White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO

“Manipulating” is a word some use to describe search engine optimization (SEO).  When it comes to the “right way” to do SEO (white hat) versus black hat (“wrong way”).  It isn’t up to the search engine optimizer to decide which methods are black hat and which are white hat, but the search engines’.  If search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! didn’t punish black hat SEO methods, the only reason not to use them would be out of honor (which with the internet you’ll rarely see).  The fact is, these search engines do punish black hat techniques and leading the charge against black hat promoted content is Google.

There are still ways to have effective black hat SEO, but for how long?  Over the past two years Google has laid a firm hand on what it deemed as black hat or negative SEO techniques.  Most SEOs will agree that this is a good thing.  There is nothing worse than using white hat techniques to great effect only to be beaten in the SERP (search engine result page) rankings by a page with numerous unnatural links. Short-term benefits are all that black hat will provide, and there isn’t a switch you can turn on from black to white.  If your black hat techniques are punished, it will take a decent amount of time to remove those and start building your site with white hat SEO.

Here are some of the most common black hat techniques with white hat alternatives:

1. Hidden Text Black Hat SEO

Text can be hidden from the visitor by using CSS.  Usually this means text that is either very small (unreadable) or with a text color that matches the background color (e.g. white font on a white background).

Why would you want to hide content?   To bring in visitors with content that is unrelated to the site.  Content is the key reason a site receives visitors.  Going to a site for a specific reason and then staying for something completely unrelated is counter-intuitive.

Imagine walking down the street to a restaurant with a menu for pizza.  You go inside, sit down and they only offer Chinese food.  It is related in that it is food, but would that really persuade you to change your preference.  Hopefully not (unless you are really hungry, your blood sugar’s low and you are about to pass out).  In fact, most would be angry; it’s the classic bait and switch.

Unless you were hiding content that had nothing to do with the “real content” on the site, there is no reason to.  Content is what brings visitors to your site. 

White Hat SEO Alternative:

 Provide content that conveys the purpose of the page.  Write it well.  Make sure that page is optimized in regards to title, headers and keywords and then promote the content via social media.

2. Keyword Stuffing Black Hat SEO

Keyword stuffing is when a page repeats the same keyword phrase over and over.  Generally, your keyword should show up about 1% of the time.  This should easily happen naturally when writing your content. Black hat SEO, SEO black hat, hats that are black doing black hat SEO.  See that, that is bad.  The biggest problem is that it totally disrupts the readability of the content (I hope I don’t get penalized for that).  Write for humans, not for the ‘bots.

White Hat SEO Alternative:

Write naturally and make sure that you are reiterating the topic and subject.  Address this topic, but don’t force it into your writing. 

3. Paid Links Black Hat SEO

Even with the latest Google updates, links are still the biggest factor into pushing a page’s ranking higher. Getting links to point to your site is not an easy task, and that is why they are worth so much.

“Paid links” is probably the most prominent black hat tactic.  Paying another site for links; whether in a simple monetary transaction, using a link farm (just a list of links) or a link exchange that does nothing other than just have sites point at each other is not a healthy strategy.  Google has taken a big stance against these tactics and over time a lot of sites have been penalized for providing links in an “unnatural” way.  There is short term value in those links, but the penalty can really damage the ranking and it can be hard to recover.

White Hat SEO Alternative:

Promoting your content via social media gives searches a chance to share your link to others.  Writing guest posts on sites gives a chance to share your content with a new market as well as get at least a link to your profile or homepage.

One alternative that I think gets missed is paying for advertising.  You may have identified a site that you’d love to get a natural link on, but that site is just not interested.  Pay them for an advertisement on their site.  This isn't going to give you the SEO “link juice” you may be looking for but Google will not punish you if it is an obvious advertisement.  You are creating a relationship with the site and a better chance of getting a natural link over time.  Garnering links is a relationship business.  Write content that people want to link to or share with others.

- Graham McConnell