white hat black hat seo

White hat SEO vs. black hat SEO: All you need to know

What is white hat SEO?

White hat SEO is a term used to describe all the search engine optimization techniques that are in accordance with ethics and Google’s guidelines. It is a long-term approach that focuses on user satisfaction and content quality rather than ranking better at all costs.

The term is often used in the opposition to the so-called black hat SEO. This dichotomy originates in the classic Western movies, where the good guys and bad guys were distinguished by the color of the hat.

White Hat SEO Meme Morpheus

White hat SEO does not rely on the “shortcut” techniques such as buying backlinks or spam. Instead, the main emphasis is on quality content, perfect on-page optimization and great user experience.

How to do white hat SEO?

The term white hat SEO is usually used only in the opposition to black hat SEO tactics, so to “do white hat SEO” basically means “to do SEO”.

Quality content

The cornerstone of each SEO strategy is engaging,  high-quality content that answers the query and satisfies the user’s search intent.

In order to write good content, it is important to analyze what people are looking for. Proper keyword research can help you find ranking opportunities or optimize your existing content to achieve better results.

Keyword tools such as KWFinder will help you find keywords that are relevant, popular and achievable.

Technical and on-page SEO

There are many technical aspects that need to be covered in order to succeed in organic search. A good website must stand on solid ground.

This means it has to have quality web hosting and be well-coded and optimized for all the devices. Page speed plays a big role in SEO too as it is a confirmed ranking factor.

Search engine optimization also includes many on-page tweaks, strategies and techniques. The on-page SEO best practices include user-friendly URLs and well-optimized title tags and meta descriptions.

Great UX

Although user experience design and optimization is a separate field, it influences the SEO indirectly. Even more so since Google’s AI uses data from the user’s behavior to serve the best search results.

In general, it is important to make your website easy to navigate and understand so that the users don’t have to leave just because they feel lost.

Link building

Although link buying is a big no-no, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to improve the link profile of the website in certain ways.

If the content is great, it is more probable that other websites will link to it naturally. Of course, you can help to promote it through email outreach or social media.

There are other white hat SEO link building tactics, including link baiting, link reclamation, broken link building or skyscraper technique.

What is black hat SEO?

Black hat SEO refers to all the techniques that try to trick the search engines in order to get higher rankings. These often include spammy practices and unethical actions with the only goal – to achieve better results as fast as possible no matter what are the means.

Black hat SEO is the opposite of white hat SEO which is a term used to describe search engine optimization in accordance with Google’s Guidelines.

Both therms originate in Western movies where men wearing white hats were the “good guys” and those wearing black hats were “bad guys”.

Black Hat SEO meme

Black hat SEO tactics

There are many black hat SEO tactics, though most of them are outdated and simply don’t work anymore because Google has learned to detect them and penalize the websites.

  • Cloaking – showing different content to users and search engines
  • Hidden text – hiding text from website visitors so that only crawlers can see it
  • Keyword stuffing – using unnatural number of keywords in order to rank higher for certain phrases (Read more: What is keyword stuffing?)
  • Sneaky redirects – redirecting users or search engine crawlers to a different URL than expected
  • Link manipulation – includes mainly different forms of buying links
  • Private Blog Networks / Link farms – creating websites with the sole purpose of linking to other websites
  • Blog comment spam – commenting on other blogs only to include a link to your website

Is it worth to use black hat SEO tactics?

The short answer would be no. There are two main reasons:

  1. It is unethical – most black hat SEO tactics mean that you are breaking the rules to deceive the users and profit on the expense of the others. And that is a path you should not want to go.
  2. It is very risky – most of the black hat SEO tactics do more harm than good in the long run and even if some work to a certain degree now, there is a high chance they won’t tomorrow.

Here is a nice metaphor by Search Engine Watch about black hat and white hat SEO:

White hats drive in the right lane, while the black Lamborghini is getting pulled over and given a ticket for speeding 50 mph over the limit in the fast lane. Granted, it’s quite possible that Lamborghini may never get that ticket as you’re watching it zoom by, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cop just a few miles up the road waiting with a radar gun.

Gray hat SEO

Some SEO techniques that do not fall into either black hat SEO or white hat SEO are often called gray hat SEO. In general, the SEO public is more tolerant to them as they do not really harm anyone although gray hat SEO definitely isn’t “playing by the book”.

Let’s compare these two backlinks:

The first backlink is bought from a PBN made specifically to sell backlinks. The article contains 500 words and does not provide any added value to the reader. Actually, the website has no traffic at all and it links to anyone who is willing to pay.

The second backlink is bought from a high-quality website in the same niche as your website. The article where the link is placed is well-researched and gets some real traffic. People reading the article actually want to visit your site via the link, as it provides added value and makes sense in the context of the topic.

Are both links against the Google’s guidelines?


Can both be considered black hat SEO?

That depends on the interpretation. But most people would probably say that there is a big difference between these links and a backlink that provides added value should not be considered black hat SEO even if it was purchased.

That’s one of the reasons why the term gray hat SEO was created…