Even today, people are still talking about White Hat vs Black Hat SEO as if it is a choice. While it is easy to separate each into a classification, it is not a school of thought as much as a question of ethics. One follows the rules and guidelines that are set to even the playing field. In contrast, the other attempts to game Google’s algorithms for quick results.
White Hat SEO is the practice of improving your search engine rankings while complying with the terms of service of Google and other search engines, this is also known as ethical SEO. In contrast, Black Hat SEO is the total opposite of what a White Hat is, and the methods used include cloaking and other underhanded tactics to edge out the competition.
If you brush up on the Webmaster Guidelines by Google, you will find the following basic principles when developing a website for SEO:
- Develop the website for people and not for the algorithms.
- Do not hoodwink your readers.
- Avoid deceptive tactics to boost your search engine rankings.
- Avoid cloaking and redirects.
- Make sure your website is free from user-generated spam.
You will find Google’s Webmaster Guidelines here.
What is White Hat SEO?
Several elements must be present to be categorized as White Hat SEO. Among these are:
- The practices follow the guidelines set by search engines. As you might expect, Google will slap with a corresponding penalty any attempt to violate those guidelines.
- It focuses on giving solutions to the target market rather than circumventing the rules in place and game the system.
- It is not trying to shortcut the process. Your SEO efforts may not yield results right away. But that is okay since the good practices you employ will be more sustainable in the long run.
- It does not skip steps. Search engines pay close attention to the technical aspects of your website aside from the content. For example, the user experience will earn you plus points in terms of search engine ranking.
What is Black Hat SEO?
In many cases, black hat SEO agencies are able to trick clients into buying their services by offering cheap SEO prices. Here are some elements that may classify your efforts as black hat SEO.
- It attempts to game the system. You try to manipulate and tweak the guidelines to create artificial results.
- It tries to exploit the loopholes in the guidelines and rules to propel websites to the top of the heap on the search engine results page (SERP).
- It tries to circumvent Google’s algorithms to improve a website’s rankings.
- It provides a picture of success because of quick results and wins. In the end, however, the client will realize that the results are all smoke and mirrors.
The problem is if the client is not aware that the webmaster is using Black Hat SEO. Unfortunately, the pressure to deliver results pushes some web developers to use unethical methods to please their clients.
As a result, Google will penalize the client website through suspension or a permanent ban.
What Are Black Hat SEO Tactics?
Here are some of the Black Hat SEO tactics to look out for:
- Cloaking — It is the practice of presenting different content to the user and the search engine algorithm. For instance, the system inserts a page or a text when it determines that the query comes from the search engine spider rather than from a human being.
- Improper Redirects — When you click on the website, you land on a different page than you initially signed up for. It also attempts to game the system by sending the search engine spiders to another page that is not accessible to users.
- Doorway pages — The tactic does not offer additional value to resolve a person’s query. The intent is to create multiple pages to boost the keywords and improve the search engine rankings. Google clamps down hard on doorway pages, and it bans your website as a result.
- Pages with no real content — These include automatically generated content, aggregate content, copied from other sources, and thin affiliate content. Google will immediately delete these pages, and your search engine rankings may take a hit.
- Hidden Links and texts — Among the methods used by Black Hat SEO proponents is to use the CSS to fix the text’s position off-screen. They will also insert a white text on a white background, which could not be detected by the human eye. The font size will be positioned to “0” or hiding the links on small characters (comma, hyphen, ampersand, and period, among others).
- Irrelevant keywords — The practice is also known as keyword stuffing, which works precisely as it sounds. The Black Hat SEO practitioner will pepper the content with keywords to try to game the algorithm and boost the rankings. This party-trick might have worked about ten years ago. But Google’s algorithm is now very sophisticated to ensure that the user will get only the most relevant and accurate results.
- Automated queries — Google expressly states under its terms and conditions of use that automated queries will be met with a harsh response. Sending automated queries about a website rank, for example, to the search engine giant will create a logjam in the system.
- Spam and phishing — Of course, some websites exist to steal valuable data and private information from users. According to data, authorities reported a total of 146,994 cases of phishing attacks in the first six months of 2020. Google and other policy-makers are working closely to go after these hackers.
What Are White Hat SEO Tactics?
The simple act of avoiding the deceitful techniques listed above will immediately push you toward the White Hat category.
Nevertheless, here are some of the effective ways to boost your search engine rankings while maintaining the integrity of your website.
- Link building — Link building is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to boost your rankings. But it is also the most overlooked. For one, it is not easy to network with credible sites and get you noticed. But you cannot ignore the significance of the method. For instance, link building is one of the top factors that Google takes into account for its rankings.
- Scan your website — As you know, Google will flag your site if it determines that the pages contain malicious scripts and texts. You need to monitor your website regularly and clean it of hacked content and user-generated spam.
- Create quality content — The main purpose of Google’s algorithms is to link the user to their query’s most relevant answers. You should optimize the content to target the users rather than the search engines. If you are not confident of your writing ability, you can outsource content generation to an SEO agency. Quality content also involves the length of the blog post. Although it varies across industries, the general rule of thumb is that long-form content tends to perform better than shorter ones. A 2012 study by SerpIQ revealed that posts over 2,400 words generated the most buzz. However, you can write consistent 1,500-word articles and still rank high on the SERP.
- Ensure user experience — When a first-time visitor lands on your site, what experience do you want the visitor to take with them? When the developer optimizes a website, the primary goal should be to improve the bounce rate and repeat visits. You can use multiple methods, such as optimizing each page’s loading speed, effective use of CTAs and the white space, quality content, and attractive design, among others. Also, make sure that the first-time visitor can navigate your website without any problems.
- Keyword research — To reach your target market, you must know the keywords they are using, how they are using it, and when they are ready to purchase goods and services. Today’s analytics are so advanced that they can accurately predict user behavior. But you need to invest some resources into research first.
- Keyword-rich headlines and meta tags — Meta tags are summaries of what the reader can expect from the longer copy. But these tags would not be visible on the content itself, but rather the source code. Meanwhile, the headline draws the attention of the reader and convinces them to read the rest of the content. The reader can only spare a few seconds before making a decision. How do you make sure that your title will jump out of the page so that the user will click on the link?
- Fast loading speed — When your website is slow to open, chances are, your bounce rate will also skyrocket. Nobody has time to wait for 10 seconds for your landing page to load. Remember, they are there to address a need. If you are quick to provide it to them, they will go somewhere else. What is the ideal loading speed? Data shows that 4 in 10 users will leave the website if it takes more than three seconds to load. The bounce rate increases after each second. So, the sweet spot should be under three seconds.
It is crucial that you work only with an SEO agency that uses White Hat SEO tactics exclusively. The risks are too high for you to wager your business website for momentary gains.
When it comes to White Hat vs. Black Hat, it really is not a choice. You are duty-bound to follow ethical SEO practices when preparing your website for search engine optimization.
Admittedly, no system is perfect. It means that Black Hat SEO proponents might get away with their underhanded tactics and show success to their clients. But it is not always going to be that way. Most people are not aware of this, but Google tweaks its algorithm about 600 times a year, and the primary reason is to specifically weed out the artificial results.
Ultimately, White Hat SEO is the safer route when you want to improve your rankings. Even if it takes you longer to get there, it is more difficult to dislodge you from your position as long as you employed the best practices.
Ready To Work With A White Hat SEO Agency?
No matter how big or small your company we’d be happy to chat about your business goals and explore what White Hat SEO options will work best. Our Abbotsford based SEO company is all about achieving the best possible results and setting you up for long-term success. We look forward to getting to know you better! Call us today at 1-888-262-6687!