White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO vs Gray Hat SEO: What should you choose for your SEO strategy?
June 25, 2021 Rudra Kumar
Having limited knowledge about White Hat, Black Hat, or Gray Hat SEO can undo your efforts to optimize your website and rank it on search engines. The lines may sometimes get blurry because some tactics might not fall under either White Hat or Black Hat SEO. This SEO category is called Gray Hat SEO. Known to few and used by most, you might be consciously or subconsciously using Gray Hat SEO tactics!
Knowledge is power, and in the competitive world of search engines, being aware of the subtle differences and nuances between these SEO techniques can mean a sustained improvement in your search engine ranking or a sudden demotion in your current website traffic and ranking.
By giving you a comprehensive overview of White Hat, Black Hat, and Gray Hat SEO, this blog seeks to empower you to use the SEO technique that best compliments your organization’s goals and educates you about the associated risks and benefits of each SEO technique. Read on to learn more.
What is White Hat SEO?
White Hat SEO is the practice of implementing search engine optimization techniques that are sanctioned and approved by Google. It includes the use of ethical SEO practices to improve your rankings.
Here are some Google-approved SEO tactics that fall under White Hat SEO:
- Using standard-compliant HTML.
- Creating relevant content for users.
- Using unique and relevant page titles.
- Using well-labelled images in your content.
- Optimizing your content for mobile users.
- Embedding relevant links and references.
- Optimizing your content using niche-relevant keywords.
- Improving the UX, UI, and page loading speed for a better user experience.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO includes the wrongful manipulation of search engine tactics to rank a website on search engines quickly. Google condemns black Hat SEO, and using it can get your website blacklisted by this leading search engine platform.
Here are some Google-condoned SEO tactics that fall under Black Hat SEO:
- Abusing rich snippets markup.
- Engaging in plagiarism or using duplicate content.
- Obtaining links from websites with irrelevant content.
- Participating in affiliate programs that don’t add value.
- Manipulating your codes in the backend with heavily searched keywords.
- Keyword stuffing when the keywords are not relevant to your content.
- Artificially improving your website’s domain ranking by bulk buying backlinks.
What is Gray Hat SEO?
Many of us are unfamiliar with the concept of a Gray Hat SEO because it is uncommon.
While there is no strict definition of Gray Hat SEO, we can understand it as a hybrid SEO practice that uses both white hat and black hat practices in its search engine optimization strategy. If you actively use both white hat and black hat SEO practices, you are engaging in a gray hat SEO practice.
Common examples of Gray Hat SEO:
- Creating doorway pages
- Building microsites
- Submitting to link directories
What are the Features of a White Hat SEO Strategy?
Here are some of the critical features of a White Hat SEO strategy:
1. Follows search engine guidelines
White Hat SEO is an SEO practice that strictly follows and implements Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. These guidelines outline a list of rules & regulations for ‘ethical’ SEO optimization. If you’re not exploring deceptive activities to manipulate your search engine ranking on Google, you’re following white hat SEO.
2. Focuses on a human audience
Another feature that is crucial to white hat SEO is an audience-first approach. When you create content that benefits your website visitors and improves their overall website experience, you are inevitably engaging in white hat SEO. Publishing high-quality content and improving your website’s page loading speed are other prominent white hat SEO strategies as it improves a user’s experience when they interact with your website.
3. Based on a long-term strategy
A Google-approved SEO approach focuses on a time and work-intensive long-term strategy. When you take calculated steps for website optimization and organically rank your website through genuine efforts over a long time, you engage in white hat SEO.
What are the Features of a Black Hat SEO Strategy?
Here are some of the critical features of a Black Hat strategy:
1. Violates search engine guidelines
Google has outlined some search optimization practices as unethical and malicious. These are practices that you should not use as they directly violate Google’s search engine guidelines.
2. Relies on manipulative tactics
White Hat SEO includes the conscious implementation of practices for improving user experience and ethically ranking a website on search engines. On the contrary, Black Hat SEO relies on manipulating Google’s algorithm to improve search rankings. When you engage in Black Hat SEO, you implement malicious tactics to falsely project your website as more valuable to your users than it actually is.
3. Focuses on “quick wins”
Strategies that fall under Black Hat SEO primarily exploit loopholes in Google’s algorithm with the core objective of improving its website rankings without putting in much work.
While these tactics may produce results, the benefits are often short-lived because Google constantly improves its algorithms to prevent site owners providing a bad user experience from ranking well.
As a result, websites using Black Hat SEO run the risk of losing their rankings with every changing algorithm. The benefits are short-term, which means that you will inevitably need to invest in White Hat SEO tactics if you want to improve your rankings permanently.
What happens when you violate SEO rules approved by Google?
When you break the optimization rules sanctioned by Google, you will face many consequences. Some of the common consequences of engaging in Gray Hat and Black Hat techniques are as follows:
- Get blacklisted from Search Results
- Experience a temporary tanking of your website rankings
- Get slapped with a Google Penalty
Get blacklisted from Search Results:
Engaging in Black Hat SEO can get you blacklisted from search results. This means that all the effort you put into ranking your website and individual blog posts and pages can come undone if you quickly and artificially scaled your website rankings via an unethical Black Hat SEO strategy.
Also Read: Mobile Responsiveness and the Google Penalty
Experience a temporary tanking of your website rankings:
If Google detects that your optimization tactics largely fall under Black Hat SEO, you can temporarily lose your website’s search engine ranking on Google. Google will artificially lower your website’s rank until you address the issue and undo your Black Hat SEO activities.
Get slapped with a Google Penalty:
Google can issue either a manual penalty or an algorithmic penalty to your website. Google’s in-house spam check team does a manual review of websites and flag & penalize ones that may come across as malicious or unethical.
On the contrary, Google’s crawlers work in real-time and scan websites to weed out links that it doesn’t trust and penalizes websites that it sees as unethical.
Here are some algorithm updates that can get your website penalized for the following reasons:
- Florida: Penalizes your website for keyword stuffing
- Panda: Penalizes your website for content farms
- Penguin: Penalizes your website for unethical linking practices
What are the differences between White Hat SEO, Gray Hat SEO, and Black Hat SEO?
Here are some of the notable differences between White Hat SEO, Gray Hat SEO, and Black Hat SEO that you should familiarize yourself with.
Difference #1: Associated Risk
Some of the noteworthy differences in White Hat, Black Hat, and Gray Hat SEO w.r.t risks are as follows:
- Risks of using White Hat SEO techniques: Beginning with White Hat search engine optimization, the plus point is that your website stays protected from Google penalties and a sudden dip in rankings. The drawback is that it might take you months, if not years, to attain a competitive website ranking and organic traffic.
- Risks of using Black Hat SEO techniques: The use of search optimization hacks will help you quickly scale your website ranking. The drawback of using black hat SEO techniques is that you stand the risk of losing your website’s ranking due to potential changes in Google’s algorithm, which happens quite frequently. Another associated risk is that you’ll be slapped with a penalty from Google.
- Risks of using Gray Hat SEO techniques: Due to the subtle nature of ranking hacks that are associated with Gray Hat SEO, your website will not get penalized straight away. However, you still run the risk of being penalized in the future and getting a demotion in rankings.
Now that we have outlined the potential risk difference between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO, we will now move on to the next risk, i.e. longevity.
Difference #2: Longevity
Here are some ways in which White Hat, Black Hat, and Gray Hat SEO differ w.r.t longevity:
- Longevity of White Hat SEO techniques: The results of a white hat SEO strategy is long-term. Once you successfully increase your website’s ranking on search engines through ethical white hat SEO techniques, your rankings are likely to be permanent and long-lasting.
- Longevity of Black Hat SEO techniques: Because of the fraudulent tactics adopted to boost your website’s ranking on search engines artificially, the results are tragically short-lived. The improvement in domain ranking that you may have achieved through Black Hat SEO can reverse any time Google updates its algorithms, making success achieved through Black Hat SEO, a short-lived solution.
- Longevity of Gray Hat SEO techniques: Boosting your website’s ranking through Gray Hat SEO can be both short-term or long-term. If the practices you have implemented gets flagged by Google quickly, your success can be short-term. Similarly, if your optimization tactics are not categorized as unethical or malicious by Google now or in the near future, the ranking success you have achieved via Gray Hat SEO can be long-lasting.
White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO vs Gray Hat SEO: Which SEO Technique should you Choose?
The most significant difference between White Hat and Black Hat SEO is in terms of quick gains associated with Black Hat SEO and the permanent gains associated with White Hat SEO. What is more important to you? Quickly scaling your website while running the risk of being penalized and losing your current search engine rankings? Or permanently scaling your SEO rankings through white hat marketing techniques, knowing fully well that it may take potentially longer to achieve your rankings.
Considering the risks associated with both Black Hat and Gray Hat SEO, we favour the strict implementation and practice of White Hat SEO – no matter how slow the results may be.
Engaging in White Hat SEO will protect you from losing your website rankings due to changing algorithm updates or penalties from Google. Moreover, the success you have achieved in terms of your website’s ranking will be permanent when you make White Hat SEO part & parcel of your SEO strategy.
In this blog, we have covered Gray Hat SEO, White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO in explicit detail. We hope that you now have a wholesome understanding of all these SEO techniques, what these mean, and how you can best implement these SEO practices to scale your business.
On the rare occasion that you would want to outsource your in-house SEO requirements to an SEO services agency, get in touch with us at email@example.com. Our dedicated SEO service expert will contact you and acquaint you with our White Hat SEO services.