As a web designer, it is not enough to learn about SEO practices; you must also know how to implement them.
Has it ever happened that you thought about an innovative SEO strategy, only to be penalised by Google? It may have been due to unethical SEO tactics, also known as black hat SEO, which is an unfair technique used by people to increase their website rankings.
On the flip side, when your website runs smoothly and consumers find what they are looking for, you are in the safe zone. That means you are using white hat SEO to make the content stand out.
But as you can see, the difference between white hat and black hat SEO is not easy to understand. In fact, there are times when the lines get blurred, and you have to walk the tightrope between ethical and unethical practices.
So, today we will be discussing all these SEO techniques for your benefit.
White Hat SEO Vs. Black Hat SEO
White Hat SEO
As with most SEO architecture, the primary purpose is to ensure that the web page is easy to navigate for users. However, the debate between black hat SEO vs white hat SEO is in their manner of operation.
White hat SEO involves ethical practices to help people optimise the content on web pages. It follows all the norms as mentioned in the Google Webmaster Guidelines to ensure that the site upholds the standards of integrity to deliver quality content.
Using white hat SEO makes it easier for search engines, like Google, to find the relevant information, thereby increasing the web page’s rank. Usually, a website that employs white hat SEO techniques will be known for its user-friendly design, contextual keywords, fast loading time, and relevant links.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO is not a long-term option, and neither does it deliver quality content. It is the complete opposite of white hat SEO, violating the search engine guidelines to dupe the Google search engine.
The primary objective is to ensure that the site features higher up the search rankings by using any method possible. For instance, the most common proponents of black hat SEO are virus creators, hackers, and individuals who engage in other unethical practices.
Principles Of White Hat SEO
In the debate between white hat vs. black hat SEO, it is important to discuss the essential aspects of these two SEO strategies. So, for better understanding, you can note the points related to white hat SEO mentioned below.
1. Search Engine Guidelines
White hat SEO involves meticulous planning and research to ensure that it follows the Google search engine guidelines. Any website can view these rules to have a clear idea of what constitutes unethical practices.
In layman’s terms, all web pages must refrain from manipulative practices that could impact the search engine results. Hence, any site that attempts to deceive the Google algorithm to make a page rank higher is penalised by Google.
But even more serious is the fact that people might lose their trust, which could affect the search engine’s reputation.
2. Believes In Long-Term Goals
A site that uses white hat techniques has more chances to create a user-friendly experience. It leaves a positive impact on users while their intensive methods prove useful for link-building and improving SEO tactics.
Speaking of intensive, it delivers long-lasting results, but occasionally the website may take time to load. To ensure that this does not happen, you need to adapt your SEO practices to reduce the wait time of different pages.
Also, from the point of view of the website owner, white hat SEO will achieve steady rankings, keeping the web page from falling down the ladder. In addition, you can use all target keywords to make sure that the search results remain relevant even after several years.
3. User Experience
By investing in relevant content, website managers can ensure that the site receives more traffic and benefits people.
The main goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to provide the human audience with content that will satisfy their demands. Meaning, you need to improve SEO architecture by researching users’ behaviour to find which content or keyword is generating more hits.
Using ethical SEO makes it easy for search engines to relate the content to search results. Long story short, users get value for spending time on the website, and you do not have to worry about the consequences of violating Google’s guidelines.
Also, ask the SEO experts to make the web page easily navigable so that it appeals to users of all ages.
Principles Of Black Hat SEO
Having learned about white hat SEO techniques, it’s time now to look at the principles of black hat SEO.
No one likes manipulation, especially users scanning through a web page, searching for important information. For instance, you would not feel great if you were manipulated into doing something because it satisfies someone else’s selfish interests.
Similarly, the black hat SEO technique does not care about user experience but focuses on outwitting Google’s algorithm to rank higher. In short, it uses deception to trick Google’s search engine into thinking that the web page features relevant content.
While this may attract users initially, they are likely to find that the content does not uphold quality standards.
2. Focuses On Shortcuts
In the white hat vs. black hat SEO debate, one of the arguments against the latter is that it uses shortcuts to get the desired results. Rather than improving the website’s quality, black hat SEO techniques try to exploit the loopholes in Google’s algorithm.
Such SEO tactics may increase the rankings, but users are unlikely to find the search results relevant to their needs. Long story short, it may lead to temporary gains, but the breakthrough is always short-lived.
This is because, like us, Google is also aware of unethical SEO tactics, and they keep changing the algorithm to filter out perpetrators. It helps ensure that users find relevant answers to their queries, which is essential for Google’s reputation.
3. Violates Google’s Guidelines
The above section clarifies that websites using black hat SEO are blatantly violating Google’s guidelines. Naturally, these websites risk being penalised; they also lose their rankings if the new algorithm catches on.
More importantly, once people realise that a website uses black hat SEO tactics, they can report it as spam. Hence, it alerts the search engine and prevents users from logging into the site.
How To Identify A Black Hat SEO?
Now that you know about the consequences of using black hat SEO, you might want to learn about identifying a shady website. In our experience, we have noticed certain tell-tale signs that indicate wrongdoing.
1. Keyword Stuffing
Let us start with keyword stuffing, a manipulative scheme used by black hat SEOs to increase a website’s ranking. You will find that these websites use the target keyword repeatedly and without context.
All you need to do is read the content thoroughly to ascertain if it makes sense. In simple terms, these websites fail to deliver quality content because they are more focused on ranking.
Luckily, most modern algorithms can flag a website as they know how to detect keyword stuffing.
2. Link Scheme
Next, we will discuss link schemes which are also known as manipulative linking. It is one of the most common tactics of black hat SEO propagators who use hidden links spread across the web page.
In some cases, these websites may physically hide the keywords by matching the colour of the text to the background shade. And, when users click on the keywords, it leads to mutual backlinking.
Usually, the purpose of a link is to direct site visitors to another website with relevant content, which helps improve the ranking. But rather than adding worthwhile links, black hat SEO websites use irrelevant links that have no value.
So, if you come across any such links or find keywords written in smaller fonts, something might be fishy.
3. Hidden Text
Similar to hidden links, black hat SEO proponents colour certain texts so that they blend with the website’s background design. This makes the particular word or link invisible to users, which means that you might not find the content irrelevant.
It also helps sneak in more keywords and links that search engines may find useful to answer a query. Additionally, another malicious strategy is to reduce the font size of certain texts, maybe even to zero.
But the good news is that the Google crawlers are aware of these black hat techniques, thereby increasing the chances of catching them.
Grey Hat SEO
There is another category between white hat SEO and black hat SEO known as grey SEO. As the name suggests, it is difficult to define what this SEO strategy entails; it could be good, bad, or both.
You should know that Google recognises it as an SEO practice, but its terms and conditions are far from clear. Additionally, due to overlapping areas between black and white hat techniques, the website may still occupy a higher ranking position.
That said, in a different context, users might report it as spam. So, how will you identify a grey SEO strategy? We have mentioned two points below to help you.
1. Lack Of Transparency
A simple way to describe grey SEO is the way search engines respond to the website. It could come across as either right or wrong depending on the search engines’ changing guidelines.
We should mention that you can practice grey SEO strategies as long as you do not push the boundaries of black hat techniques. It would be best to weigh on the side of caution and provide people with quality content, which should be the priority.
At this point, a popular saying comes to mind - no risk, no gain. Needless to say, some prefer using grey SEO tactics and run the risk of being penalised. Others prefer to play it safe and improve their SEO architecture to serve customers.
2. No Clear Guidelines
Further adding to the blurriness is the lack of guidelines on what Google might or might not allow. We suggest reading the norms and regulations of ethical SEO practices to ensure that search engines do not flag your website.
Also, whenever in doubt, ask yourself if you would reveal the SEO strategy to Google. If the answer is no, it might be best to change your SEO tactics.
The Difference Between SEO Practices
That’s all there is to know about black hat SEO, white hat SEO, and grey SEO techniques. Hopefully, now you will be able to steer clear of black hat SEO practices and take your web page to the top of the rankings.
On that note, we’ll conclude our guide. Until next time!
Allan is the head of SEO strategy and implementation at sitecentre, in charge of planning and allocating on-page, off-page and technical changes. Allan has more than 10 years in the Search Engine Optimisation industry in addition to online marketing and system optimisations.