Do you remember the 80’s western Hollywood cowboy classics such as Once Upon a Time in the West or in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly?
As a child I used to love those cowboy films — you know the kind of old movies based in Texas with guns, horses and cliched cowboy hats + boots?
Well in those movies, from the first glimpse you could make out that the man in the black costume, sporting a black hat was the antagonist. He’d cheat, lie and deceive people and get his ass-kicked by the protagonist.
Talking of him, he is the one who would always wear a white hat — and treats everyone right, speaks honestly and does everything with righteousness in mind.
Now you must be wondering — why am I telling you all this?
Well, it’s because like in those movies, the categorisation of SEO works is also done in the pretty same way.
Let me explain.
What’s Under The Hat?
The distinction between White Hat SEO & Black Hat SEO is a lot simpler than you might think.
1. The Black Hat SEO
It refers to the SEO practices, which do get your pages higher SERP rankings, but are often considered unethical. In fact, they are the kind of practices which violate the guidelines given by search engines such as Google.
One thing worth noting is that after manipulating the search engine algorithms you might be able to achieve higher rankings in the search results at first — but in the long run Black Hat practices have a detrimental effect on your website’s rankings.
Also, Black Hat SEO isn’t a legal issue, in case you’re wondering — unless you use hacking as a tool.
Some of the examples Of Black Hat SEO are:
Using code to mask content while stuffing it with keyword jargon to make it only visible to search engine crawlers might have worked in the past — but trust me, search algorithms have improved now, and they have improved a lot.
Therefore, websites which violate the ‘number one no-no’ of SEO now face tough penalties, including having their sites delisted from search results, forever!
Link farming is the practise of gathering a large number of links from irrelevant websites, and keeping them hidden from site visitors. One thing which people are not aware of is — being listed on such a website won't bring you any traffic.
In fact, again, it could even get your site blacklisted from the search engines.
Cloaking content is when the search engine crawlers are shown content that doesn't appear in the user's browser when the search is performed. Using this dual path approach helps sites rank higher for irrelevant content while also giving users unexpected results.
It’s a classic ruse used by spammers to show HTML to search engines while showing images or Flash files to the visitors.
Pushing Bad Content
Publishing lacklustre content is pointless because it devalues your brand and your credibility as a source of information. Scraping or copying content from other sites was previously virtually undetectable by search engines, making it a slight ranking boost.
As a result, Google and other search engines have implemented algorithms that not only detect duplicate content but also penalise websites with low-quality content immediately.
2. The White Hat SEO
On the other hand, this refers to SEO practices which result in higher and long-lasting SERP rankings, without you doing anything unethical or violating any guidelines.
This type of SEO strategy is also known as Ethical SEO because of the fair practices it involves. Plus, this is generally considered to be a long-term investment in the website because of the quality results it brings.
Some of the examples Of White Hat SEO are:
Writing Quality Content
You see, the most important factor in modern SEO is to write for the reader, not the search engine crawler.
It is the best way to be rewarded by search engines and how they rank your website or blog. Afterall, there is a reason why they say ‘content is the king!’
Using Relevant Keywords, Only
Keywords that are relevant to the content of the page and are picked up after a thorough research are nothing but a goldmine for you and your website. Use them wisely.
However, in addition to this, just make sure you are not overusing them. Focus on no more than one main keyword and two or three secondary keywords — and you’re good to go.
Implementing Lean Code
Lean code and semantic markup language, such as keyword-rich heading elements on your pages, help search engines find the information they're looking for when crawling your site, thus, improving your website’s visibility manifolds.
Using Authoritative Inbound Links
One of the most important components of your SEO strategy is obtaining authoritative inbound links that are earned organically rather than through paid advertising.
Yes, I agree it takes time & effort to build authoritative inbound links, but the benefits in terms of improved SERP rankings and more traffic to your site far outweigh the costs.
Faster Website Loading Time
Fast page loading times are a must because responsive sites with simple navigation or mobile optimization keep customers happy — and reduce the chances of them bouncing back.
Moreover, websites that take a long time to respond to a visitor's request, regardless of the cause (large images, image carousels, etc.), usually fall lower in SERPs because of the smarter, better search engine algorithms.
So, Which Hat Should You Wear?
The answer to this question is also pretty simple.
If you want to have your business wrecked, lose your website’s credibility and get dunked by your competitors big time in the online business — Black Hat SEO is your way to go.
But if you want to see your business bloom, get a colossal amount of traffic on your website and grow your revenues manifold — White Hat SEO could help you a lot. It’s a total powerhouse.
So, pick your hat wisely.