White Hat & Black Hat SEO: The Key Differences

When it comes to SEO, there are loads of different techniques and ideas people have to try and give your website an improved ranking. The aim is always to make your site perform better in the organic search engine results, and some people will stop at nothing to reach the number one ranking for their keywords.

This is where white hat and black hat SEO walk into the room. Both of these terms refer to different types of SEO practices you can use. While they are different, they both serve the same purpose; to improve your search engine optimization.

Having said that, the differences between the two are mightily important. To be specific, white hat SEO refers to all the techniques and practices that Google recommends and will not penalize you for using. On the other hand, black hat SEO is the opposite. It’s the practices people use that go against the guidelines and will lead to your site getting hit with something known as a Google Penalty. Now, we can talk more about penalties later in this piece, but the main priority is looking at both white hat and black hat SEO.

Consequently, we’ve taken both of these things and provided a detailed description of each, so you can see what the key differences are!

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White Hat SEO

As mentioned, white hat SEO is the ‘legal’ way of doing SEO. There are loads of practices and techniques that come under this heading. You should use white hat SEO if you want to avoid getting hit with any penalties from Google.

The Google Algorithm

If you’re someone with a lot of marketing knowledge, you’ll know Google has an algorithm that determines how sites are ranked in the results. This algorithm is also the basis for deciding if something is white hat or not. If you’re doing things that follow the rules set out by the Google algorithm, then you’re conducting white hat SEO and have nothing to worry about.

The problem is, Google is constantly updating this algorithm. As a result, certain things that were deemed white hat years ago are now black hat techniques. You’ve always got to keep checking out any updates to ensure your site is still doing the right stuff and you aren’t accidentally doing something considered ‘black hat.’

White Hat SEO Techniques

Having said all of this, what are the main white hat SEO techniques you can use? It’s important you know these as it will basically show you how to improve your SEO without breaking the rules.


Link Building: This is one of the oldest techniques in the book and is a great way of giving your website a rankings boost. It refers to building backlinks to your site via other high-quality websites. If you’ve got a lot of authoritative sites linking back to your web pages, it makes your site seem valuable, important, and authoritative in itself. Google recognizes this and will increase your ranking. The key is to build links naturally and not spam them in the comments section of blogs or other sites – which is what people used to do in the past.


Keyword Implementation: Keywords are always the first thing you think of when you’re talking about SEO. Your site needs to focus on certain keywords for certain pages. Think about what people are likely to search for if they were to find your web pages. Then, you need to implement these keywords on the pages themselves. This includes putting them in the title of the page, the headers, the content, the tags, etc. You can find companies offering SEO services that will help you do the research and find all your relevant keywords. Then, you must make sure you implement them properly and don’t just spam them like crazy.


High-Quality Content: It’s vital that your website produces high-quality content. Google is constantly thinking about what users want from a website. The more user-friendly it is, the better it will rank. Naturally, a site that provides great content is going to be good from a user perspective. Ensure that every page includes original content that users can gain something from. It doesn’t necessarily have to be entertaining, it can be informative as well.


Site Set Up: Again, following on from the user-friendly point, Google is big on the way your site is set up. If you’ve got a website that’s really easy to navigate, loads quickly, and is designed perfectly, it will provide a good experience for the user. Not only that, but it will also make it easier for Google to understand what your website is about, what each page is about, and it can crawl through it quicker. Consequently, you’ll see an improvement in your ranking. Something simple like a sitemap can be very effective at improving the organization of your website.


Mobile Optimization: If you want the SEO of your site to be good across mobile searches too, then you need to optimize it for mobile devices. Make sure you have a mobile-friendly version of your site, so it’s easy for people to load and use on their mobile devices.

These are the main white hat techniques you should be using. They’ll help you improve the SEO of your site without incurring any penalties for your ranking.

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Black Hat SEO

The thing with black hat SEO is that it’s essentially all the techniques that used to be okay in the past. Google updated its algorithm because they realized people were taking advantage of the various ranking factors and getting their sites to the top of the rankings when they didn’t deserve to be there.

Black Hat Techniques To Avoid

The purpose of this list is to show you the things you shouldn’t be doing. All of these things will land you with a penalty that will damage your site’s performance.

Spamming: This was a huge problem in the past as websites would spam so much to try and get ahead. Many people thought they could build links to their site by spamming them in as many places as possible. The idea makes sense, you are generating backlinks. However, these aren’t high-quality backlinks, and Google quickly clamped down on it to prevent spam links from having a positive effect on search ranking.

No Content: A lot of people set up sites as money-making tools. They put loads of ads on their site, and get as many people to it as possible. The more traffic they get, the more money they can make via ad revenue. Google realized people were doing this, and they changed the algorithm to focus on quality content. Now, if your site doesn’t have any good content, it will be penalized.

Copyright Content: Similarly, many websites thought they could just copy other people’s content to bypass this algorithm update. Instead of going through the effort of creating it themselves, they stole it from others. So, Google changed things again to penalize any sites that get copyright claims or are seen to be using other people’s content illegally.

Deception: Everyone knows that keywords are very important, but they also know you can’t spam them as it makes the content look poor, which will lead to a penalty. To work around this, sites would be deceptive and hide their keywords from users. On the face of it, the user-experience wouldn’t suffer, and you’d pack your site full of keywords. But, Google didn’t like this as it was deceptive, so they penalized sites that hide things.

There are lots of other black hat techniques, but these are the main ones to avoid.

By reading this piece, you should now know more about white hat and black hat SEO. Stick to those white hat techniques if you want your site to perform well in search engines without getting any penalties.  

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog, Entrepreneur-Resources.net.

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One comment

  1. Start doing SEO now. The longer you leave it to start, the further ahead your competitors will be, and the harder it becomes to rank higher than them.

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