The Many Hats of SEO


The Many Hats of SEO

We briefly defined black hat, gray hat, and white hat SEO in our blog post, corecubed’s SEO ABCs. Today, however, we’ll get a little more in-depth about what these tactics are and which ones you need to avoid. Let’s start with the bad boy first…

Black Hat SEO

Simply put, black hat SEO tactics are unethical techniques used to trick search engines into ranking websites higher in a search. These bad boys are frowned on not only by Google and the other major search engines, but your site visitors as well. Often, black hat SEO uses content manipulation that has no benefits for your target audience, causing them to lose interest in your page because of its irrelevant text, which defeats the purpose altogether.

Black Hat SEO Examples:

  • Hiding content on a page (think white text on a white background) so that Google can see it, but users can’t.
  • Keyword stuffing – overusing keywords in visible text, to the point where their repetition is apparent to readers.
  • Cloaking, or presenting different content to search engines than to people
  • Spamming forums, blogs, and other social media sites with links back to the website they are trying to promote.

Gray Hat SEO

Nothing is ever black and white, right? Like anything else, SEO is more complicated than that. Gray hat SEO is the art of walking the line between what you should probably not be doing and what you should be doing to promote a website in search engines. Gray hat SEO is risky because it can still end up getting your website penalized by Google, though it may not land you in hot water as quickly as black hat techniques would. While something may only be considered gray hat today, it could be deemed black hat next year. (Or next week, for that matter.)

Gray hat SEO may be completely unintentional. The danger comes when a website that used SEO techniques a couple of years ago, which were perfectly normal back then, suddenly finds itself penalized because Google has tightened its grip on what it considers to be allowable ways of promoting a website.

Gray Hat SEO Examples:

  • Having a keyword density that’s high enough to sound somewhat unnatural to readers, but not at the alarming level of black hat keyword stuffing.
  • Publishing duplicate content at different sites.
  • Using paid links on other websites to bring traffic to your websites (excluding pay-per-click ads).

White Hat SEO

The good guys always wear white, right? Well, that’s the case with SEO, anyway. White hat SEO encompasses all the ethical SEO practices. The goal of white hat SEO is to improve a site’s search engine ranking via methods that won’t cause search engines to penalize the site. This method may be slower than the shady techniques of black and gray hat SEO, but it also doesn’t pose a risk to your website. Slow and steady definitely wins the race in the SEO world.

White Hat SEO Examples:

  • Including relevant keywords naturally in page titles, headings, link anchor text, other page content.
  • Studying analytics reports and fine-tuning the content to further optimize it for targeted keywords and to help direct traffic to relevant pages.
  • Adding fresh content regularly. (This is where blogging comes in handy!)
  • Using correct HTML markup so that search engines can identify headings and other types of content correctly.
  • Making sure that all the code is valid (or at least won’t stop search engine bots).
  • Creating quality content that other people will want to link to naturally.
  • Posting regularly on social media sites, linking back to your website from there, thereby sending the ‘social signals’ Google likes to see.
  • Staying aware of the latest trends, tactics, and updates in the SEO world to keep the white hat on.

So there you have it: the good, the bad, and the shady sides of SEO. As you can see, being ethical in your SEO practices takes some effort and some know-how. Need help? corecubed‘s home care marketing and SEO experts have got your back! Contact us today.