hat SEO does take a lot longer to accomplish than black hat SEO. It involves doing keyword research and using keywords in content organically, reworking meta tags, adding schema, link building, and writing original, useful content on a consistent basis for your intended audience. The good news is that over time these practices will pay off with higher search rankings that will not be rocked by algorithm changes. Slow and steady wins the race.

Search engine optimization can be a challenge which is why there are SEO experts whose job is to make higher search rankings happen. If your website is struggling with poor search rankings, we can help. We offer a range of SEO services from backlink cleanup to initial SEO for a new website. Call us today to talk about how we can implement white hat SEO on your website to bring traffic to your site and increase conversions.

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Rachel Potter

Rachel Potter has been writing her whole life, moving from academic writing to blogging to fiction and now marketing. She's been dabbling in social media since its inception and is still fascinated by it. She has a background in librarianship and loves to research, gather, and organize information. When she's not at work, she enjoys writing fiction, studying herbalism, gardening, singing in her church choir, and walking her happy, silly dog around the neighborhood.