Black Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO

The difference between black hat and white hat SEO relates to the specific techniques used when trying to improve the search engine ranking of a website or web page. Search engine optimization (also known as SEO) is the process of optimizing a website or web page to rank better in search results for specific search terms. By doing this, search visibility and the volume of traffic to a website is improved. Search engine optimization has become a new and important form of marketing thanks to the rise of search engines like Google. SEO is a desired online marketing strategy. In fact, surveys of business owners show that a strong seo campaign is the most sought-after marketing strategy of businesses in America.

But how do search engines work?

Search engines have programs called robots or crawlers. These crawlers read the internet, visiting website after website, reading page after page. They run 24/7, 365 days a year, and never stop. Their sole job it to make sense of what everything is on the internet in order to give searchers the most relative search results possible. They categorize the internet based on a complex algorithm that they run off of.

Here is an example:

Let’s say you are looking at a website about a local fruit stand and you are on a page about the different types of apples they sell. You can simply look at the page and know what it’s about. Search engine crawlers have more obstacles to jump in order to know what the page is about. This is where their algorithm comes in. Their algorithm gives them a certain criteria to go by in order to properly find out what the page is about and compare it’s relevancy and authority to other websites about the same topic.

When the search engine crawler looks at the page, all it sees is strings of text and code. It will look at things such as the written content of the page. It will cipher through and count how many times a word shows up. It will also count how many times a phrase shows up. These give signals to them as to what the page is relevant about.

It goes deeper than that though. When it looks at pictures on the page you have to remember, it can’t see a simple picture of an apple like we can. All it sees is code and strings of text. It’ll look at the code and see that it’s a picture. Then it looks at the file name of the picture, the location of the picture, the alt text of the picture, the caption of the picture, and so on. Let’s say the file name is Green_Apple_1 and the alt text is Green Apple and the Caption is Green Apples. In this case, the search engine will deem the picture as a picture related to Green Apple.

These crawlers look at things such as links into the page (like a link on another page of your website saying “See Our Apples”), meta descriptions of the page, titles of your page, the url of the page (, and so on. In fact, there are over 200 known search engine ranking factors!

What are all of the search engine ranking factors?

The fact of the matter is that we don’t know them all for 100% certainty. They also change constantly as Google and other search engines update their search engine algorithms to enhance their search engine’s relevancy. These search engine ranking factors are closely guarded secrets and to find them out, SEO experts around the globe spend day and night testing different methods of enhancing a websites search results. This is how we figure out what works and what doesn’t and at the moment, true SEO experts who actually do their research and know their trade are well educated on what works and what doesn’t. The right SEO company or SEO expert can get almost any website or web page ranking better for particular keywords.

So, SEO company’s and SEO experts can manipulate search engine rankings?

The simple answer is yes. There are two sides of this though and it’s where what’s called White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO come into play.

Black Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO

The difference between Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO is relates to what techniques are used when applying search engine optimization principles.

Black Hat SEO refers to SEO techniques that go against current search engine guidelines. Black Hat SEO performers attempt to improve a websites rankings in ways that are not approved by search engines and usually involve deception.

White Hat SEO refers to the SEO techniques that follow search engine guidelines. White Hat SEO Experts attempt to improve a websites rankings by using good methods that comply with everything search engines want.

Here are the Pros and Cons of Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO:

Black Hat SEO Pros:

  • Improved Rankings
  • Less Work Needed
  • Faster Climb Up The Search Engine Rankings

Black Hat SEO Cons:

  • Subject to getting hit hard by search engine updates
  • No future search engine rank security
  • Unethical
  • Not user friendly
  • Can get your website banned by search engines
  • Can get your website blacklisted by search engines

White Hat SEO Pros:

  • Improved rankings
  • Ethical
  • User friendly
  • Once you get to the top of the rankings, you stay there
  • No risk of falling in rankings due to a search engine update

White Hat SEO Cons:

  • Slower ranking process
  • More Work Involved

Which technique should I use?

You should always use White Hat Search Engine Optimization. Granted, many solo-ventures and SEO companies have made a good amount of money off black hat techniques but they are almost always short lived. Google is constantly on the hunt for black hat websites and black hat performers. The only good thing that comes out of black hat SEO is that Google and other search engines constantly improve the internet and it’s search results by constantly updating their algorithms to combat black hat SEO techniques. White Hat SEO gives you stability, trust, and authority. Black Hat SEO only gives you a short-lived jump in search engine rankings and the back-lash of it could be catastrophic. A good example of a famous brand that fell victim to Google for applying black hat techniques is JC Penney. Back in 2010, JC Penney was ranking very well for a variety of different keywords. The first news about JC Penney’s black hat SEO was published by The New York Times that same year. The investigation process found that JC Penney has thousands of links from unrelated websites to theirs. Google (along with other search engines) took immediate action against this violation of their terms and conditions and punished the store severely. They were actually lucky to not get banned or blacklisted all together. But what did happen was such a severe drop in their rankings that the prestigious online store of JC Penney was almost impossible to find unless you were specifically searching for it. The SEO company that JC Penney had hired was fired but the financial damage of this incident wouldn’t be so easy to recover from.

To close, here are a few examples of White Hat SEO Techniques and Black Hat SEO Techniques to better educate yourself on the difference between the two.

White Hat SEO Techniques:

  • Focusing on your viewers
  • Creating unique, quality content.
  • Website optimization
  • Guest blogging
  • Internal linking
  • Semantic mark-up
  • Link baiting
  • Meta-tagging
  • Geo-tagging
  • etc.

Black Hat SEO Techniques:

  • Hidden text on your website
  • Hidden links on your website
  • Cloaking or sneaky re-directs
  • Duplicate content on your website
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Doorway pages just for search engines
  • Cookie stuffing techniques
  • Pages that send automated queries to Google
  • Link farming
  • etc.


By Eric Rothmuller
Chief Strategist
Sky Marketing