In old western movies, hat color could tell you a lot about a character. The white hat was usually worn by the hero while a black hat was worn by the villain.
Typically, the two characters were both skilled gunslingers haunted by a reputation: one good and one bad, one with a white hat and one with a black hat.
Surprisingly, this is how black hat and white hat SEO practices got their names.
Both white hat and black hat SEO can be an effective tool to improve your search ranking in the same way that both western characters were deadly in their own way.
White hat tactics follow Google’s rules about link building while black hat tactics are against Google’s “law.”
Each method may seem to have advantages, but white hat SEO is definitely the better and “legal” path to take.
Black Hat Tactics
The black hat SEO approach does not follow Google’s rules, and SEO agencies that take this approach are similar to the outlaws from the western movies.
While black hat SEO may start off with some success, eventually the outlaw will get caught.
Here are some strategies that a black hat SEO user might employ:
1) Keyword Stuffing
This refers to including many keywords or numbers on a webpage to rank higher in search results. In this case, the keywords usually provide little to no value to the actual content on the page.
Instead, the author is usually just trying to score for those keywords and the keywords read like spam which results in a negative user experience.
These keywords often appear in a list or in groups. It could be blocks of text of cities and states that a company is trying to rank for, or using the same words or phrases so often that it does not read like a normal piece of content.
It could be something like...
We build custom wooden cabinets. Our custom wooden cabinets are handmade and so are all our custom wooden cabinets. If you would like to purchase one of our custom wooden cabinets or have questions about our custom wooden cabinets, email us at email@example.com. We will provide you with a custom wooden cabinet.
As shown, this marketing effort gives no real value to the reader and just states the same information over and over again to include the keyword once more.
2) Auto-Generated Content
Some companies will use computer programs to generate content. Many times, this text does not make sense to the reader, but does include keywords.
This is like when someone translates text with a poor, automated tool and then publishes it without human review. This translation is usually confusing and has poor grammar, demonstrating that a machine wrote it.
Auto-generated content is not a good use of site space, and Google could penalize a company for using it.
3) Doorway Pages
These pages are manufactured specifically to rank highly in search results and serve no real purpose other than directing users to another page.
Doorway pages could be pages generated to funnel visitors towards the portion of your site that you want them to use.
These pages could also have multiple domain names that are geared toward specific regions and locations that again guide users to one specific page.
This technique has been used by hackers to make it harder for the site’s owner to realize that they were been hacked.
When used for SEO, cloaking shows different content or URLs depending on whether it is being viewed by a user or a search engine. It is seen as unethical because the users are shown something other than what they were expecting.
5) Hidden Text or Links
Using white text on a white background, placing text behind an image, or setting the font size to 0 are all common practices to hide text and links on a page. You should remove any text or links that provide no value to your visitors and just improve your page ranking.
All of these techniques violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
While you may see some short-term success using them, they will eventually be spotted and your site could be penalized with a lower rank in search results or even omitted entirely.
So, how can you stop that from happening?
White Hat Tactics
Google is straightforward about how content and links should enhance the users’ experience from using their search engine all the way to your site. To avoid a lower ranking penalty or a ban from Google’s search results, stick with these tactics!
1) High-Quality Content
Make all of your content provide value for your target audience. If your content provides value, the links will build themselves as people share your articles and other content organically.
The content posted on your site should be original and relevant to your audience. Long-form content has also been shown to score higher in search results and can also start to build up a consistent reader base for your content.
2) Relevant Keywords
While spamming keywords can get your page banned from Google, using keywords correctly will help users find the information or resources that they are looking for.
You should research and figure out which words or phrases are the most useful for guiding people to your site.
Certain keywords and phrases will be more unique and relevant to your site and ranking higher for those will help more than other, less-specific keywords.
3) Authentic Backlinks
Any links to your page that are found on another web page are called backlinks. However, you are looking for quality over quantity.
Your goal should be to get linked from sites with a high domain authority and other sites with relevant content.
For example, an IT company should be looking to earn links to their content from other tech sites or publications. The sites that link to your content should themselves offer quality content to users.
Also known as internal links, these are links that take users from one page to another within the same domain.
Make sure you use them sparingly throughout content so that your content is not overflowing with links.
They can also help search engines crawl and index your content more effectively.
5) Meta Description
The first few sentences that appear under your page title in search results is known as the meta description. It should cater towards the people you want to visit your site as this quick introduction could be the difference between clicking on your page or deciding to keep scrolling.
None of these tactics use any special tricks to improve your ranking–they are strictly by the book.
While white hat SEO tactics might take longer than just spamming links to your site across the internet, the value that you provide users, the organic links that they build, and the reduced risk will be worth it.
Hard Work Pays Off (And Is Safer)
While both of these types of tactics will improve a site’s search ranking, they are far from the same.
Black hat tactics will provide a bump, but it will be short-lived and could result in your site being banned from Google. As well, black hat SEO can give your company a bad reputation that may repel clients.
So, while the white hat strategy will require more time and effort in content generation, it is a better way to rank high on Google.