One of the choices marketers face when deciding where to take their inbound marketing strategy is whether to use Black Hat SEO or White Hat SEO strategies.
In this article we are going to:
- Talk about what each of these terms actually means
- Discuss some of their most popular tools and techniques
- Tell you what wearing each of these hats could mean for your search engine rankings (and your business) in the long term.
What is White Hat SEO?
White Hat SEO refers to using tools and tactics that follow Google’s policies, particularly ones related to creating quality content.
White Hat SEO emphasizes content that is made for humans, not search engines. It’s a long-term strategy that can set your business up for success (and keep the leads coming in even when the marketing dollars are not).
White Hat SEO Techniques
Want to earn your own white hat? Follow these strategies:
- Create high-quality content. It should be well-written, original and relevant to your target audience. It will help you generate organic search engine traffic, as well as links and shares from social media and other high-quality sites around the web.
- Do your keyword research. Use a tool like SEMrush to identify keywords people are actually searching for, and make sure to include them in relevant places on your website. Long-tail keywords that are specific to your product or service should be a priority here.
- Go after relevant backlinks. If high-authority sites in your niche are linking to you, Google will start recognizing you as an authority as well, and rank you higher.
- Don’t forget to use internal links in your content. It will make it easier for Google’s spiders to crawl your site, so include two or three internal links in each piece of content you publish.
- Optimize your meta-descriptions. The term meta description refers to the first couple of sentences that appear in search results after your website’s title. Make sure it includes one or two of your top keywords and does not get cut off mid-sentence.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO takes a much more aggressive approach than White Hat SEO.
It is all about getting ranked very quickly and is centered around bending (and, in some cases, breaking) search engine rules to do so.
Using Black Hat SEO techniques often leads to low-quality, spammy websites, and pages, which are not made for human users. These get flagged by Google pretty quickly and will result in your website being penalized, or worse, banned from search engine rankings entirely.
The bottom line?
While Black Hat SEO can help you generate a few hundred bucks very quickly, your site (and business) won’t be around for very long.
Black Hat SEO Techniques
Some of the most popular Black Hat SEO strategies include:
- Keyword stuffing. Using relevant keywords is great, but stuffing them in places they don’t belong is a huge red flag for search engines.
- Including irrelevant keywords. It may be tempting to casually mention a celebrity in your content, but if the rest of your website is all about selling solar panels, Google won’t be a big fan.
- Content automation is not a great way to generate backlinks. We can all recognize comments made by bots pretty easily, and so can Google.
- Invisible text or links. Hiding text or links within your content (e.g. by using white text on white background) is another popular Black Hat SEO technique.
- Doorway pages. An extreme form of keyword stuffing, these are fake pages filled to the brim with keywords; once clicked, they redirect the user to the actual page.
- Cloaking, a form of the doorway page technique, involves showing visitors different content than search engine bots. The goal is to deceive search engines so that they display the page when it would not have otherwise been displayed.
White Hat and Black Hat SEO: Which one should you wear?
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.
Waiting for White Hat SEO to “kick in” and start generating leads can seem tiresome to some, especially if they are strapped for cash and need to get their business off the ground very quickly.
But for someone looking to be in business longer than a few months, the choice is pretty clear.
Not only does White Hat SEO keep you on Google’s good side, but it also sets you up for success in the future.
Once you’ve snagged that top spot in Google’s rankings, it will be pretty difficult for anyone to challenge you. With minimal upkeep, you can have a steady flow of traffic coming in for years to come!
Wait, is there such a thing as Gray Hat SEO?
It’s an ambiguous term which refers to tactics and techniques that haven’t been very well defined by Google’s policies, which means there’s some room for disagreement.
Something that’s being referred to as Gray Hat SEO this year might be straight-up Black Hat SEO next year, so the marginal benefit of finding these loopholes is usually worth it.
Here’s a quick table to summarize the differences between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO:
|White Hat SEO||Black Hat SEO|
|Goal||Rise to the top of search engine rankings at a sustainable pace (and remain there in the long-term)||Rise to the top of search engine rankings quickly, with no regard for the long-term outlook|
|Strategy||Producing and sharing high-quality content to rank higher||Bending and breaking search engine rules to rank higher|
|Popular Tactics||- High-quality content|
- Relevant keywords
- Relevant backlinks
|- Content automation|
- Keyword stuffing
- Invisible text/links
If you’d like to learn more about the White Hat side of SEO (and take your content marketing strategy to the next level), don’t hesitate to get in touch. HandmadeSEO will have you wearing the right hat!