In the SEO world, terms like ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ are very common. Essentially, white hat refers to good SEO practices that search engines recommend, while black hat refers to bad SEO practices that break search engine rules.
Although black hat techniques may appear to lead to quick and easy boosts in search rankings, in the long run they never pay off, and are likely to result in penalties from search engines. Search engines also make it their business to alleviate the effectiveness of black hat SEO through algorithm updates.
Black hat SEO techniques
Black hat SEO is an attempt to trick a search engine into thinking a site is more relevant to a search query than it actually really is. In comparison, white hat SEO actually makes sites more relevant to search queries with no trickery involved.
Search engines ultimately don’t like black hat SEO as it leads to bad user experience. Unlike white hat SEO, which aims to benefit site visitors and search engines, black hat SEO is aimed purely at search engines, often ignoring users entirely.
Black hat SEO practices that should always be avoided but may still be in use include:
Keyword stuffing is a form of spam that involves overuse of certain keywords in order to manipulate a search engine into ranking a page higher for those terms. Keyword stuffing usually consists of adding multiple spurious keywords to title tags to the point that they read very poorly or do not make sense.
Usually a form of keyword stuffing, some black hat practitioners will use tags to hide content on a page that is invisible to the user, but clearly visible to a search engine. Placing spurious keywords into the of a page’s code is one example of this. Developers can also use the tag and various others to place invisible spam in their pages.
Bad paid links
Links pointing back to your website, particularly with relevant anchor text, can increase search engine rankings. This form of link building is fine until money changes hands. Google considers paying for links that exist purely for the sake of link building, manipulative, and therefore black hat.
White hat SEO techniques
White hat SEO involves a web publisher following the guidelines of search engines and working with their algorithms. These algorithms are updated regularly to increase effectiveness and stamp out black hat techniques.
The other key difference between white hat and black hat SEO is that white hat methods have an end result that benefits not just a website’s search rankings but its overall user experience too. Recommended white hat SEO techniques include:
Quality content writing
It is in a search engine’s interest to point users in the direction of sites full of good, well-researched, informative content. If your site is full of high quality content related to your area of business or expertise, Google and other search engines will see it as valuable and place its pages further up the search results.
SEO companies can create content that is not only well-researched and informative, but that also uses industry-relevant language in a non-spammy way to help Google understand that the page is relevant to a search query.
Keyword stuffing may be illicit, but that does not mean keywords are unimportant to SEO. Agencies can use special tools to find the different ways people are searching for your site, or the different way they could be, and include these words in your site copy in strategic but non-spammy ways.
Good web design
A website that is more functional and easy to use is much more likely to appear in search results. There are several ways a website can be better-optimised. Everything from internal linking, structural markup, clear code and easy navigation will make a difference.
As black hat practices are stamped out, good web design is more important than ever. In summary, white hat SEO is always better. It brings in better results, leads to a great looking site and is not subject to penalties.