SEO is a vast topic with a range of approaches, commonly bucketed into three categories: white hat, gray hat and black hat. As you likely assume from the names, some approaches are considered good while others are questionable or poor.

White hat SEO abides by best practices — and it’s the only type we recommend! It refers to techniques and practices that maintain high search rankings while complying with the search engines’ guidelines.

Gray hat SEO is a less common form of marketing that uses some tricks to rank higher in search engines without completely violating Google’s guidelines, but they still toe the line. And in the ever-evolving algorithm world, toeing the line can mean crossing the line very quickly.

Black hat SEO involves sneaky methods to rank higher quickly without following the rules set by Google or other search engines. These techniques will be penalized by Google once caught.


Why is White Hat SEO the Best Strategy?

Search engines design their algorithms to identify the highest-quality content on the web. The term “white hat SEO” was coined to describe a type of SEO that works with the algorithms, rather than trying to game the system. For example, white hat techniques focus on search intent, relevancy, usability and the page experience. Content contains strategic keyword phrases without stuffing, Core Web Vitals are top of mind, and select pages are optimized.

Fun fact: “White hat” refers to the old Western movies where the hero wore a white cowboy hat, which symbolized that he was an honest man who did not cheat or steal.


The Gray Hat Strategy: Is It Okay?

Gray hat SEO is a controversial topic. It’s not necessarily illegal, though it can be considered unethical or pointless, and the poor practices eventually end up on the black side.

A gray hat strategy could involve developing content purely for the purpose of ranking the page higher. It has just enough keywords and information to get visitors to the page, but it’s often irrelevant, doesn’t add value and linking practices may be questionable.

A classic example of gray hat SEO is keyword stuffing; instead of writing for the user, you’d be writing solely for Google. It would come off sounding very robotic. This approach was once widely used in the SEO world, but Google and other search engines have gotten much smarter. You may not be penalized; but it just wouldn’t work, and it’d be a waste of time.

Some people argue that they are not doing anything wrong because they don’t violate any of Google’s guidelines, while others claim that using gray hat techniques actually do violate the guidelines and will eventually lead to penalties. It’s the ultimate gray area.


The Major Disadvantages of Black Hat SEO Strategies<

Black hat SEO refers to manipulating the search engine results to quickly rank higher and generate more traffic, but it comes with huge disadvantages.

Some black hat techniques would involve paying for links to your content (instead of creating valuable content that would rank naturally), private blog networks (PBNs) and cloaking – serving content that is different for search engines and users.

Several disadvantages of black hat SEO are:

  • Google penalties: This is the most common penalty that you will face if you use black hat SEO techniques. Your website ranking will drop drastically, and in extreme cases, your website content will be removed from Google completely.
  • Negative effects on user experience: When people use black hat techniques, they are typically trying to game the system and rank for keywords without providing any value for their users. When this happens, it doesn’t just affect your rankings, it is also unethical and negatively impacts your user experience.
  • Increased risk of malware infection for users: Malicious code is often used for black hat techniques, such as cloaking and keyword stuffing.

Black hat techniques may appear useful short-term, but they are certain to backfire.


White Hat SEO: The Most Effective Way to Successfully Market Your Business Online

White hat SEO is so effective because it follows all the guidelines set by Google and other search engine providers. It is a long-term approach, but it pays off to attract the right traffic and enhance the user experience.

If you are interested in boosting your online presence with white hat SEO techniques, Aker Ink’s digital marketing professionals can help. Learn more about our content marketing and inbound marketing services.