This is a very, very important question (so important I used “very” twice to ram the point home!).
When asking which is better Black Hat SEO or White Hat SEO, we first need to get our definitions clear so that we are very clear about what we are discussing.
Black Hat SEO & White Hat SEO Definitions
Firstly What is SEO?
You can skip this bit if you already know, but if you aren’t 100% sure, it is important to get it clear in your mind.
SEO is an abbreviation of search engine optimization, which is the process of optimizing a web page or a website to rank for a word, phrase, or collection of phrases.
What that means in layman’s terms is that you try to get free traffic from search engines (usually Google because it is by far the most popular search engine) for search terms that are relevant to your niche.
Google has a set of rules known as the Google Webmaster Guidelines (a webmaster is someone who manages a website) that tells us how to optimize a site in a way that they feel is acceptable.
This is not the law, but it is the law if you want to rank in Google, and so it should be taken very seriously.
There are some problems with it; Google is often deliberately vague about what is and isn’t ok.
They do this so that it is much harder for SEO experts to reverse engineer how the Google search engine algorithm (the thing that chooses which results appear) works.
The experts at Google do not want us mere mortals knowing too much about their systems; otherwise, we would be able to rank much more easily, and that is not their goal.
What is White Hat Search Engine Optimization?
People argue quite a bit over precise definitions. Still, in a nutshell, white-hat optimization is anything that complies with both the letter and the spirit of the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
What does this mean in practice? It means you do not employ any aggressive SEO tactics to give yourself an unfair advantage.
Put another way; white hat SEO is the process of NOT doing black hat SEO.
What this boils down to is keyword research, creating a high-quality site with high-quality content, and promoting it naturally rather than in a way that could game the algorithm.
What is Black Hat Search Engine Optimization?
Black hat optimization is the opposite of white; it uses tactics forbidden by the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
What does this mean in practice? Let’s take a look at some examples:
- Keyword stuffing.
- Spammy backlink building.
- Aggressive stuffing of keywords into anchor texts.
Keyword stuffing – Keyword stuffing is where you put tons and tons of instances of a keyword into a page’s content to try and increase its relevance in Google’s eyes.
Usually, the keywords are hidden in the code of the page, so only Google can see them.
This is a really bad tactic, it doesn’t work, and it will only hurt your search engine optimization efforts.
Don’t do it, never do it; just do not ever stuff keywords into your content. It will only end in tears!
Spammy backlink building – Backlinks are links from other websites to your website; good ones can make a huge difference in how well your site ranks.
Because backlinks are so powerful, gaming the system can make people a lot of money, and so many people try it.
Unlike stuffing keywords, building black hat backlinks can work really well, BUT should you do it?
I wouldn’t advise it, Google is getting better and better at spotting black hat links, and if it finds links to your site, it will either ignore them or, worse still, give you a penalty (more on this later).
Aggressive stuffing of keywords into anchor texts – When you build backlinks, you can use anchor text; this is the clickable text on the link.
For example, in the link to my homepage, the anchor text is Cumbria SEO Consultancy the anchor text is the phrase “Cumbria SEO Consultancy,” and it links to https://southlakesseo.co.uk.
Anchor text helps SEO by passing keyword relevance along with the backlink, so again it is something that lots of less scrupulous SEO experts use to try and game the system!
For example, a black hat SEO might try to build dozens of links with the same keywords in the anchor text; at first, he might get a boost in rankings and organic traffic.
But sooner or later, he will get hit with a Google penalty and lose all his traffic.
Wait, What About Grey Hat?
Grey Hat SEO is a less common term; it refers to bending or breaking the Google Webmaster Guidelines’ rules more safely and less aggressively.
While this might sound like a good idea, the reality is that it can get you into trouble with Google, so think twice before doing any grey hat techniques.
Which is Better, White Hat or Black Hat?
So when asking white hat SEO vs. black hat SEO, which is the best choice for you, your website, and your business?
In my opinion, and I have tried all three different colored hats, I would now only ever do white hat SEO.
Why? Because Google is just far too smart, it can spot aggressive SEO, and it is very likely to punish you for it.
Short-term gains followed by being penalized are seldom worth the effort, far better to build something careful and long-lasting.
It may take you longer to get some nice free traffic from Google, but you are much more likely to stay ranked for the longer term once you do rank.
So what Next? What Should You Do Now?
As you will have gathered by now, I think you should focus on a much more white-hat approach to promoting your website in the Google search engine.
How would you go about this? Well, you can study, learn, and apply some search engine optimization techniques on your site.
You can do some keyword research, some on-page, and optimization, then try to generate natural white hat backlinks to the site.
Or if all of that sounds either overwhelming for far too time-consuming, then you can also contact me, and I will do all the hard work for you!
More Reading On Success in the Search Engines
Thanks for stopping by and reading this post about white hat SEO versus black hat SEO. I hope you enjoyed it or at least found it informative.
If you want to read more about ranking in Google, you might also find these posts useful:
- In this one, I explain the details of a technical SEO audit.
- In this post, I ask exactly what is an SEO audit?
- And in this article, I have shared a detailed and in-depth technical SEO audit checklist.
Last Updated on January 12, 2021