Understanding White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO

Written by Lauren Austin

Do you watch ABC’s hit television show, Scandal?

If you do, then you have a solid idea of what white hat vs. black hat means. If you have never seen the show, don’t worry – I’m going to give you a complete rundown on white hat SEO vs. black hat SEO, as well as how both pertain to the overall practice Search Engine Optimization - keep reading to learn more!

Before we get started, though, let me make two things clear:

White hat = good.

Black hat = bad.

White hat SEO: What is it?

White hat SEO is the morally and procedurally correct form of Search Engine Optimization. Practitioners of white hat SEO use Google-approved techniques, never trying to trick or game the system. These SEOs employ a mix of tactics and strategies aimed at pleasing both site visitors and search engines.

So why would anyone ever stray from the straight-and-narrow path of white hat SEO? The answer is undoubtedly time. Optimizing a website using white hat methods is a slow, virtually unending process. Good SEOs know that quality search engine rankings don’t happen overnight.

In all honesty, though, does anything worthwhile really ever come easy in life? Things worth doing often require hard work, patience and dedication.

How long does white hat SEO usually take?

When using white hat SEO tactics, websites can take months before they begin to rank highly on search engines for the desired keywords/phrases. Once those websites do start to increase in ranking, the results are often long lasting and well worth the wait!

Below is a list of common White Hat SEO techniques you can employ to boost your site’s organic search engine rankings, courtesy of Cognitive SEO:

white hat seo infographic

It's worth noting that guest blogging as an SEO tactic is dead

Now, on to the bad... black hat SEO

Quick results are what make black hat SEO so tempting. Nothing feels better then instant gratification, right? Be warned, though – if you go about seeking quick success with your SEO efforts, you run the risk of having your site de-indexed (banned completely) or heavily penalized by the major search engines. Those negatives far outweigh the potential benefits. 

How does black hat SEO work?

Black hat SEO uses illegal - or, at best, questionable - techniques in an attempt boost a page or site’s ranking in search results.

Black hat SEOs often buy links from dubious (often fake) websites in order to trick Google into thinking their site contains popular content. Others jam Web pages so full of keywords that the content becomes meaningless, making it worthless to potential customers. Google doesn’t like that – they rely on the quality of the results they provide to keep their loyal users coming back day after day.

How do black hat SEOs get caught?

Over the years, Google has updated its search ranking algorithm time and time again, all in an effort to not only halt the success of black hat SEOs, but also to penalize them for their refusal to follow the rules. In addition, Google is able to crawl websites far more frequently than in years past, allowing them to identify and take action against black hat techniques much, much faster.

Plus, even if Google doesn’t discover your dishonest tactics right away, one of your competitors can get wind of them and report you. In other words, your chances for long-term success are pretty much 0% when using black hat SEO methods.

Below is a list of Black Hat tactics to avoid at all costs, also courtesy of Cognitive SEO:

black hat seo infographic

So, which hat will you wear?

After reading this, my hope is that you have a much better understanding of white and black hat SEO. More importantly, I hope you always choose to wear the white hat, or to insist that your SEO partner do so!

If you have any questions about SEO, or you need help improving your site’s search engine rankings, get in touch so we can help you move forward!