Any time that you enter a keyword or search term into a search engine, search engine algorithms will determine the results that you see, and the order that they appear in.
As a business, you will of course want your website to show up as one of the first results for keywords related to your company. One of the ways in which you can achieve this is through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
SEO involves making your website rank higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), so that a higher volume of organic (or unpaid) traffic is received.
When it comes to SEO, there are two main techniques: White Hat and Black Hat. There’s also a big grey area in between.
A lot of business owners hear these terms thrown around, but few know what they actually mean. The reality is that you need to. In this blog post, we’re going to tell you why.
To start with though, let’s look at what we actually mean by White Hat and Black Hat SEO.
White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO is essentially the correct and proper way to go about search engine optimisation.
It means doing things “by the book”, in a way that follows the standards, rules, and procedures set out by Google’s webmaster guidelines. These search engine guidelines outline some of the ways in which you can ethically improve your website’s SEO.
Some examples of White Hat SEO techniques are:
- Structuring your website in a way that makes it easy for users to navigate and locate content
- Ensuring your website displays and functions correctly for both mobile and desktop users
- Undertaking keyword research, and incorporating SEO-friendly keywords into your content
- Using descriptive meta tags (or meta descriptions) in your site’s search engine listing
- Publishing quality content that your users will be interested in
- Enabling near-instant loading where possible
- Creating a positive user experience
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat techniques are commonly employed by less scrupulous SEO specialists, as they allow you to achieve “quick wins” by gaining an unfair advantage over the others in your field.
Whilst this may make Black Hat SEO seem like a good idea at first, it is actually viewed as unethical, dishonest, and will actually end up hurting your business in the long run.
Examples of Black Hat techniques include:
- Publishing poor quality or duplicate content
- Keyword stuffing (filling your website with excessive or irrelevant keywords)
- Spamming other blogs with comments featuring links to your website
- Hidden or “invisible” text (writing keywords in white or the same colour as the background of the page so they can be seen by search engines, but not visitors to the page)
- Negative SEO (reporting competitors to negatively impact their own ranking)
- Cloaking (where the content presented to your website’s users differs to that presented to the search engine)
- Sneaky redirections (where users and search engines are redirected to different locations)
- Doorway pages (pages that are designed to rank for certain keywords, before redirecting the user to another page)
- Article spinning (rewriting the same piece of content numerous times, so that it appears you are publishing a large volume of new content)
Another technique used in Black Hat SEO is link manipulation (also known as link or backlink purchasing). A number of different Black Hat systems exist that allow you to purchase inorganic backlinks to your site. Link schemes, link farms, link wheels, and link networks all allow you to acquire paid links.
Because Google’s search algorithm ranks for trustworthiness and domain authority, buying links to manipulate your ranking is viewed as being unethical, as this will allow you to gain an unfair advantage.
With that being said, link building can be done ethically. The main way in which this is done using White Hat techniques is by creating high-quality content, then asking other websites to feature and link back to your content. This will allow you to gain backlinks organically and ethically. Tools like SEMRush can also help with the backlinking process.
It is important to note that any time you use Black Hat tactics, your website could be hit with a Google penalty. This occurs when a search engine’s algorithms negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results as punishment for using Black Hat tactics. Basically, what this means is that your website will be moved down so that it appears lower in results for relevant keywords.
As you can see, Black Hat SEO is definitely something that you should be worried about as a business owner. This is also something that you should be keeping in mind any time that you are choosing a SEO specialist to help you grow your online presence.
Professional website designers and SEO specialists will always use White Hat SEO techniques, as they understand the time and careful planning that comes with ethically achieving a good SEO ranking. However, there are still a lot of less scrupulous companies out there that do rely on Black Hat techniques.
If you’re ever talking to an SEO company and they mention using any of the Black Hat tactics we just talked about, that’s a huge red flag. Because these strategies can do far more long-term damage than good, and have the potential to seriously damage your business and brand image, companies that use these tactics should be avoided.