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White Hat and Black Hat: SEO

The terms, White Hat and Black Hat, comes from the old spaghetti westerns, where the bad guy wears a black hat, and the good guy wears a white hat. Utilizing this technique helped the audience determine who the protagonist and antagonist were. However, in SEO, the types of “hats” are neither good nor are they bad. The color just represents the philosophies used by SEO professionals and signifies how closely they follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

White Hat SEO:

White Hat SEO is a much safer philosophy, they follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines which in turn improves user experience. They want to avoid any of Google’s penalties and manual actions. When done well, a “hit” from Google’s penalties as well as their updates will be at a minimum. Furthermore, White Hat SEO individuals usually like the challenge of playing in the Webmaster Guidelines and their rewards are usually big wins. One drawback to White Hat SEO is that it takes a very long time to see any kind of advancement. But, once improvement starts showing and growing, it is permanent. As a result, seeing a decrease from a Google algorithm update is rare.

Black Hat SEO:

A tactic that does not follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to rank websites is Black Hat SEO. This is usually for individuals who want a quick return, rather than the long-term investment that the White Hat SEO accomplishes. This strategy focuses only on search engines, not human audiences. Black Hat SEO uses techniques like keyword stuffing, link farming, hidden texts and links, blog content spamming, and more. Google will send a penalty to websites that use tactics that are against the Webmaster Guidelines.

The Difference at a Glance:

Black Hat Strategies White Hat Strategies
  • Duplicate Content
  • Invisible text
  • Stuffed keywords
  • Cloaking or re-directing user to another site or page
  • Links from sites with non-relevant content

  • Relevant Content
  • Well-labeled images
  • Relevant links and references
  • Complete sentences with good spelling and grammar
  • Standards-compliant HTML
  • Unique and relevant page titles

Risks Involved:

There are risks when using Black Hat SEO. This is because using methods that attempt to manipulate Google’s Algorithm has consequences. A website caught using a Black Hat approach could demote their ranking. In addition, penalization of their website could happen where they will not appear on a search result at all. The tactics used do more harm than good. A good example of Algorithm updates would be the 2012 “Penguin” update. This revises targeted sites that were buying links or spamming links. They saw their ranks plummet when affected by the penalty. As a rule of thumb for any SEO Hat, you and your clients need to be aware of the risks that are involved when dealing with SEO tactics that are being implemented to gain ranking.


In short, the biggest difference between these two approaches is that White Hat SEO follows Google’s Guidelines improving user experience. On the other hand, Black Hat SEO violates those guidelines and primarily focuses on search engines. To some, the White Hat strategy in creating quality content may be time-consuming, but in the end, it is well worth it due to the big pay off. However, all colored hats can agree that you must inform your client about all the risks involved in using these strategies. Meaning, Black Hat is a legitimate strategy – if the client is aware of the consequences that could happen when the strategy is implemented.

The nerds at #TechStarters can assist you with your SEO needs and will talk to you about all your strategy options. We will find the right solution that is best for your company. Contact a nerd today!