There’s an easy way to remember the difference between gray, white, and black hat SEO techniques. In traditional westerns, the bad guys always wore black hats–the good guys, white. Guys with gray hats are not quite good, not quite bad. Here are some of the specifics that outline the differences in less simplistic terms.
Black Hat SEO
A black hat will typically engage in practices that are considered unethical by search engines in order to boost a website’s search results ranking. Some of these tactics include:
Keyword stuffing. This is accomplished on two levels–keyword stuffing in the content of a website, and keyword stuffing of a website’s META tags. This can bring about a desired result in the short term, but can have a devastating impact on your ability to continue to attract an online audience if your website is banned from a search engine.Adding invisible text. As simplistic as this approach sounds, it’s actually a technique that many black hat SEO practitioners utilize in order to stuff an online document with keywords without being seen.
This is accomplished by adding a bunch of keywords to a section of the web page, and hiding them by making the text the same color as the background. For example, black hatters will insert a long string of keywords in white lettering on a white background so that they can’t be seen by the eye, but will be picked up by a search engine.Link farming. This method is also referred to as spam-dexing, and attempts to raise a website’s search engine ranking by creating separate webpages whose sole purpose are to link to the black hatter’s website. Since the number of sites that link to your website help your search engine ranking, this has long been an effective cheat. But search engines, starting with Google, are starting to identify link farms and are taking decisive action to ban them.
White Hat SEO
Essentially, White hat SEO goes out of the way to avoid the kinds of schemes that the black hatters use to deceptively ramp up their showing on search engines. It avoids shortcuts and relies on tried and true methods to actually earn the coveted attention of search engine rankers and, ultimately, website visitors. This is accomplished through the following practices:
Relevant, compelling content. This is important because it serves to win over the two distinctly different–albeit crucial–segments of your audience: actual users and search engines, both of which arrive at accurate assessments of your website’s value and legitimacy through the quality of your content.Effective use of keywords. Web copy and articles aren’t shoddily written excuses to insert repeat instances of keywords and phrases–they’re actually informative, and use only relevant keywords. Non-deceptive META tags. The keywords entered into the page’s META data are representative of the keywords that appear on the page’s text, and aren’t manipulated in any way.
Gray Hat SEO
Toeing the line between black hat and white hat SEO methods, gray hat techniques are those that don’t blatantly cross the line into unethical territory, and in many cases can actually be arguably successful. Still, the fact that many of the methods employed are of a questionable nature separates them far enough from the straightforward and transparent guidelines that envelop white hat SEO. Gray hat SEO techniques include:
Using paid links. This is often done to get around the potential repercussions of participating in link farms. It works when one webmaster pays another to put a link onto their site, driving to the payer’s site.Limited keyword stuffing. This is sort of like the equivalent of driving five or ten miles over the speed limit–you’re technically breaking the law, but you’re doing it in a way so as to fly under the radar. Keyword stuffers should be aware, though, that just because you don’t flagrantly break the law doesn’t mean you won’t eventually get pulled over.
Starting today and running throughout the month of December, we will be highlighting the Top 5 Internet Marketing Stories of 2011 as a 5-part series on our Rewind podcast.
Each week, we will post highlights of a story that impacted the world of internet marketing and we showcase how it was reported by our show hosts as it happened. We have posted the first episode which showcases the launch of Google Plus.
Here is our upcoming Rewind schedule:
Week if December 5th-Carol Bartz, Yahoos Chief Executive, Is Fired.
Week of December 12th-Retail giant JC Penney is punished by the Google web spam team for engaging in black hat link building tactics for SEO.
Week of December 19th-Google Plus 1 Button is Introduced.
Week of December 26th-The Google Farmer/Panda Algorithm Launch