John Lincoln

White Hat SEO v. Black Hat SEO: Everything You Need to Know

White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEOTrying to build an organic audience? SEO is going to be your new best friend.

But be careful while doing your research because not all SEO tips and tricks have your site’s best interest in mind. Putting the wrong team member in charge of your SEO could do more harm than good.

Let’s talk about the differences between black hat SEO and white hat SEO and how one could tank your site’s ranking–and your business’s reputation.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black hat SEO is the complete opposite of white hat SEO. These strategies generate attention in inauthentic ways that violate search engines’ terms of service.

When you think of black hat SEO, think of things like link schemes, SERP spam, plagiarized work, and keyword-stuffed websites.

It won’t do anything but help you rack up Google penalties. It will negatively affect your SERP rankings and tank your reputation.

Black hat SEO follows one rule, and one rule only: don’t get caught.

What is White Hat SEO?

White hat SEO is the type of strategy that follows the search engines’ rules and terms of service. It is quality and trustworthy work.

This is the type of SEO work done by the “good guys”. It focuses more on the humans that are consuming the work and less on tricking the search engine robots.

This quality content will keep you on the good side of the Google algorithm. It benefits your audience and boosts your SERP ranking.

People that use white hat SEO techniques don’t need to rely on shady methods to draw traffic to their pages. They know what they offer is good and that their audience will enjoy it.

Major Differences Between Black Hat SEO & White Hat SEO

The major difference between black hat SEO and white hat SEO lies in the content’s quality.

Black hat SEO doesn’t care about integrity and quality. It aggressively uses spammy strategies just to raise website clicks. Usually used by people looking to make a quick buck, nothing good comes from black hat SEO strategies.

White hat SEO strategies, though, are all about quality content. Content is written strategically in a way that responds to what search engine algorithms are looking for but also provides great value to human readers.

Black hat SEO does not care about site integrity because it focuses on short-term goals and benefits. It does whatever it can to drive traffic and get clicks right now. It isn’t concerned with the future of the site or brand. You’ll probably see quick rankings spikes, but they aren’t sustainable.

On the other hand, white hat SEO is a long-term strategy that relies heavily on building up the site’s authority and integrity. It never wants to be marked as spam because it wants the search engine algorithms to drive traffic its way for a long time.

Basically, black hat SEO is only concerned with the right here right now. White hat SEO is building a quality foundation for the future.

How to Spot and Avoid Black Hat SEO

The best way to avoid falling for black hat SEO tricks is to know how to recognize them. Here are a few of the most common strategies.

Content Scams

Watch out for duplicated content. This Black hat SEO technique takes content from other sites and reposts it. Other scams include cloaking, article spinning, and comment spamming. These bait-and-switch strategies are bad news.

Link Schemes

Link schemes are a common black hat SEO strategy. Quality link building is a big part of SEO. This technique takes advantage of that.

It includes buying and selling links, excessive link exchanges, keyword-rich anchor text links, and using automated programs to generate links.

If a site is making you pay to get a link, or offering a link for a link contract, skip it. The search engine algorithm will see right through this as an unnatural linking strategy.

Excessive Links in Your Footer

You should always have some sort of navigation bar and/or footer to help your audience find their way through your site. But too many links in your footer could get you flagged as a spam site.

The reason for this is that a footer is a great place to stuff keywords or hide links. It won’t interfere with your actual content because most people aren’t looking at the footer of the page.

By excessively placing links in your footer, it doesn’t interrupt the flow of your site but still gives you a place to put content the algorithm will see and index.

Unfortunately for all the black hat SEO users out there, the algorithm sees right through this. It’s a great way to get your site flagged as spam.

Content Spamming

This black hat SEO trick happens on almost every blog. It involves the use of scripts or software to leave various links in the comments of random blog sites. The links are left in comments that usually have nothing to do with the blog topic.

The thought behind this is that it will build up a site’s backlinks and improve its SEO.

The problem, though, is that the algorithm has gotten smart to this spammy practice. It now does more harm than good.

Keyword Stuffing

This black hat SEO trick is one of the most popular.

A lot of SEO work relies on the use of keywords. When used properly, they are a good way to get your content connected to relevant search topics.

However, they need to be used sporadically throughout your content. Place them where they fit naturally.

Stuffing keywords in where they don’t belong will get you flagged as spam. Whether you use your chosen keywords within your content or the code of your page, they need to fit with the surrounding content.

If the keyword makes little sense naturally, don’t use it.

Spammy Redirects

Redirects are sometimes necessary when building or changing your site.

But stay away from redirects that take a visitor from their intended site to your site.

Trapping people into consuming your content is not a good way to gain their trust and attention.

White Hat SEO Strategies and Techniques

While it takes longer to see results, white hat SEO techniques are an investment worth making.

Here are some of my favorite strategies.

Properly Crafted Copy

Every piece of copy that appears on your site is a place to boost your SERP ranking if they are crafted correctly.

Focus on creating properly researched titles, meta tags, page content, and H1 tags. These are great places to insert keywords and provide value to your reader.

Copy is also a great place to build your authority. When Google knows that your content can be trusted and relied upon, it will boost your ranking and send more organic traffic your way.

Natural Link Building 

Link building and backlinks are key to a great SERP ranking.

But they have to be earned authentically. Stay away from link schemes and focus on building actual, quality relationships with other content creators who will link back to your content.

Help Search Engines Read Your Page

As important as your copy, the way your page is structured also plays a big role in your SERP ranking.

When you make sure that your page is easy to navigate and skim, you create a better user experience, both for human readers and search engine robots.

Things like page load speed also help here. When your page loads quickly, it can be read more quickly.

Images and Alt-Tags

You should always use image alt-tags and title tags. They make your site more accessible to a wider audience, including those with vision impairments.

They are also a great place to incorporate keywords for search engine robots.

Just remember to use your keywords in places that make sense. If your chosen keyword is “sunscreen”, don’t put it on the alt tag of a picture of a dog.

Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

Most people are accessing the internet on their mobile devices. Lean into this and make your site as mobile-friendly as possible.

Not only will this gain you points with your users, but it will also help you secure a better rank.

Make Your Site Safe

Internet safety is always at the top of your users’ minds. Keep your site free from viruses and spam by using the HTTPS protocol.

The HTTPS protocol is a more secure version of HTTP. It provides better encryption to keep your visitors’ information safe from hackers.

When the search engine algorithm knows your site is a safe place to send their users, your SERP ranking will rise.

Wrapping Up with SEO Techniques

In conclusion, I can understand why it would be tempting to use black hat SEO strategies. It is the best way to drive huge spikes in traffic. It promises to be good for your site.

However, it does more harm than good in the long run. While it drives temporary traffic spikes, it will also deliver Google penalties, which can be hard to recover from.

To keep everything running smoothly and your organic traffic rising, stick with white hat SEO strategies.

Not only will these strategies keep your reputation strong with the algorithm robots, but they will establish you as a trustworthy leader in your industry as well.

When it comes to digital marketing, the long game is always more important than short-term wins.

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About the Author

John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation. Ignite Visibility is a 4x  Inc. 5,000 company. Ignite Visibility offers a unique digital marketing program tied directly to ROI with a focus on using SEO, social media, paid media, CRO, email, Amazon and PR to achieve results. Outside of Ignite Visibility, Lincoln is a frequent speaker and author of the books “Digital Influencer” and “The Forecaster Method.” Lincoln is consistently named one of the top digital marketers in the industry and was the recipient of the coveted Search Engine Land “Search Marketer of The Year” award. Lincoln has taught digital marketing and Web Analytics at the University of California San Diego since 2010, has been named as one of San Diego’s most admired CEO’s and a top business leader under 40. Lincoln has also made “SEO: The Movie” and “Social Media Marketing: The Movie.” His business mission is to help others through digital marketing.

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