A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Not only in scifi movies dark and light forces are fighting for supremacy. Also on Google there is a battle for the best rankings. The Jedi and Sith are not the only ones who are fighting against each other, but also the so called White Hat and Black Hat SEOs.
The name goes back to the classical Western, where the rogue always had a black hat and the good cowboy, of course, a white. So that you do not (unknowingly) fall into the wrong SEOs hands, the seo-nerd tells you what Black Hat and White Hat SEO actually is and why he chose the light side of the Force.
Black Hat SEO – The dark side of the Force
A SEO uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
Black Hat SEO is the label for all measures that violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. These include, for example:
- Cloaking: As the name suggests, a website is wrapped in a cloak. It then shows Google different content than the users.
- Keyword Stuffing: These strategy is rather primitive. The most important keyword is stuffed on the website very, very frequently – often hidden, so that the readability for the user is not impaired.
- Link Farm: or link network are websites that are built only to link to other websites and thus improve their ranking.
- PBN (Private Bog Network): As the name implies, this is a network of private blogs. All blogs of this network are managed by one single person or agency and are used to build links to specific pages via content. Since these mostly pass Google’s automatic grid unnoticed, such networks are manually prosecuted by Google.
- Hacking: This method is not only violating Google’s webmaster guidelines, but is also criminal. Unfortunately it happens from time to time that webmasters are hacking or let someone hack their competitor’s websites to put them out of contention.
Before someone here is getting into mischief, the seo-nerd prefers to leave it with these examples. He doesn’t want to but bees in someones bonnet.
In a well-made movie everyone can at least emphasize a little bit with the villain. In most cases the bad guy has some understandable motivation (mimimi, bad childhood, mimimi …). So, why is Black Hat SEO that popular? The answer is obvious: Black Hat SEO measures bring in a short time a high linkpopularity and thus also fast profits. But this is a trap, as Admiral Ackbar would say.
Even if Google now and then needs some time to recognize Black Hat SEO, black sheep don’t get off scot-free. The consequence is either a penalty in form of ranking loss, or even the banishment from the Google index.
White Hat SEO – Do, or do not. There is no try.
White Hat SEO, on the other hand, refers to the SEO measures, which clearly adhere to the guidelines of the search engines and thereby enable a positive evaluation by a search engine. This includes the following measures:
- Keywords: A White Hat SEO always performs a comprehensive keyword research and uses these keywords correctly; in meta tags, texts, pictures etc. – but not in exaggerated density and always in sensible contexts.
- Content with additional value: „Content is king“ is an already almost inflationary used statement, but is however unavoidable for White Hat SEO. Content is provided here, which is really relevant and interesting for the user and offers him added value.
- Natural links: This means two things: On the one hand, natural links are those that fit into their environment, i.e. link in a useful position to an equally useful, appropriate website. On the other hand, this refers to links which are generated dynamically, for example by users who consider the content of the linked page to be useful.
- Social media measures: These can be rated as natural linkbuilding in the broadest sense. But social media measures are not only about spreading contents and websites, but also about interacting with users.
- OnePage optimization: Not only does good content makes White Hat SEO up. This also includes the optimization of pagespeed, a clean sidemap responsive design and a high usability.
- SEO Software: Best free White-Hat SEO-Software on one page.
Your focus determines your reality. – Qui-Gon Jinn
White Hat SEO is about convincing Google that your website is valuable and therefore worth to be found quickly. But not only Google (and other search engines) have to be persuaded. It’s also about winning your user’s heart. If your is loading fast, is easy to use and offers exact the information or product the user is looking for, Google notices this and rates your website higher.
So called user signals, like time on page, help Google to find out, how good your website is.
„Much to learn, you still have.“ – White Hat SEO is complex
Since White Hat SEO helps to be sustainable successful in the SERPs, why does not everyone do that? The seo-nerd also wonders why. It’s a fact that that White Hat SEO is a compley and occasionally interminable process. A White Hat SEO will not dust off your website and fling it to place 1 from one day to the next. And he will not promise you that either – because these are the temptations of the Dark Side.
The Jedi training takes time – just like White Hat SEO. A White Hat SEO never stops learning. After all, not only Google always comes up with updates, which make it necessary to keep up with SEO. Also the behavior of the users is not calculable easily. And last but not least, it is also about bracing up for the individual needs of the site operator, ie your wishes and goals.
Quick success is insanely tempting. However, the seo-nerd has good reasons to stay on the light side of the Force:
- Sustainability: Although White Hat SEO measures do not immediately result in a good ranking, once rankings are reached, they remain stable in the long term.
- Safety: The concept is simple – anyone who adheres to Google’s house rules does not have to fear any punishment.
- Expenses: White Hat SEO is in the long run less expensive for two reasons. On the one hand Black Hat SEOs make you pay a high price for fast success. One the other hand Google’s penalties have to be smoothed out somehow. Anyone who is seduced by Black Hat SEO, therefore, pays twice.
- Ethics: After he gets his work done the seo-nerd wants a peaceful sleep. With White Hat SEO measures, he can justify his SERP successes with a clear conscience to you and your users.
Gray Hat SEO – Because the world isn’t only black and white
As the name already suggests, Gray Hat SEO is located somewhere between White Hat and Black Hat SEO. The techniques of Gray Hat SEO therefore are moving in some kind of gray area: the are not explicitly forbidden by the guidelines of search engines, but are also not very welcome. What exactly Gray Hat SEO is, is not easy to define and also partly controversial between search engine optimizers. However, certain measures can be clearly identified as Gray Hat SEO:
- Link exchange: Google clearly prohibits to place backlinks in exchange for money or other benefits. However, Google can not always recognize the intent behind a set link. As so often, the quality and quantity of the backlinks decide. In the Gray Hat area, therefore, link exchange in a moderate dimension is a popular device.
- Keyword density: this is still an important ranking factor. In Gray Hat SEO it’s often tried to boost the keyword density to the disadvantage of readability. Depending on the extent to which keywords are used here, it quickly turns into keyword stuffing and thus Black Hat SEO.
- Content refreshing: You have a blog where you publish relevant articles for four years? A Gray Hat SEO would surely come up with the idea of giving an old article a new date and updating it. This “refreshed” content may cause your page to rank better for a short time, but this success is short-lived.
Because Google and other search engines are always anxious to improve user experience, it can happen with the next minor update that a Gray Hat SEO technique skids down to Black Hat SEO. Google does not announce this in advance, of course, and so website operators, who rely on Gray Hat SEO, may notice sudden downturns in their rankings the next morning. Then quick repair is required. It’s better, of course, for you to keep out of this gray area.
Most Gray Hat SEOs use the Black Hat point of view on the search engine algorithms to detect possible loopholes, but rely on usability and content in White Hat vein. They are almost the Han Solos among the SEOs: from smuggling to rescuing Princess Leia they do something of everything.
These aren’t the SEO measures you’re looking for…
Unlike Master Yoda, Google never sleeps, but works relentless on improving the search experience of its users. This includes updates such as Penguin and Panda, in order to track down and punish especially spamy and Black Hat SEO loaded websites. Even if penguins and pandas are perhaps very cute little animals, one should not blow it with them.
By the way, did you ever noticed that this two animals are black and white? Coincidence?