If you have been in the web marketing or web development scene for some time now, then you have probably heard the terms white hat and black hat tossed about in certain industry conversations.
If you have no idea what those terms mean, and you are afraid to ask your co-workers for fear of making yourself look like a nimrod, this article will help give you some insights on the matter.
In layman’s terms, white hat SEO is the ethical and non-illegal way to go about increasing a website’s SERP ranking, while black hat SEO is the polar opposite; oftentimes resulting in outright illegal activities or exploiting weaknesses in the system.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Let’s dive down deeper into black hat SEO and what it means.
Black Hat SEO are the techniques and strategies used by unscrupulous individuals to game the system.
These techniques are used to give websites higher rankings in SERPs, even though said techniques are blatantly breaking search engine rules.
The people who usually make use of black hat SEO techniques are those who want to get a quick return of their investment, rather than building from the ground up, they would rather just gamble with their money and reputation.
Some of the techniques that black hat SEO practitioners usually employ include:
Using Unrelated Keywords in the Content:
One black hat technique to boost a site’s SEO is the use of keywords that have no connection to the actual content. Search engine algorithms can easily find these instances because of how unnatural they look.
For example, “Chris Pratt would undoubtedly use our plumbing services in his Los Angeles home if needed.”
This might have sounded great, but it does not have anything to do with your product or service, and instead it relied on the name of the celebrity to trick search engines into indexing your website, and this is frowned upon by Google.
Using Bots for Automated Content:
You can easily spot a comment that an automated program (or bot) made; it is rarely makes sense, usually has no context, is riddled with keywords, and is grammatically incorrect.
These comments are always randomly generated, which is why Google can easily pick them off one by one.
Using Doorway Pages:
These are fake pages that are chock full of keywords, making them easier for search engines to find.
However, when you click on the page, it will redirect you to another, non-related website; this means that even though you searched for one thing using related keywords, these doorway pages will only put you in an endless loop of unrelated websites, some of which might contain malicious software.
This is a deceptive black hat strategy wherein the web site presents content that is totally different from what they expected to get.
Black SEO specialists use cloaking to deceive search engines and users.
This is another common trick that black hat SEO users implement to boost their site’s SERP rankings.
There are a myriad ways to add invisible text to your content; adding white text to a white background, formatting the font to be incredibly small, or hiding links in small characters (like embedding links in periods, commas, or hyphens).
These are just some of the techniques used by black hat SEO specialists.
Sure, there are times when they can get away with using these methods, but usually those caught using these techniques are penalized heavily.
What is White Hat SEO?
Opposite to black hat SEO, white hat SEO uses ethical means to boost a website’s SERP ranking.
Unlike black hat, white hat SEO users know that they will be making a long-term investment on their site, and although it will take a lot more work and time, the results that they will get are more permanent, or at least lasts for a much longer time.
Below are some of the methods that white hat SEO use to ethically, and more effectively, increase a website’s search engine ranking:
Creating Quality Content:
Creating high-quality content that your target audience could actually use will not only make it worthy of sharing in social media, it also makes it backlink worthy.
If other website owners found your content useful, they would put backlinks to your website, and you do not have to pay them a cent.
Quality content means you need to make sure that it must be relevant to your niche, completely original, and does not have any spelling and/or grammatical errors.
Effective Keyword Research:
Keyword stuffing is a borderline black hat technique, and that is frowned upon in the industry. However, proper keyword density, and correct keyword usage does help quite a lot when it comes to SEO.
Your site should focus on a specific set of relevant keywords, which you can get by doing in-depth research of the keywords people use, and just choose which ones you would like to use in your content.
Here’s a tip, short keywords does not hold that much value, and they are generally overlooked by search engines. What you want in your content are long-tail keywords; these are longer, and more specific keywords.
These are the kinds of keywords that will bring more organic search results and maybe even convert into sales.
Creating Relevant Backlinks:
Google just loves backlinks (links that point back to your website) because it is a proof that other websites have confidence on your website.
If other websites that have similar content to yours are sharing links to your website, it means that you have quality content that is worth sharing.
Google also likes when you link to content that are in your own website, because to the company, it is an indicator that your website has value.
However, you should not overstuff your website with internal links; two to three links to the deep pages should be enough.
Using Meta Descriptions:
The meta description is the first few sentences that will appear under your website’s link in the search results pages.
A great meta description is one that are written for people, not just for the search engines; this means that the meta description actually needs to make sense and provides value.
Alright, now that you understand the differences between black hat and white hat SEO, you probably think that you should go pure white hat with your SEO, but that is not always the case.
There will be times when you actually need to use black hat methods, but you should do so sparingly.
There are very few websites that use purely white hat methods, at most they are of different shades of gray; it will be up to you as to how dark or light you do your SEO.