Figuring out Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is tricky. Most businesses and organizations know they need it, even if they do not entirely understand it. Toss in terms like white hat, black hat, and gray hat SEO, and the confusion level increases. That is why you must have an SEO copywriter and web designer you can trust. SEO experts not only comprehend the differences they can explain them to their clients in a way that will make sense.
What is white hat SEO?
I may be dating myself here (but I am willing to take that risk for a good analogy). I grew up watching classic Westerns. You know, back when televisions only had 3 channels and you had to get off your duff to change them. My point is, I always knew who the good guys were in these films. From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood, their white hat gave them away. The good guys always wore them.
White hat SEO is a lot like those good guys from classic Westerns. They defeated the bad guys by playing by the rules. When you engage in white hat SEO, you are using ethical methods and following search engine guidelines. You never cut corners to get quicker results.
What is black hat SEO?
Going back to my Westerns analogy, the bad guys always wore black hats. No one had to tell you who was about to turn up in town and cause trouble. That hat signaled their intentions long before they engaged in any bad behavior. Black hat SEO is just like the bad guys. Talk to any SEO expert and they will tell you there is no doubt black hat SEO tactics work. They will get your brand right to the top of the Google search results in a hurry.
It can be a short-lived victory if Google catches you in the act. The search giant will issue a manual action report in Google Search Console. Webmasters and other SEO experts use Google Search Console to check your website’s indexing status and visibility online among other things. It also is how Google hands out penalties to organizations that are caught using underhanded SEO practices. If Google catches you using black hat SEO, it will put you in search engine “jail.” What it translates into is lost organic search visibility, traffic, and revenue. Your brand simply will not turn up in the search results when potential customers search for your products or services.
What is gray hat SEO?
Somewhere in the middle of white hat and black hat SEO lies a gray area. There are differing opinions among SEO experts as to what, exactly, constitutes gray hat SEO. For our purposes (and so as not to totally confuse you), we will go with a simple explanation. Gray hat SEO is a mixture of the two techniques.
Just because it contains elements of white hat SEO does not mean it is any more acceptable than black hat SEO. Let me say that again for the people in the back. Just because it contains elements of white hat SEO does not mean it is any more acceptable than black hat SEO.
Search engines – especially Google – interpret it as a blurred line. Search engines may or may not penalize a website using gray hat SEO practices. Their decision to punish comes down to one factor: intent. If you are using gray hat SEO with the sole purpose of helping your site soar above the competition in search rankings, you might get your wings clipped. We never recommend trying your luck with gray hat SEO for this reason. We recommend playing by the rules for the best long-term results, no matter how tempting those “quick results” promises are with black hat and gray hat SEO tactics. You will thank me later.
White Hat SEO Graphic Designed by Shari Berg, The Write Reflection.
White hat SEO techniques
White hat SEO improves search performance on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by using several proven techniques. Each of these methods falls within webmaster guidelines for Google and other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. Here are some of the most popular white hat SEO practices.
We know what you must be thinking. Isn’t black hat SEO illegal? Nope. Nada. Nuh-uh. If you fail to follow search engine guidelines, the police are not going to come a-knocking on your door. Well, they might, if you engage in nefarious black hat SEO practices like hacking. Otherwise, it is not illegal. But it sure is unethical. Here are some of the most common black hat SEO tactics that can get your organization in hot water with search engines.
What does Google say?
What does Google say about white hat vs. black hat vs. gray hat SEO? More importantly, why should we care what Google thinks? Whether you love it or hate it, it is hard to deny that Google is the king of the proverbial search engine castle. Google holds 85.86 percent of the global search market. Bing is next up, with a paltry 6.84 percent of the global market share.
Google’s search engine first launched in 1995. From day one, Google went out of its way to differentiate itself from other search engines. Search engines like Yahoo placed a lot of emphasis on paid ads. Yahoo made no secret that it prioritized its paid search service, Overture. It required folks to fork over beaucoup bucks to earn the coveted top spot in their search results. Google decided it wanted to level the playing field for all users. Its algorithm considers several factors, including page quality, backlinks, and relevance to a user’s search (this is where SEO comes in handy). That is not to say Google is above accepting cold, hard cash from advertisers to earn a better ranking. It is just not the only factor Google uses.
Google provides clear guidelines for webmasters that SEO copywriters like me use to determine what is white hat, gray hat, and black hat SEO. Reputable SEO copywriters never cross lines, risking your website and your brand. When Google catches on to underhanded SEO tactics – and trust us, they will catch on eventually – you risk having your brand banned from their search engines. That can spell sudden death when the king of internet search engines banishes you from the kingdom.
A final word on the best SEO strategies
For your own sake, never work with an SEO copywriter or agency that promises you quick results. When that happens, you can almost bank on the fact they are using gray or black hat techniques. While you might think you are getting the best bang for your buck, you could be risking your livelihood by making it harder for your brand to be found online.
We get it. Doing SEO the right way can feel painfully slow. You want new traffic and leads now. While niche businesses using SEO keyword topics with little to no competition may see results in a few weeks, the average organization can expect to wait up to six months or more for their return on investment. We promise, committing to working with SEO experts who value best practices pays off in the long run.
If you are ready to learn more about how white hat SEO copywriting can help boost your brand’s visibility online, give us a shout-out at 724-713-3254 or contact us online to schedule your no-obligation consultation.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.