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Black Hat vs. White Hat Search Engine Optimization

July 20th, 2009

white-black-hat-seo.jpgWhat is the difference between black hat and white hat SEO methods? Because of the constantly improving security measures of major search engines, SEO firms and experts should be more wary about the techniques they use, and should also be aware of the adverse consequences that may occur if we try to trick the search engines into giving us higher rankings by using black hat SEO techniques.

Across the World Wide Web, practitioners of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can choose to either be conventional or unconventional with their methods. To take the lead in the ever-changing race for page rankings means to play by the rules, or to join the dark side. Such is the dichotomy now known as White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. Judging from the colors, it’s fairly easy to determine which side is which.

Why White Hat versus Black Hat?

Besides being two extreme ends of the color spectrum, black and white have been common examples to illustrate the difference between good and evil. The use of the word “hat” was derived from classic western TV shows and movies, where good and bad cowboys were set apart by the color of their headgear. Back then, TV sets didn’t have RGB colors, so viewers were used to identifying the heroes and villains by these attributes.

In the same light, there are search engine optimizers and web experts who differ in the methods they employ. Because winning the top most spot in Google takes a lot of time and effort, there are those who choose to find unethical means of deceiving search engine bots and Internet users.

Black Hat Search Engine Optimization Techniques

Initially, a good page rank might be achieved when one goes by Black Hat SEO, but chances are it will not be sustained for long. Mentioned below are some common naughty tricks that Black Hat optimizers use on their websites.

Keyword stuffing: Major search engines like Yahoo and Google usually allow a keyword density of less than 5%. Content writers who go Black Hat create text that is chock full of keywords, with little or no relevance to the reader at all. This is only a way of tricking spiders by providing food like keywords so they can immediately index the page or site.

Hidden text: If they don’t want the highly dense keywords to be seen by readers, then they can hide them behind images, or blend the font color with the background. Only spiders or bots can detect these hidden texts.

Link farming: Because bots and spiders use links on pages to go to the next one to be indexed, it is understood that more links means a better chance of getting noticed by search engines. However, the quality of links is also vital. Link farms are sites that contain nothing but links, often with no relation to each other, only as a means of directing spiders to pages where Black Hat tricksters want them to go.

Gateway pages: There are certain sites among the top 10 in Google, but when the link is clicked, the browser points to a different page. Some sites show a “redirecting” message, but the reality is that the traffic is purposely driven to a site that is not of interest or use to the web surfer.

Why You Should Say “No” to Black Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO practitioners often walk on thin ice. It is only a matter of time until Google, Yahoo, and other search engines discover ways to beat them. At present, there are programs and tools on such sites that can detect Black Hat techniques. As more and more web users are becoming vigilant, even regular surfers can report suspicious SEO activity to Google, and potentially have that site banned and wiped off the listings.

If you want to keep your website productive and in good standing with your favorite search engine, then forget about short cuts and Black Hat tricks. You’ll be glad you stuck with the guidelines.

Having known the basics of White Hat against Black Hat SEO, one can debunk that age-old saying “nice guys finish last.” This simply doesn’t apply to the SEO game. It’s better to play by the rules and stay ahead longer than it is to cheat your way to the top only to fall even harder.


Anna Brillon is an online freelance writer for Constant Content who has produced 10 articles and 4 sales.


3 Responses to “Black Hat vs. White Hat Search Engine Optimization”

  1. comment number 1 by: Extra Long Ties

    with black-hat seo you’ll have better results , but only for limited time,after that you’ll be banned and your domain will die.
    so white-hat seo rulez.

  2. comment number 2 by: 285fpb

    the black hat is for short time and the domain will die, and the white-hat is for long-time SEO and you will always have same results.

  3. comment number 3 by: Samuel Symes

    Myths and rumors abound on the being banned for cloaking issue, and five experts will probably give you six different answers … Well, here is mine: ……don’t be fooled by the hype!

    Can your core web site get banned by the search engines for cloaking? If that was true, then your competitor could build some cloaked domains and point them to your primary web site so that it would be banned! Think of the damage that would be done if that was at all true. Not a very likely scenario, is it?

    So can you really have your “cloaked” domains banned for cloaking? The answer is yes – if, for example, the search engines’ staff have manually checked and compared your spider content with what you are actually serving your human visitors. In a worst case scenario a human editor may come along to check the matter out.

    On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that you will get penalized or banned unless some silly campaign build mistake has taken place. If a cloaking campaign is implemented professionally and with sound marketing techniques, your chances of being banned are minimal.

    Note that I do NOT condone cloaking for misleading purposes: it is counter productive and will only serve to make life more difficult for all parties concerned.

    So can cloaking be abused? Sure it can! But so are kitchen knives and painkillers. I for my part have never advocated misleading search engine optimization, if only because it’s dumb marketing. There’s no excuse in the world for misleading visitors like that and it certainly doesn’t seem to pay off either, which is why the SERPs is actually seeing less and less of such practices these days.

    But let’s face realities here: while the search engines may take a strong-arm stance against cloaking in public, they don’t really seem to worry too much about it in everyday life, even if they state otherwise.

    One of the reasons being that there’s so much legitimate cloaking about, it would simply be impossible to weed it all out. Else, you might well expect the world’s top 1000 web properties to disappear from the SERPs.

    It’s quite important to realize this fact before fretting about the possible penalization of cloaking, as so many clueless SEOs are preaching, without a single tangible proof of what they’re claiming to know absolutely everything about.

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