White Hat SEO, Black Hat SEO: What’s With the Hats?

White Hat SEO, Black Hat SEO: What’s With the Hats?

Some people have a head for hats. They can throw any style on and just look good. I am not one of those people. I am not a hat wearer. I try, but for some reason, I don’t think they look good on me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a baseball, cowboy, or another hat type. Thankfully, practicing white hat SEO doesn’t require me to actually wear a hat. So, what is white hat SEO, why does it have such a strange name, and why should you care about it? It’s time to embrace the hats and learn why you want a white one and not a black one.

Why Are There Hats in SEO? 

The terms white hat and black hat SEO come from old western movies. There were the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys would wear white hats, and the bad guys would wear black cowboy hats. This trend has translated over to the internet, with the term “white hat” referring to good or honest tactics while the term “black hat” refers to questionable or unethical tactics. You can use this question to help guide you when determining if your SEO efforts are white hat or black hat. 

Are my efforts adding value to the user, or am I doing it for the search engines?

Efforts that don’t bring value to your users but are likely to increase your search rankings are probably black hat. Strategies that bring value and slow ranking improvement are likely to be white hat techniques. 

What Is White Hat SEO? 

When you use search engine optimization (SEO) tactics that are search engine approved, you are using white hat tactics. These are straightforward and ethical efforts that won’t use trickery or cheating. 

Why Is White Hat SEO Important?

You should care about white hat SEO tactics because they are the tools you need to build lasting SEO performance for your website. People submit queries to search engines, and then a list of results is produced. Without white hat SEO techniques, search engines would struggle to know what websites are relevant to the search query. Someone would end up sifting through a lot of irrelevant web pages to find the answer that they need. Your white hat SEO efforts and Google’s algorithms work together to produce highly targeted search results. 

What Are Some White Hat SEO Strategies?

While people talk about black hat tactics that are not allowed, it’s also important to know what tactics are approved of. SEO experts agree that you can safely use these tactics because search engines have openly approved them. If you aren’t using these tactics, consider adding them to your content marketing efforts. White SEO is the long game, so you won’t see overnight improvement in your search engine ranking. However, your metrics will improve with consistent performance over several months.

  • Produce high-quality content
  • Satisfy the user’s intent 
  • Make your website mobile friendly 
  • Claim your business on local business listings 
  • Make the user experience a priority 
  • Perform in-depth keyword research 
  • Utilize schema markup 
  • Practice quality link building 
  • Focus on content marketing 

Should You Always Use White Hat SEO?

If you have a reputable and honest business, you should use white hat SEO tactics. Some industries are considered black hat in themselves. In these cases, you’re forced to use black hat tactics because they are part of the business model. Some tactics aren’t wholly white hat or black hat. Like life, not everything is black or white. There’s a gray space somewhere in the middle. The same happens for black and white SEO tactics. There are gray hat tactics that aren’t entirely white hat but aren’t black hat either. These gray hat tactics probably won’t get you flagged right now, but you don’t know if they will become black hat in the future. 

What Are Black Hat SEO Methods? 

Search engines frown upon people using black hat techniques. Black hat SEO practices have been around since the beginning of the internet when search engines were established. Let’s face it, as soon as there are rules, laws, or regulations, people are figuring out a way around them. Search engine user policies are no different. Over the years, it has been a game of cat and mouse as search engines try to stop black hat techniques and website owners look for ways around the new rules. As a result, the list of recognized black hat tactics continues to grow. 

Content Automation

Keyword Stuffing

Hidden Text or Links

Creating duplicate content

Pages with malicious behavior

Link Farms, Link Wheels, or Link Networks

Doorway Pages

Sneaky Redirects

Guest Posting Networks

Automated Queries to Google

Reporting a Competitor

(or Negative SEO)


Link Schemes

Article Spinning

Rich Snippet Markup Spam

Link Manipulation

(including buying links)

If you are using any of these tactics, it’s time to stop. While they may bring you short-term improvement on the search engine results page, but you put your website at risk of getting blacklisted with a Google penalty. If this happens, Google removes your website from its indexes, and it will no longer appear in search results. 

Can You Report Black Hat SEO?

Yes, you can! There are a few reasons why you would want to report black hat SEO. The first would be for your own website. No, you’re not tattling on yourself. Instead, you will report potential black hat SEO if your website falls victim to a malicious attack, negative SEO campaign waged by someone else, or virus. These are all situations where search engines may think you are practicing black hat SEO and punish you. Instead, you’re reporting an issue and getting ahead of the problem. 

You can then work to correct the issue without fear of Google punishing your website. In the case of a hack, malware, or virus, you can remove the offending code. It could be in your meta descriptions or anywhere else on your website. When you have corrected the issue, you can request a malware review. Go to your Google Search Console and head to the Security tab on the left side navigation bar. You will then Request a Review. If your website is the target of a negative SEO campaign that uses spammy backlinks, you can disavow these links. Use the Disavow Links Tool to let Google know you don’t claim or approve of these links. Google’s bots now know that these are spammy links that you want nothing to do with. 

The second situation where you would report black hat SEO is when you see someone else doing it. Perhaps you’re trying to rank for a particular keyword, but you see someone using black hat tactics. You can report them and help Google hold them accountable. Use the webspam report in your Google Webmaster Tools. Be careful, though. You cannot use this tool to simply improve your organic search performance. Filing false reports is a form of black hat SEO. 

Does Black Hat SEO Still Work? 

Unfortunately, yes, black hat SEO efforts still deliver results for digital marketing efforts. That’s why people keep using them. The catch is that these efforts only work in the short term. Google and other search engines are getting more effective every day in catching people using shady and unethical tactics. Unfortunately, this means that the risk of getting caught increases every day and the longer you use black hat tactics. 

Is Black Hat SEO Illegal? 

No law makes it illegal to use black hat tactics. However, Google does have webmaster guidelines. Violate Google’s terms, and you get banned from appearing in search results. 

What to do if you have Used Black Hat Tactics? 

If you used black hat SEO tactics in the past, the best thing to do is to stop using them immediately. The next step is to take some corrective measures. This means undoing the work that you have done. Rework your meta tags to accurate reflect the piece of content. Use anchor text that’s descriptive to the blog content that it’s linking to.

You’ll also want to implement white hat SEO tactics immediately. You will see a drop in your SERP performance as you undo the black hat tactics. Implementing white hat efforts won’t make up for it right away but will place the groundwork for long-term SEO performance. Use keyword research tools to target groupings of relevant related terms to use in alt text and subheadings. The bottom line is to focus on producing great content that searchers will want to read and share on social media. This will help you website perform better across the many ranking factors to boost your organic traffic.

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