Difference of White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO

seo strategies

There isn’t really a centralized body which determines which SEO strategies are deemed legal, or illegal. Unless of course, it falls under malicious internet practices which have many implications. For example, there are many laws and regulations which specifically target malicious practices such as hacking. The situation may not necessarily be the same for a variety of SEO techniques which typically fall under two major categories namely white hat SEO and black hat SEO.

If you’ve never encountered the term white hat and black hat before, think of it as belonging to the two spectrums of morality. White hat denotes “good” practices, while black hat designates less than moral practices. Continue reading to learn more.

White hat SEO

White hat SEO typically refers to techniques which are in line with guidelines of the most commonly-used search engines, such as Google. For Google, these guidelines are what they call Webmaster Guidelines.

The basic idea is that each website which aims to boost their traffic and increase ranking need to apply user-centric basic principles. Websites should be optimized in such a way that they improve the experience for each user visiting it. In this portion we’ll cover the primary differences between white hat SEO regarding Webmaster Guidelines compliance, longer and short term-approaches, as well as main intent.

Webmaster Guidelines compliance

As mentioned before, white hat SEO involves the use of SEO strategies that meet the the standards set by Google. You can easily look up these guidelines as they’re easily made accessible for everyone’s perusal.

General Guidelines are put in place to enable your website to be found and understood by Google, as well as the visitors. The ranking of your page depends on some or either of the following techniques, such as generating articles with useful content, or utilizing a content management scheme such as WordPress. Another technique that you could also do involves simply transforming it to become more user-friendly for everyone who accesses it.

Longer-term approach

Compared to black hat SEO techniques, white hat SEOs are focused on utilizing strategies with a more longer-term approach. This can be understood as either the time it takes before your site can reap the benefits of the strategies, or for how long these techniques will be good for the website.

Unlike black hat strategies, white hat techniques are ultimately more sustainable in the long run and less prone to search engine results page volatility. Though it may take a while before these changes come into effect, you can ensure that they’re ethical and won’t result in drastic negative consequences for your site ranking.

Targets users

Like what has been said before, white hat strategies are more user-centric. These aim to improve the experience of users when they visit a particular website, or when they’re looking up for information on a search engine like Google.

A simple way to gauge if your website meets this criteria is the ease of use by which content on your site is made accessible, as well as the navigability of your website. You may not easily experience a boost in ranking in the beginning, but an easy-to-navigate website can already be grounds for improving its performance when it comes to organic search results.

Black hat SEO

Black hat SEO as you may already have an idea of, refers to a set of strategies which violate a search engine’s terms of service. While these have similar effects as white hat strategies — i.e. improving site ranking — these strategies are what you may consider to be unethical. Black hat SEO strategies violate guidelines through the use of riskier techniques, in order to achieve short-term gains. This is because sooner or later, Google would end up discovering the use of black hat strategies and end up removing them. 

Violates guidelines

Since black hat SEO strategies violate guidelines, it’s not surprising that a website utilizing these set of techniques would be more vulnerable to penalties and other negative consequences. For example, a site can end up having its rankings drastically drop, preventing your site from experiencing a first page ranking.

Referring back to Google’s guidelines, they have also listed down several techniques which websites should avoid implementing. An example would be the practice of automatically-generating content. This basically refers to content produced through algorithmic functions that contain multiple search keywords.

Oftentimes, this kind of content makes very little sense and doesn’t add any meaningful value to your website.

Riskier techniques

Some riskier techniques can be classified under black hat SEO are most commonly implemented on the content aspect of a website. Examples of these risky techniques include keyword stuffing, auto-generating content, or even plagiarizing content.

Since Google has eventually recognized a pattern in the past when these strategies are used, the changes they’ve introduced serve as a remediation to discourage websites in making use of these black hat strategies. Your site can be the subject of penalties which are assigned either manually, or through the search engine’s algorithms.

Short-term gains

It should follow that black hat SEO strategies are more focused on achieving shorter-term gains compared to white hat ones. This is because the former takes advantage of the loopholes which are present in search engines, resulting in content that provides only minimal value for the visitors.

The only goal of black hat strategies is to enable a high ranking for a website in such a short amount of time, with the exertion of very little effort. There’s no focus on generating quality content for the users’ benefit.

Key Takeaway

SEO strategies is an umbrella term to refer to SEO techniques that fall under either black hat, or white hat. There are many stark differences between the two that are important to consider, especially if you want to achieve a good ranking for your website in an ethical method, taking into consideration the guidelines presented by popular search engines.

The most effective strategies are those which ultimately result in longer-term gains, and are focused on meeting website visitors’ needs.


Kyle Francis Ong is a Communication Associate and SEO specialist working for SEO Hacker. He handles processes and transactions involving SEO matters for their clients.

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