white hat vs black hat seo

White Hat vs Black Hat SEO

leonie waldron
Leonie Waldron
Head Strategist


  • Black hat SEO refers to practices that get short term results but typically contravene Google’s guidelines.
  • Black hat SEO approaches don’t care about the user experience or quality content, instead trying to game the algorithm for better rankings.
  • Give black hat techniques a wide berth! They can backfire by damaging your site’s credibility.
  • White hat SEO means above-board best practice approaches to SEO. This approach focuses on quality content that helps people and fulfils the search intent. It’s the logical way to ensure you see consistent positive  SEO results over time.

How shady practices can hurt your business in the long run

Having your website shown high up on a search engine results page (SERP) is the goal of many businesses, as it provides a great deal of exposure to potential customers.

Whilst aiming for the top ranking in your industry is a great goal, it’s not worth sabotaging your long term marketing efforts with shonky practices and shortcuts – known in the industry as black hat SEO.

The two types of SEO

Every search engine uses a specific algorithm to follow particular rules. These rules prevent web developers from using shortcuts that give them an unfair advantage on SEO rankings. It ensures that websites use the same methods and effort to improve their rankings.

There are two approaches to SEO, and if you truly care about your customers, then number one should be your only course of action!

  1. White hat SEO
  2. Black hat SEO

Both work towards the same general goal however the difference is in the specific tactics of each approach.

White hat methods adhere to the official guidelines provided by Google to ensure high-quality SEO, while black hat methods use dodgy tricks that temporarily boost SEO rankings, often without much regard for the customer experience.

This article will look closely at white hat vs black hat SEO and their strategies. Read on to understand the differences, to help you develop a plan with minimal risk to your business.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black hat SEO strategies bypass search engine rules to get better search rankings. These strategies focus heavily on search engines, much more than the human interaction with the website.

Most people use black hat techniques to get a quick solution by cheating the search engine rankings. They may have positive short-term results, but have detrimental effects in the long run.

And sometimes, the result is 100% negative, as Google and other search engines can quickly pick up on your attempt to use non-approved black hat techniques and penalise your site.

What is White Hat SEO?

White Hat SEO strategies focus on the human side rather than trying to trick search engine algorithms. These strategies adhere to SEO guidelines and ensure the content is readable, relevant, and well-structured to pass on helpful information.

They also ensure that what the person actually searches is what they’ll see. Any links on the website are relevant, trustworthy, and appear where appropriate.

Basically – white hat SEO serves your customer by actually being helpful and answering their questions.

For an SEO campaign to be successful, it’s essential to put your efforts into white hat SEO, which includes creating better, more helpful content, natural link building, and organising your information in a way that makes sense for readers.

Although the process takes time to see improvement, the positive effects are long-lasting, providing years of consistent and sustainable growth.

Common Black Hat Techniques

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the repetition of target keywords even when they are irrelevant or out of context. The idea is to optimise the content to appear more on search engines.

You know it when you see it: you might be looking for a silly outfit for your doggo, and the article mentions halloween costumes for dogs twenty times. 

“What kind of halloween costumes for dogs are cool this year? Here’s our great list of halloween costumes for dogs, and of course you can shop for halloween costumes for dogs in our store.”

(See how annoying that is to read?)

Trying to manipulate rankings with the current search engine algorithms like Google is no longer effective and can result in penalties. Keyword stuffing doesn’t consider the person reading, as they can quickly lose interest in the content. Even if the halloween costumes for dogs are pretty awesome.

Hidden Text 

Hidden text on a website refers to text intentionally coloured the same as the website’s background so that it’s invisible to website readers. Most people use this tactic to hide extra keywords to rank better on search engines. It’s a risky move because advanced search engine crawlers can lower your rankings if they detect the deception.

Manipulative Links

Adding links to content is a great way to improve rankings. However, hiding links using the same font colour as the website or hiding them in different areas such as blog comments is using manipulative links.

The links are irrelevant to the content and only there for the search engines. If it doesn’t help the person looking at your site, it’s a big fat no from Google.

Content Cloaking

Content cloaking is a tactic that shows search engines content that is different from what a human would see. Since search engines have a limited ability to process or identify multimedia and graphic components, they get another website with a similar URL. Visitors get different content that is irrelevant to their search.

Publishing Low-Quality Content

Publishing regular content is an excellent way to boost SEO. However, cutting and pasting huge chunks of content or having low-quality, ‘thin’ content has a negative effect. Any plagiarised content gets ignored, and the algorithms on search engines lower your rankings when they detect such content.

Mind you – it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, and the only way to become a better writer is to write more, so don’t let your imposter complex prevent you from writing anything at all. If you focus on helping your customers, you can’t go wrong! And if you need a content writer, reach out for help.

Doorway Pages

Doorway pages help to direct visitors towards the main content. They often get misused to improve rankings by manipulating the search engine for higher indexing. Doorway pages are usually many different pages but with slight variations. The visitor doesn’t see the actual results of their search. 

black hat seo

Popular White Hat Techniques

Conducting Keyword Analysis and using sensible keywords on your site

Keyword analysis involves researching the words that most users search for so you know which words to use in your content. It’s essential to ensure that these keywords are relevant and a good way to start is to think about the intersection of what you sell, what your customers need, and what you have a lot of expertise in.

You can have one primary keyword and two to three secondary keywords in your content so that they blend well without overusing.

Keywords should always appear natural and in strategic positions such as;

  • The main title and introduction
  • Meta description and meta title
  • Subheadings

If you want to sell more of your dinosaur dog costumes, you might look at halloween costumes for dogs as your main keyword, BUT don’t shoe-horn it into your text unnaturally. Once or twice is perfect, and support that keyword with other terms like dog dinosaur costumes, t-rex outfits for bulldogs, and funny pet costumes.

Enhancing content

Content quality depends on how useful it is to the visitor and whether it fulfils the purpose of the search.

Your content should be diverse, well-researched, and unique. Publishing guest posts is an excellent way to improve quality. For instance, you can feature guest writers to ensure originality or use your internal subject matter experts to wax lyrical about their favourite technical subjects.

Content isn’t just words either: use visuals and videos to help your customers and get your point across in a simple and useful way.

To avoid penalties, it’s also best to remove links to outdated, irrelevant, or low-quality content from your website. Inbound links (when someone else has a link on their site that points to your site) should be authoritative and organic to increase traffic in the long run. Outbound links should be to relevant sources that provide more information.

Organising your website information

Your website architecture determines the search engine’s ability to crawl your website. Having simple and logical architecture ensures that the search engine bots can easily access the content.

For instance, you can improve the website’s structure by using the correct heading tags. It ensures that visitors can quickly locate what they are looking for.

Optimising your website for better user experience

Although having an unreliable website host doesn’t have a direct effect on SEO, it can negatively affect your rankings.

When websites are slow, visitors tend to bounce or leave, and search engines will consider your website to be poor quality and your content irrelevant – meaning your site will fail to rank.

Based on search engine specifications, good websites should load in under three seconds and always be available. If your current hosting provider is unsatisfactory, consider getting a host with dedicated servers. Sometimes the geographical location of your hosting can make a difference too.

Your web designer should be able to make recommendations here, or if you’re not 100% sold on your current developer, get in touch and I can connect you with some good people.

Copywriter writing content

Major Differences between White Hat and Black Hat SEO

White Hat SEOBlack Hat SEO
Adheres to Google’s guidelinesBreaks Google’s guidelines
Ensures good user experienceDoesn’t consider the user experience
Revolves around quality contentContent quality is not the priority
Enhances website authorityMinimises website authority
High rankings are organicTricks search engine algorithms
Fulfils the search intentOnly partially satisfies, or completely fails to meet search intent


Having the right SEO strategy is crucial to your website’s success. Black hat SEO tactics can show quick results but come with many risks such as website blacklisting, high bounce rates, penalties, poor user experience, and loss of future business opportunities.

On the other hand, white hat SEO tactics have long-lasting effects and ensure your website is more visible well into the future. Quality content will help you generate organic traffic through more clicks, creating more business opportunities and better client relationships.

Besides damaging your website’s credibility, attempting to use shortcuts could cost you your business. 

Focus on adding value to your content by providing answers to common questions, optimising website navigation, and simply keeping your customer at the heart of everything you do.

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