White Hat and Black Hat SEO take their name from an old Western movie trope. One is good. One is bad.

Both are capable of getting you results. But the differences between the two can mean the difference between success and failure for your business.

Search engines like Google and Bing are constantly changing their ranking algorithms in secret. And nobody knows for certain how they function.

Search engines change their algorithms for two main reasons:

  • It provides fair competition
  • It delivers users the most relevant and trustworthy content

Search engines have general guidelines, that when followed, help them find, index and rank your site using bots that perpetually crawl the internet in search of new and updated pages.

What is White Hat SEO?

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?

“Slow and steady wins the race,” was it’s moral.

For this analogy, White Hat SEO is our tortoise. Slower on the go, thus requiring more time and effort to reach the winning post. But a victory by way of White Hat SEO tactics is always more virtuous and rewarding.

White Hat SEO puts search engines second to the human experience. But still follows the general guidelines of said search engines to the letter. No shortcuts or shenanigans.  

White Hat SEO respects the algorithm. And utilises legitimate SEO techniques to increase search traffic organically. Like offering site visitors original, high-quality content that they can’t find anywhere else.

It starts with creating a content strategy. Before you write or film anything. Building pieces of content one on top of the other will present opportunities for mutual linking. It paves a clearer path for users to navigate your site. Eventually converting them into loyal visitors and regular customers.

You’ll need to identify the best keywords to use. Appropriate use of the right keywords across your content, especially in titles and headings, is a sure fire way to catch the attention of search engines. Conducting a little research using tools like Google Keyword Planner is a great way to uncover the best keywords for your article or page.     

Try using intriguing title tags that include your main keyword(s). Title tags are displayed in your content’s URL, search results and when a page is shared on social networks. So it’s important that yours are attention-grabbing.

Don’t forget to link. Linking internally is an effective way to guide visitors through your site. And links to high-authority external sites will boost your own credibility with search engines and trustworthiness with users.

How easy is it for visitors to find what they’re looking for on your website? Improving navigation, simplifying site architecture and increasing page-load speed creates a better user experience that keeps people on your page for longer.

White Hat SEO strategies promote fair and honest competition for better ranking on search engines. With its emphasis on customer satisfaction, optimised user experience, quality content and always abiding by search engine guidelines, White Hat SEO is a proven route to better rankings. And staying in the good graces of Google.

What is Black Hat SEO?

The vengeful gunslinger. The boastful hare. Black Hat SEO cheats to achieve better rankings on search engines by using aggressive techniques that target and influence search engines directly. At the expense of the human experience.  

They’re tricks like using spam blogs or publishing low-quality, duplicated content not intended to attract real people. Or scraping and plagiarizing content.

It’s using software for link farming that connects you to other sites with low-quality content for the sole purpose of increasing visibility.

Keywords are good.

But keyword stuffing, the practice of overloading your content with keywords in an unnatural way, or using tiny or hidden text, is bad.

Using unrelated or irrelevant keywords is also frowned upon. “Kim Kardashian” is probably a popular search term. But plastering her name across your content in hopes of winning a couple of extra clicks is cheating.

Gateway pages bursting with keyword phrases, but no real meaningful content, that use JavaScript or meta refresh tags to redirect users to a different page without their knowledge, are definitely not best practice.

It’s important to compete fairly. Don’t publish negative campaigns against your competitors. Or report them as Black Hat practitioners when they aren’t.

Some Black Hat SEO agents will even go as far as hacking other sites. And after gaining access, place their own content there. Often without the site owner being aware of it.  

Search engines do not appreciate any of these dodgy practices. They’re unethical and punishable offences that could ultimately end up crippling your site.  

We are not smarter than the algorithm. While it might be possible to get away with using certain Black Hat SEO techniques to steal some quick gains in the short term, search engines will eventually recognise these tactics for what they are. And be quick to meet swift digital justice.   

If you’re caught attempting to deceive search engines with Black Hat techniques, you can count on a poor ranking at the very least. In many cases, non-compliant or offending sites are temporarily, or even permanently, de-indexed altogether.

This means that no matter what search phrases are used, the de-indexed site will not appear in any search engine results. And the lack of a searchable online presence is a death knell to just about any business.

The temptation of securing some fast and easy results with Black Hat SEO may seem inviting. But you’re never going to beat the house. The search engine is the dealer. And the dealer holds all the cards. So why gamble with your business’ future?

Be the tortoise instead. Plan. Scheme. Plod. Put on a White Hat and take your time when practising SEO. Because “slow and steady” wins the rankings race every time.