When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), there is a divide between how closely SEO specialists follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. On one end of the spectrum, there are white hats who follow Google’s guidelines closely to improve their website rankings. On the other end of the spectrum, there are black hats who follow look for quick ways around Google’s guidelines.
White hat techniques follow the algorithmic rules and SEO best practices. These techniques are all about improving the quality of the website and helping Google understand the website’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Google rewards useful content and wants to provide the best possible content to answer a searcher’s query or question.
These techniques are on the opposite end of the spectrum from penalties. What is a penalty? A Google penalty is a punishment against a website whose content conflicts with the guidelines.
White Hat techniques win in the long-term. Even though it may take longer to make progress and improve the search ranking in the short term, the effects with stick around in the long-term.
A few examples of white hat tactics:
- High-quality content that visitors want to read and share.
- Creating amazing content that begs to be linked to.
- Write and design for great user experience, not robots.
- Integrating keyword research and writing content that is helpful to website visitors.
- Ensuring that your website loads quickly, is responsive, & is mobile-friendly.
- Submitting your website to Google Search Console, ensuring that the website has a sitemap and is indexable, and ensuring that Google can crawl your website.
- Good internal linking between pages and posts on your website.
- Unique content that is different than content on other site’s ranking for the same keyword.
- Focusing on optimal on-page and site-wide SEO.
In summary, white hats play it safe by following Google’s guidelines, steer clear of penalties, and create a long-term plan that will withstand future updates.
Black hats often find a way around the guidelines and improve search rankings quicker in the short-term. These techniques are often labeled spammy, are considered unethical practices, seen as attempts to manipulate the search engine algorithm, or exploit loopholes or gaps in the search engine algorithm.
Black hats may generate quicker improvements in the short-term; however, it won’t last forever. There is risk. These black hat techniques are similar to a get rich quick scheme. Your luck will eventually run out. Don’t think you can trick Google!
There will come a time when Google passes an update that harms your search engine ranking or even penalize your website. Avoidance of the best practices may lead to a slow decline in your search engine rankings as the algorithm evolves, while a penalty may significantly impact your ranking overnight.
A few examples of black hat tactics:
- Keyword stuffing or the practice of loading a page with an excessive amount of keywords.
- Incorporating hidden text with certain keywords.
- Cloaking where the HTML code for the visitor is different than the HTML code for Google bot.
- Duplicate content from using the same content multiple times on your site, to copying someone else’s ideas as your own work.
- Link farms where pages are created for the sole purpose of linking and improving the rank for a specific page.
- Buy links to quickly build up your referral links.
In summary, black hats take risks, try to find quick ways to increase the search ranking in the short-term, and may be penalized in the long-term.
Grey hat techniques fall somewhere between white hat and black hat techniques.
A few examples of grey hat tactics:
- Article spinning occurs when you re-write another’s content, switch words out, or move sentences around to create your own post.
- Buying old domains with authority in order to link the old domain to a website you want to rank.
The search engine optimization landscape continues to change. What worked years ago may no longer be accepted and may even harm your website ranking. To continue to maintain and improve search rankings, you need to invest time and effort into continuously adapting and improving your website, its content, and its search engine optimization.
In the world of SEO, there are no get rich techniques nor are their one-and-done solutions. Quality SEO requires consistent monitoring and work. If you invest in your SEO and follow white hat techniques, Google will reward you in the long term.
Trust me, it is an amazing feeling to see your website soar pass the competition and rise to the top after a Google search engine algorithm update. Ever since 2012 with Google Penguin update, Google has made a significant effort to penalize for black hat tactics and reward websites with great content who provide a quality user experience. Invest in a long-term SEO strategy and you will be rewarded!