White-Hat SEO or Black-Hat SEO: Which hat wins?
I can’t express the importance of knowing every detail about the type of search engine optimization (SEO) tactics that are being deployed on your website in an effort rank across all search engines.
I’ve personally worked at and for companies as well as fielded calls and requests from customers in dire need of understanding why their websites have been penalized, lost traffic or the worst, been de-indexed by all search engines (OUCH!).
Most of the time, there is a multitude of actions in play that are quite detrimental to the loss of search ranking and organic search traffic.
Sometimes the customer is at fault due to lack of search engine knowledge and experience to understand the difference of good and bad SEO tactics.
Other times, deceitful SEO consultants or firms take advantage of an unsuspecting customer.
Or the customer blatantly participates in bad, also known as black-hat SEO, SEO tactics for a variety of reasons.
No matter the cause for drifting to the dark side of SEO, most customers who do don’t want to take the time to perform good SEO, also known as white-hat SEO, tactics.
The common goal of all customers seeking SEO is quite simple: increase website traffic and sales.
In today’s post, I hope to help you receive a healthy understanding of white-hat SEO versus black-hat SEO, and how both can make or break your website and business with a simple algorithm update.
The Importance of SEO and Search Engine Rankings
If you are website owner, then chances are you have found yourself pondering hiring a search engine optimization consultant or firm at some point to achieve higher search engine rankings and to increase website traffic.
Most online businesses today have recognized the worth of ranking high in top search engines like Google and Bing whether using search engine optimization or other search marketing methods such as pay-per-click advertising, if not using many in conjunction to one another.
Research has shown that almost 62% of potential customers who search for information or services on the internet click on results that appear on the very first search engine results page (SERP).
Think about it, how many times do you search past the first page of search engine results?
Because most people don’t go past the first two pages of search engine results, it has become mandatory for website owners to use search engine optimization techniques and tactics to rank well and be highly visible in search engines.
This is where the SEO sea parts in terms of ethical and unethical types of search engine optimization tactics used to rank well in search engines.
The Hatfield–McCoy SEO Feud
The infamous Hatfield-McCoy Feud has made a stand in search engine optimization, and dividing many search engine optimization experts in two definitive camps commonly referred to as black-hat SEO and white-hat SEO.
Let us take a look at each camp and their game plan to take the other out while seeking maximum search engine ranking visibility across major search engines.
What is Black-Hat SEO?
Black-hat techniques and tactics are the ones that can increase a website’s rankings to front page stardom but they are not ethical by any means.
Typically speaking, website owners considering themselves black-hat optimizers frequently use deceitful SEO practices, and are penalized for being content pirates and claiming content to be their own, although Google Authorship will change that moving forward.
And although black-hat SEO can lead to short-term results that can increase website traffic and sales to exponential, these techniques always lead to search engine penalty(ies) or a de-indexed website if search engines warrant the offense(es) as such.
Remember, search engines are designed to be artificially intelligent and continuously learning with every algorithm update.
So it’s not if you get penalized, it’s a matter of when you get penalized and to what degree your website is penalized.
Some of the examples of such black-hat SEO techniques and tactics include but not limited to the following:
- keyword stuffing
- duplicate content
- invisible text
- buying incoming links in bulk or link farming
- blog pinging
- hacking websites
- spamming through blog comments
What is White-Hat SEO?
White-hat SEO techniques and tactics, on the other hand, is the honest, transparent, legitimate and search-engine approved approach to organically improving a website’s search engine rankings.
White-hat SEO is not easy and can take a quite a bit of time and effort before long-term positive results start to payoff.
Because white-hat SEO takes a commitment of time and money, impatient website owners opt for the use of black-hat SEO techniques and tactics as a shortcut to success and first page search engine rankings.
The most commonly used black-hat SEO techniques and tactics use is keyword stuffing.
However, instead of trying to over stuff too many keywords on a single page, white-hat seo techniques and tactics require website owners to put content and user experience higher than search engines in terms of priority.
In addition, website owners must consider search-engine friendly tactics and techniques to moderately implement on each and every page of your website, also known as on-page optimization.
To achieve effective on-page optimization, website owners are required to conduct thorough research and analysis of their chosen niche, writing unique, value-add and informative content that is customer-focused and not search engine focused.
Performing on-page optimization actions for a new website or an existing website consisting of hundreds or thousands of pages consumes quite a bite of time, money and effort.
As you can see, white-hat SEO is not for those who are impatient or want quick results; therefore, they unknowingly or knowingly turn to black-hat SEO, reaping dire consequences for the sake of increased website traffic and sales.
What is Gray-Hat SEO?
Yes, there is a third type of SEO standing silently in the middle bending SEO rules to the point of breaking them: Gray-Hat SEO.
This third type of SEO, the gray-hat SEO, has been identified by some experts as one who proudly combines the bad practices of black-hat with the good of white-hat techniques and tactics.
How can the gray-hat SEO get away with such nonsense undetected by search engines? Well, I’m glad you asked.
See, the gray-hat SEO techniques are not entirely unethical due to the fact that they are very hard to detect although search engines are developing penguin and panda ninjas to combat and put their efforts to bend the rules in crucial check.
For example, one popular example of such gray-hat techniques is link stuffing.
Website owners as well as webmasters manipulate link-based ranking to improve the visibility of a target page, commonly used as site-wide footer links or sometimes sidebar sections containing a large number of links.
Thoroughly Understand Your Website SEO Tactics and Techniques
It is rather disappointing to say that black-hat SEO website owners and their websites usually go unnoticed, artificially cheating their way to the stop and penalizing legitimate websites causing a downward shift in search engine rankings.
So, is there a long-term solution to the SEO madness, and how should you proceed with SEO?
First of all, don’t lose hope when taking the high road, and deciding to play by and engage in white-hat SEO techniques and tactics:
- writing unique, value-add and informative content that solves customer problems
- creating content that is socially shared throughout web and creates backlinks
- performing and implementing sound keyword analysis
- usage as well as search-friendly link building strategies
And remember that this process will take time and effort, sometimes months and years, before exponential results appear.
However, your honest hard work will not go unnoticed by search engines, and your website will get noticed eventually.
In addition, wait patiently for search engines to detect and penalize black-hat optimizers, or report offenders to appropriate search engines.
No matter your opinion of white-hat SEO, black-hat SEO, or gray-hat SEO, it is imperative to set the expectation with your in-house staff or outsourced SEO consultant or firm about their process and the importance of using white-hat SEO as the only approach to ranking well in search engine rankings.
Have you ever knowingly or unknowingly used gray-hat or black-hat SEO techniques and tactics thinking they were white-hat SEO?
Leave us a comment below if you have, or if you have questions about other SEO techniques or tactics that you’re not sure under what SEO hat they fall under.