The ultimate guide to SEO: what is the difference between White and Black Hat SEO?

The ultimate guide to SEO: what is the difference between White and Black Hat SEO?

The web is a huge space that is constantly expanding. The Google search engine processes over 100,000 queries per second. There are already over 50 billion websites in the index. No wonder, then, that specialists are trying to figure out how to promote their website against the competition. For years, the best response to this need has been optimization and positioning. However, each medal has two sides. So what is worth knowing about SEO in order not to get in trouble?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Let’s start by clearing up a few terms. Optimization is the process of making a website’s marketing and technical abilities the best they can be, while positioning is what determines where the site appears in search engine results pages (SERPs). The main difference between the two is that optimization is a long-term strategy, while positioning can be changed more quickly.

What are the different types of SEO?

In general, SEO is about engaging in techniques aimed at improving the visibility of a website in organic search results. There is one goal – the highest possible ranking position. But why is it so important to be in the TOP10? According to research, only 25% of users look to the other side of the results, and even less to the next. So if you run an online business, you want to reach the largest audience possible. However, there are two ways to achieve this.

White Hat SEO

This is the term used to describe optimization techniques that focus on a human audience opposed to search engines and completely follows search engine guidelines. In other words, when you’re using White Hat SEO, you’re playing by the rules. As a result, this kind of practice tends to be more sustainable in the long-term as well as earn higher rankings from search engines.

The most effective on-site practices used in the spirit of White Hat SEO:

  • creating and publishing high-quality content (not a duplicate),
  • optimization of text presentation (headings, paragraphs, bullets, etc.),
  • optimization of meta tags, header structure, URL addresses,
  • appropriate and natural internal linking within the site,
  • building websites using UX solutions,
  • adapting the website to service on various devices (responsiveness
  • optimization of website loading speed,
  • using Alt attributes for graphics.

When it comes to off-site activities, link building is the most important. It allows you to gain recognition on the web, improve authority, trust, conversion, CTR and – in the case of e-commerce sites, sales. So here you should carefully use the dofollow, nofollow, sponsored and UGC tags to create a natural backlink profile. Links can be obtained primarily through valuable content, but it is also worth supporting yourself with guest blogging and social media.

These techniques cannot lead to penalties imposed by Google on the website, despite the fact that the changes to the content and technical optimization of the website translate into an increase in the position. These activities are consistent with the idea – creating quality content on the web and should not be equated with an attempt to manipulate search results.

However, it is a long-term process, the effects of which should be expected from three months up to a year (depending on the website and its purpose).

Black Hat SEO

This is a practice that goes against the guidelines set by search engines. It’s a way to get a site to rank higher in search engine results pages through means that are not approved by the search engines.

They may be unconscious, which is often due to a lack of knowledge, but it also happens that administrators want to position the page quickly and think that they will shorten their path. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before a Google penalty is imposed for this. The effects of using Black Hat SEO methods are visible immediately, but they last very shortly. In the long term, they bring many losses, including financial ones.

These practices have been present since the inception of the Internet. Over the past few decades, it has been seen that the problems most often arise from:

  • keyword stuffing and abuse,
  • hidden content,
  • creating worthless content,
  • abusing structured data,
  • hidden redirects
  • misleading pages,
  • improper and dishonest link building.

Penalties from Google

In connection with Black Hat SEO, it should also be said about penalties that are imposed on websites that use unfair practices. The search engine divides sanctions into two basic types: filters and bans.

Filters are penalties imposed for a specific period of time (from a month, even up to several years). Its application means that the website can drop even by 70 positions in the ranking. They are imposed mainly due to the unnatural growth of external links with a specific anchor, unnatural links, the use of a link exchange system, and spam.

The bans are much more serious. Their imposition results in exclusion from the search results. Although the site physically exists, it is impossible to find by Internet users. In extreme cases, you can even be removed from the index. These penalties are related to serious practices, extorting money, promoting pornographic sites, gambling etc.

In-between. Gray Hat SEO

Sometimes called white hat with a black hat approach, Grey Hat SEO straddles the line between the two other methods. It’s not illegal or unethical, but it might not be exactly above-board, either. You could think of it as taking advantage of loopholes in the system. People who use this method are always looking for new ways to game the system and stay ahead of the competition. One example is keyword stuffing.

Wrapping up

Now that you know the basics of SEO, it’s time to start thinking about how you can use it to improve your website. If you’re not sure where to start, consider hiring an SEO consultant or agency to help you create a customized plan for your business. And remember, always keep your users in mind when optimizing your site—after all, they’re the ones who will ultimately benefit from your efforts.

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Aleksandra Pietrzak
Curator at the National Museum in Poznań, graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University and Contemporary Art at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, curator of exhibitions and author of scientific and popular texts. A lover of contemporary art, literature and travel.
Category: SEO
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