The Black and White of SEO
This is an article “The Black and White of SEO” by Marc Primo Warren
Search engine optimization (SEO) is like a chess match. You’ll have to strategize and plot your next moves to obtain better online traffic to your website and higher rankings in the search results. Like chess, there are also the blacks and whites in every search engine platform’s laws and restrictions for fair advertising. While applying black hat and white hat SEO tactics have their respective pros and cons, it’s important to familiarize yourself properly with what they are, or else, suffer unwanted results.
Regardless of how you may view these strategies, they remain a big part of everyone’s digital marketing technique and understanding how search engines like Google, Firefox, or Safari work is always top priority. White hat SEO can deliver slower results than its counterpart, but resorting to the latter to circumvent algorithms may backfire and lose more potential loyal customers or get your website banned.
In this article, we define what white hat and black hat SEO are to see which strategies can best work for you.
White hat SEO
White hat tactics deal with following the terms and conditions of the search engine platform to improve your search rank. It’s all about practicing a no-nonsense level of compliance to uphold the integrity of your website and honoring the platform’s advertising rules and guidelines.
For example, instead of resorting to overstuffing for your on-page SEO, you may want to maintain your high-quality content streak to offer more precise answers or solutions to your target audiences.
As SEO in general aims to comprehend search engine behavior concerning how users look for what they need online or what their preferences are, these best practices are good tactics to gain more reliable data analytics and insights. Positive results may be slow to manifest but if you stick with every search engine platform’s objective to provide better user experiences, you’d still be on the right track.
Some of the best techniques to perform when taking the white hat route are improving your site speed, ensuring that your website is optimized not just for desktops but for mobile devices as well, applying efficient descriptions via keyword-rich meta tags for both on-page and off-page SEO, and making your website user-friendly and easy to navigate.
As Google’s updates and algorithms are becoming more and more precise and discriminating, practicing white hat tactics can ensure that your website’s landing pages don't get banned from the search engine platform or at least rank lower than usual. No one wants to optimize their websites just to experience drastic drops in online traffic and eventually reduce potential leads for the business. This is why most marketers prefer to go with white hat SEO rather than the riskier black hat tactics that can result in a lifetime ban. And when you get banned for life on Google, there’s no assurance you can get re-enlisted on the platform.
Black hat SEO
If black hat SEO is not recommended, then why the need to discuss it?
For one thing, black hat tactics are there for a reason. They offer immediate results, specifically in spiking your website traffic. If you discover a way to circumvent search engine algorithms, you can potentially rank your site up to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Still, they are not considered as the best practices in the SEO playing field.
However, for comparison’s sake, let’s delve into how it works and what risks come with the package.
In a nutshell, black hat SEO is the direct opposite of white hat in that the tactics and techniques you use usually do not comply with the standard rules and guidelines set by any search engine platform. Some marketers use these tactics to drastically increase a website’s page rank regardless of how unorthodox and unacceptable they are in the industry. No, they are not illegal – but are frowned upon by most just the same.
Among the prevalent examples of black hat SEO out there include overstuffing on-page content to circumvent search engine algorithms, using private link networks, reusing content, and applying redirects or cloaking.
However, these days, deliberate keyword stuffing for higher rankings can easily be detected by search engine algorithms such as that of Google’s. This black hat tactic has long been eradicated in the industry with several updates that have optimized Core Web Vitals and GoogleBot’s detection and comprehension of similar phrases or synonyms to further uphold fair SEO practices. So, it’s definitely a ‘no-no’ to mention ‘best fitness subscription offer’ 100 times in your 500-word article. At present standards, a 1-2% keyword density or up to twice for every 100 words is enough.
Such updates are also becoming more evolved in detecting other black hat tactics such as the use of link farms (several landing pages that bait search engine users to multiple blogs from a single business), and tag them as spam.
Blocks of content that are reused across multiple domains and share striking similarities among them are also considered as deceptive to the user, as well as cloaking (inconsistent search engine content and landing page), and are immediately flagged by search engine algorithms.
Pull a Checkmate on your SEO tactics
In 2021, despite all the major core updates that Google has rolled out recently, some black hat tactics remain effective for guerilla digital marketers.
Image mirroring is one tactic that uses common stock photos that the algorithm doesn’t recognize anymore. Then there’s using various locations for global businesses wherein your IP is set at a US territory (as Google arguably prioritizes local locations more than others), while containing location keywords on your website content. With the many available VPN host providers out there, anyone who knows their SEO tech can easily perform location indexing.
Another modern black hat tactic involves using an inverted index. Here, a marketer takes a competitor’s best ranking keywords and uses them with line breaks while filtering articles and irrelevant terms to avoid detection. Using four to five of these keywords efficiently on a unique content of around 300-words can result in the website outranking that competitor.
Though white hat SEO will always be the highly recommended practice, black hat tactics are still being used by some marketers who don’t mind risking their ad accounts and aim for quick solutions and measures that effectively work around search engine algorithms. Just always bear in mind that when Google finds out about your ‘spamdexing’ tactics and other naughty little SEO tricks, you might as well expect your website to get banned soon – and forever.