Published on: March 29, 2021
What is White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO? What Should You Use?
If you’ve been scouting for an SEO agency, chances are you’ve come across the phrases “White Hat SEO” and “Black Hat SEO.”
You’ll find these words all over the place in the SEO world.
But what exactly are these?
Why does everyone frown upon black hat SEO?
And are the damages of using black hat SEO that bad?
In this article, we’ll look at the differences between white hat SEO and black hat SEO strategies.
We’ll also take a look at some highly-effective strategies that fall into the gray areas.
By the end of this, you should have a better understanding of the topic and know why going for white hat SEO is always a better idea.
What is Black Hat SEO?
What is black hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO is any shady technique that goes against the policies of Google and other search engines.
Search engines like Google want to put only the highest-quality content on the top of search engines.
Since they’re never going to be able to read every single web page manually, they’ve created complex algorithms to help them rank which web pages are helpful and which ones aren’t.
These algorithms are incredibly complex. And Google and other search engines are continuously updating it to put the most relevant and helpful articles on the #1 spot.
However, there are still some “hacks” out there.
Whenever someone tries to trick the algorithm into ranking their page – instead of just creating valuable content for their readers – that’s black hat SEO.
Here are some black hat SEO techniques:
- Keyword stuffing
- Automatically generated content
- Little or no original content
- Sneaky redirects
- Doorway pages
- Paid SERP Clicking
And a lot more.
To know whether something is black hat, ask yourself:
“Would I do this if a Google employee was standing over my shoulder?”
If the answer is no – if you have something to hide – what you’re doing is probably black hat.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Black Hat SEO
A few years ago, black hat techniques reigned supreme.
The search engine bots weren’t refined yet, so anybody could just pack keywords into a website article and win.
Nowadays, those types of articles just don’t cut it anymore.
And that’s the first reason to avoid black hat SEO.
A LOT of black hat SEO tricks are no longer effective. And even the ones that work are highly likely to disappear soon.
Nowadays, if you stuff keywords into your article, Google will see what you’re trying to do and won’t rank the page.
So what’s the point? Right?
Another reason to avoid black hat tricks is that you could get penalized.
Google confirmed that they can, and will, manually demote or remove web pages that classify as “webspam.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oPj5_9WxpA&ab_channel=GoogleSearchCentral
So not only do most black hat tricks not work anymore, using the ones that work can also come back to haunt you.
That’s why whenever you’re looking for an SEO agency, it’s vital to understand their practices first.
You don’t want your company associated with people using shady tactics, do you?
Neither do you want to spend on outdated SEO tactics that no longer increase your search engine ranking.
What is White Hat SEO?
Alright, now for white hat SEO.
If black hat SEO is the “bad” side of SEO, then white hat SEO is the “good” side.
White hat SEO is the proper way to do things.
These are the strategies that Google themselves recommend for ranking your website.
White Hat SEO is all about providing value for your readers and growing your traffic organically.
There are no tricks, no sneaky redirects, and no useless content for white hat SEO.
Everything is clean, high-quality, and extremely helpful to the readers.
When looking for someone to do your search optimization, it’s crucial to look for someone that does only white hat SEO tactics.
This way, you can be sure your website is safe.
You won’t have to worry about your site violating any of Google’s webmaster policies, and you won’t have to worry about what will happen to your high-ranking site whenever a new Google update comes around.
However, most – if not all – SEO companies aren’t 100% white hat.
A lot of them also include “gray hat SEO” techniques (we’ll have a closer look at this in a bit).
White Hat SEO Techniques
So what does white hat SEO look like?
Well, first and foremost, white hat SEO is all about producing ultra-high-quality content.
Instead of using auto-generated content, hiring a super cheap writer in India or Bangladesh, copying text from another site, or even spinning something that someone else wrote – a white hat SEO strategy focuses on creating new and unique content.
You can check out how much work this takes in our content marketing guide.
White hat SEO is about bringing people to your website because the content you produce is so high-quality and valuable that no one can find it anywhere else online.
Another essential factor of white hat SEO is that it provides people with a fantastic user experience.
The longer people stay on your page, the higher your website will rank.
White hat SEO gets people to stay by providing people with informative graphics, helpful videos, and so much more.
The user experience has to be excellent for people to stay on your website for a long time.
On-page SEO is also considered as white hat.
There’s nothing wrong with putting your target keyword in your title, in your headers, and a few times in your text.
In fact, Google encourages that so that they can properly index your website.
It’s only when you keyword stuff – when you add your target keyword hundreds of times – that things turn black hat.
What is Gray Hat SEO?
As with almost everything, there are some gray areas.
And in the world of SEO, gray hat SEO is a controversial topic.
Some people say you should avoid it at all costs, but others say that it’s an effective way to gain more traffic.
What is gray hat SEO again?
Gray Hat SEO is strategies in the blurry lines between black hat SEO and white hat SEO. These are strategies that go against Google’s policies but are nearly impossible to track down.
Well, you’ll be surprised to find that almost every single SEO agency today uses gray techniques.
Unlike black hat search engine optimization, there’s little to no risk of using gray hat techniques.
And you do get handsome rewards from it as well.
Gray Hat SEO Techniques
Okay, so what does gray hat SEO look like?
Well, have you ever heard of link building?
It’s one of the cornerstones of modern SEO strategies.
But if you look at Google’s webmaster guidelines, you’ll find that link building isn’t “allowed”!
Google straight-up says don’t do link building – but everyone does it anyway.
Because one, it works.
And two, it’s nearly impossible for Google to catch you.
Google wants links to come naturally. They want your content to be so good that people will link to it without you having to ask them to.
But if you do ask someone to put a link to your website – or even pay them to do it – there’s no way Google can call you out unless they see your conversation.
Besides, all the SEO industry experts recommend link building, including Backlinko, Ahrefs, Moz – everyone.
So don’t be afraid of it just because it’s “gray hat.”
Another gray hat technique you should be aware of is PBNs, or private blog networks.
Technically, all link building is gray hat.
But since all SEO experts use it, many people consider it as white hat already.
However, PBNs, which can get you plenty of links fast, is considered the “actual” gray-hat side of link building.
PBNs are a network of sites all belonging to one owner.
If you pay this owner, he can add a link to your website on all of his sites.
It’s a fast way to get many links and give your site ranking an extra kick.
And while you certainly won’t do this with a Google employee at your back, there’s no way for them to spot it.
However, be careful with PBNs!
Remember, search engine algorithms have drastically changed over the years.
In the early days, anybody could just buy a bunch of domains, put utter garbage on their site, and their links to you would still help a lot.
Today, the website content of these PBN sites is super important.
If there isn’t any quality content on the PBN site, having links from hundreds of them won’t help you at all.
So keep an eye out for these.
Should You Do Gray-Hat SEO?
Unless you do all your SEO in-house, it’s nearly impossible to find someone who doesn’t use some form of gray-hat SEO.
Even companies who advertise themselves as 100% white hat don’t exactly use 100% white hat SEO techniques.
Remember, link-building techniques are so widespread, people see them as white hat already even though Google and other search engines don’t.
However, some gray-hat strategies are more on the dark side of the spectrum.
Things like cloaking, which is an advanced gray-hat technique, are on the border of black hat. And unlike link building, you can get caught by search engines for doing this.
To determine whether you need gray-hat techniques, ask yourself how safe you want to be and how much competition you have.
If you’re on a low-competition niche, you can stay on the safe side and go for white hat SEO and “white hat” link building and win.
But if you have fierce competition, diving into gray-hat SEO can give you the edge.
Besides, your competitors are probably using gray hat techniques themselves. So what’s there to lose, right?
Black vs. White Hat SEO – How to Determine What You Need
Everyone needs white hat SEO.
It’s the best way for you to rank for your target keywords, bring in potential clients, and even convert them in the long run.
In the same way, everyone should avoid black-hat SEO.
It’s just not healthy for your site.
The real dilemma is what to do with the gray areas.
That’s why whenever you’re thinking of getting SEO services, ALWAYS ask them what they’re going to do for you.
A little gray-hat is alright. Heck, it can even push you above your competitors.
But too much gray-hat is best avoided unless you’re in a super tough niche.
So think about it.
Plan it out.
And you’ll know how far into gray waters you can go.
Want the experts to put together the right balance of gray and white hat SEO for you? Sign up for our FREE audit, and we’ll create a custom plan for you!