What are the differences between black hat and white hat SEO?

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There’s no doubt about it, search engine optimization (SEO) is a complex business, and one that can feel ever-changing. As a busy business owner with a multitude of tasks to juggle, successfully optimizing your website is undeniably a tough egg to crack. It is, however, crucial to digital growth. The trick (as it were) is ensuring it’s done correctly.

Applying effective SEO strategies to your website will see you reap the benefits of improved organic ranking from Google, but it can be difficult knowing where to begin. Below I’ve given you the low-down on the best – and worst – ways to optimize your site for those clever Google crawlers, so you need no longer feel bamboozled.

What is black hat SEO?

In life, some people are all about quick wins or trying to beat the system. It’s into this world that black hat SEO was born. While I fully empathise with the difficulties of competing for those top organic spots on Google, the following tactics are not the way to do it, however tempted you might be.

Examples of black hat tactics

  • Buying backlinks to your site – particularly as these sites are usually irrelevant to yours
  • Stuffing your content full of keywords (often to the point it barely makes sense!)
  • Spamming other websites with your links
  • Republishing content from other sites without permission
  • ‘Cloaking’ or hiding keywords or phrases by making them only visible to search engines
  • Hosting duplicate content on your website

All of these methods violate Google’s SEO principles and are definite no-no’s if you want your digital presence to flourish. This is because black hat SEO isn’t just unethical, it’s short-sighted and not worth the consequences.

Google wants websites written for humans, not for them. Their intelligent crawling programmes identify and flag-up suspicious content including repeated phrases and dodgy-looking links. The penalty for black hat activity will severely affect your search engine ranking and can include your entire site being de-indexed by Google.
Plus, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. When you visit a website, would you rather read an interesting, engaging web page on the topic for which you searched or one full of repeated words that make it poorly written? Would you ever return to that website, and maybe sign up for future communications? Or, feeling irritated, would you swiftly click away and search for a different site to give your time and potential custom to? Yep, me too.

So, now we’re clear on how not to do it, let’s look at some solutions to the digital dilemma of effective optimization.

White hat SEO

White hat SEO is the application of meaningful techniques to optimize your website without risking your organic visibility disappearing in a puff of smoke. In contrast to black hat tactics and dirty tricks, white hat SEO remains focused on the reader’s experience while implementing best practice that’s Google approved.

Good examples of white hat SEO include:

  • Regular new content that’s relevant to the audience
  • Keyword research and analysis
  • Natural link-building
  • Correct alt-tagging of images on your site

How to effectively optimize your site for search engines

It’s easy to get caught up with Google guidelines, but remember they themselves advise focusing on the user’s experience. With this in mind, try to view your website as the digital version of a store display. 
Think about the experience a potential customer will have when they visit – ensuring it’s tidy, easy to navigate and that it offers valuable relevant information.

Return to this point regularly – whenever you make a change, add a blog post or tag an image. 

Ask yourself:

How will this help my reader?

What message does it convey?

What impression do I want to make?  

Develop a content strategy so you can plan compelling, meaningful blog posts and articles that your customers will search for and want to share. By thoroughly researching search terms, you can carefully apply keywords to direct the right people to your site, who will, in turn, feel satisfied by their search results.

Ultimately, lazy tactics and low-quality content does not win business in the long-term and results in both negative customer experience and potentially severe punishments from Google.

On the other hand, investing in the application of sound SEO practice will help your business to grow and thrive, with potential customers not just visiting, but returning again and again.


Howdy! I’m Yvette, experienced freelance copywriter. If you’d like some help creating fresh, white-hat SEO content, feel free to get in touch.

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