Black Hat vs White Hat SEO

September 18, 2023

In an attempt to improve user experience by reducing — if not flat-out eliminating — the number of spammy search results that pop up at the top of the SERPs, Google and the other search engines have begun to distinguish between “good” and “bad” SEO tactics. In SEO-speak, “good” strategies are considered “white hat,” while unethical ones fall into the “black hat” realm. As a website owner, it is imperative that you understand the differences between white hat and black hat SEO strategies and which tactics qualify as each.

Black hat SEO strategies

These hacker terms come from Western movies in which the stereotypical bad guy wears a black hat, whereas the good guy wears a white one. Today, SEOs use the term to describe unethical digital actions, including unscrupulous digital marketing strategies. According to WordStream, a black hat SEO strategy utilizes tactics that violate the search engine’s terms of use. 

Though unethical, black hat strategies can boost your site’s search rankings. Note, however, that the boost will only be temporary. Not only will your rankings dive once the search engines discover your misdeeds but Google or the relevant search engine may issue a penalty. Depending on the extent of your deceit, penalties may result in your site being banned from the search engine and its affiliate sites.  

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines provide lists of the tactics each deem “black hat.” However, WordStream advises that the best way to determine if a strategy is good or bad is by asking yourself one simple question: Are you engaging in the tactic to provide value for visitors, or simply to boost your rankings? If the answer is the latter, you should rethink your strategy. Some common black hat tactics to avoid include the following:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Article spinning
  • Content automation
  • Link buying
  • Cloaking
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Hidden text or links
  • Negative SEO (reporting a competitor)

Though you may see some short-term success by engaging in black hat SEO, the results are bound to be short-lived. Eventually, your rankings will plummet, and possibly your reputation along with them.

White hat SEO strategies

white hat SEO strategy is essentially the opposite of a black hat one in that it utilizes ethical tactics that are designed to add value to the end-user. These are methods that Google and the other search engines approve and that target a human audience rather than the search bots. SEO tactics of which the search engines approve include the following:

  • Approaching content marketing with the audience in mind
  • Conducting a thorough keyword analysis and research
  • Using accurate keywords
  • Striving for relevance
  • Backlinking to relevant and valuable sites

White hat strategies take time before they yield results, which is why some brands resort to black hat tactics. However, when you approach white hat SEO as the long-term investment it is, the eventual results will have staying power, proving, in the long run, the good guys prevail.

Get help with developing your white hat SEO strategy

Developing a sustainable and ethical digital marketing strategy takes time, effort, and persistence that many site owners are unable to put forth themselves. If you need help building a valuable digital presence that achieves long-term organic growth, look to Doctor Genius. Call us today to see how we can help you.

Doctor Genius, located at 16800 Aston Street, Suite 270, Irvine, CA 92606, provides a range of services for practice success. We seek to meet our clients’ needs by providing a variety of marketing, SEO, practice optimization tools, and coaching to transform the healthcare experience. Though we work to provide the most accurate information, the content found on this website is solely intended for entertainment purposes. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is entirely correct. You may not use the information on this site to cure, prevent, or diagnose a perceived medical issue. If you have healthcare-related needs, please speak directly to a healthcare professional. Never self-perform medical treatments discussed on this website. All images displayed are also for entertainment purposes only, and personal experiences may differ. Please note that the business tactics mentioned on this site might not be applicable to your industry or practice.