The terms white hat SEO and black hat SEO have been around for a long time. It is easy to determine if one method or the other is being used to improve rankings for a web site.
The use of the terms white hat and black hat methods is derived from a reference to the old cowboy movies where the good guys always wore the white hats and the bad guys wore the black hats. The good guys were always honest and trustworthy, while the bad guys were sneaky and had no regard for the law. The same is true in the world of search engine optimization.
To state it in simple terms, white hat SEO techniques are methods that adhere to the webmaster guidelines published by the major search engines. Google, Yahoo and MSN (Bing) each publish list of what they consider to be good and bad site building techniques. It is worthwhile to review the guidelines pages, because many site building techniques with innocent intentions result in penalties because the method violates a search engine guideline.
You can find the guidelines listed here:
Black hat techniques are methods that ignore search engine guidelines and use techniques intended to deceive search engine spiders in order to give a site an advantage in search engine rankings. Most black hat techniques do work, but if the methods are detected by a spider, the site will very likely be penalized or possibly banned from a search engine’s index. While most black hat techniques work, they only work until you get caught. If you have invested a lot of time and money in your web site, it is not worth the risk of being banned by a major search engine, especially if that search engine is Google. Basically, almost any method that can result in a penalty can be classified as a black hat technique.
So what are white hat SEO techniques?
White hat SEO techniques are methods that follow the webmaster guidelines. With white hat SEO, you are building a site that has the potential to rank well naturally, without any risk of being penalized by the search engines. Here are a few examples of good white hat methods. We have also identified the methods that can be mistaken for black hat SEO techniques.
- Write absolutely unique, informational content that provides useful information or helps solve a problem for users. Do not copy content from other web sites or duplicate a web site under a different domain name.
- Do not stuff pages full of keywords. Write for your users, but keep search engines in mind while doing so.
- Build sites with good internal linking structures so that spiders can find all of your pages. If your site is large or contains more than 100 pages, consider using an XML sitemap to help spiders find all of the pages.
- Do not use hidden text or hidden links.
- Write articles about topics that people search for. This type of information will attract links naturally. Avoid using excessive reciprocal links or listing a site in hundreds of directories. Those types of links will look artificial.
- Do not try to deceive users or install unwanted software or malware on their PCs.
What it comes down to is that when you play by the rules, you are using white hat SEO techniques. If you use techniques intended to circumvent the rules or deceive search engines spiders, the methods are black hat.
It is a good idea to periodically read through the webmaster guidelines pages, because they do change. Frequently, when we see a change, it is published prior to a change in a search engine’s ranking algorithm. Also, be aware that many methods that were once considered acceptable white hat SEO methods are now black hat techniques due to changes in the webmaster guidelines.