If you’re delving into the world of web marketing, you’ve heard the term Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. The main purpose of SEO is to rank your website higher in a search engine index like Google or Bing.
More and more businesses are using SEO to boost their business’ ranking, and for a great reason. Ranking high on a search engine increases the traffic to your website, which is great exposure for your business that builds consumer trust.
The term White Hat SEO refers to the practices that characterize good, ethical SEO. These techniques are beneficial to the visitor and centered around providing relevant, helpful information.
Black Hat SEO, on the other hand, refers to bad SEO practices which are looked down upon in the web marketing industry. Black Hat SEO techniques go against the terms of service for major search engines.
Using Black Hat tactics can have major consequences, ranging from being penalized in search engine rankings, to being banned from search engine results entirely. There may even be serious legal repercussions!
So what’s the difference?
The fundamental difference between White Hat and Black Hat SEO is the audience they target.
People who use black hat SEO tactics write and design websites exclusively for search engines. Sure, Black Hat websites will technically have content. But it’s not written to benefit visitors, which should be the main goal of a website!
If it’s so bad, why do people still use Black Hat SEO?
SEO should, in theory, be about benefiting visitors with relevant content and an easy-to-use website interface. Search engines will boost up websites providing the best possible user experience, using their algorithm and web crawlers.
But some unsavory characters have figured out ways to boost search rankings without caring about your user experience. All they care about is ranking, and ranking now.
That’s the main goal of Black Hat SEO is to improve rankings as fast as possible. While White Hat SEO is a great way to rank, it takes time. And Black Hat SEO marketers will try to convince you not to “waste” time ranking with White Hat tactics.
Here are the tell-tale signs a website is using Black Hat SEO techniques:
Also called scraping, this black hat technique involves reposting popular content to their own blog without credit for the sake of stealing traffic from other websites.
You would have gotten kicked out of elementary school for plagiarizing an essay. It should be common sense not to plagiarize on the internet either! No matter how good another website’s content is, you should try your hand at writing original content to benefit your visitors in its own unique way.
Have you ever come across a website where every sentence was crammed with industry phrases that just didn’t make sense in context? That’s called “keyword stuffing”.
This practice has fallen out of mainstream SEO practice. In fact, search engines penalize keyword stuffing in content when the flow of words is read as “unnatural” by their crawlers. But Black Hat SEO users will still keyword stuff for the sake of boosting rankings quickly, without regard for how their site may suffer in the rankings later.
Links are a great way to boost your company’s credibility. If other websites trust your site enough to link to you, visitors are much more likely to trust you as a company. And it turns out having legitimate links between sites is great for ranking on Google as well!
But a popular Black Hat SEO technique is to actually pay another website to link to your site. This practice is explicitly forbidden by Google’s terms of service. Links should be posted because of merit and trust, not money.
If you’ve used any of these techniques on your website, stop! You could face major consequences that will hurt your business if you’re penalized for Black Hat SEO. Take the time and effort to rank ethically with White Hat SEO. You’ll see traffic to your website, and you’ll be able to confidently say you provided the best experience to your users.