White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO … Or Good Guys vs. Bad Guys

March 12, 2013

The good guys wear the white hats. And the bad guys get left laying in the dust along with their funky black hats.

Maybe you’ve heard of it … White Hat SEO as opposed to Black Hat SEO practices. You probably figured out by now that the terminology is ultimately stolen from the western movie genre.

White Hat is what a hero in a western film was called while the villain was known as the Black Hat. The Lone Ranger is a classic example of a White Hat. Now, you should be able to easily identify who the bad guys are and who the good guy is in the following Once Upon a Time in the West clip.

Westerns are fun, but watching them won’t get your site a top ranking in Google. Proper SEO techniques, on the other hand, will. Practicing the ways of the Black Hat will get you thrown into the virtual Crowbar Hotel. (That’s jail for those not down with the western lingo.)

The Basics

White Hat – search engine optimization techniques that focus on relevancy of content for the end user and adhere to search engine rules and polices used to obtain an advantageous organic ranking.

Check Webopedia for another more lengthy definition.

Black Hat – aggressive search engine tactics that focus solely on search engine and not the end user. Short term returns are often the goal and not long term development of the website. Sites can be banned from search engine results.

Webopedia’s definition is here.

With White Hat there is really no risk for a website. The idea is to create a really well done site that serves the end user’s needs first and foremost. Black Hat or spamdexing as it is called sometimes is only about the owner of the website and what they can gain.

The Techniques

Getting the most out of your search engine ranking involves following the rules. Using the best practices for SEO will help a website rank higher more quickly. So, what are the rules to follow? We’ll cover some of the best things to do to optimize your site. Keep in mind, this is not exhaustive.

What SHOULD be done:

  1. On Page Optimization
    1. Head Tags including Title, Description and Keywords
    2. Heading Tags – <h1>, <h2>, etc.
    3. Content Length – Best: 800+ Good: 450+ Poor: Less than 250
    4. Alt Tags – use these to effectively describe images
  2. Site Wide Optimization
    1. Sitemap – an XML and HTML version is preferred
    2. Text Navigation – to insure the search engine spiders can read them
    3. Robots.txt File – helps spiders index website
    4. Privacy Statement – it’s a good practice to have on the site

What should NOT be done:

  1. Unrelated Keywords – i.e. Mickey Mouse loves hims some Johnny Be Good Hamburgers.
  2. Keyword Stuffing – overusing a keyword throughout the text so that it is unreadable.
  3. Hidden Text – coloring the text so that it blends into the background. Very easy to identify for the spiders.
  4. Link Farms – linking to a group of low quality sites that interlink to one another.
  5. Blog Spamming – software that will generate keyword phrases that are otherwise unintelligible.

This list could go one from here, but this give a good idea of what to avoid. Generally speaking creating a White Hat site should be fairly natural. It will take hard work. Sometimes the Black Hat techniques are just as much work. All that effort should be channeled into creating a site that helps others.

White Hat SEO practices will take time. Long term results are the focus. If a website is being built for long term purposes, it should be done organically. Organic in the sense that the site, content, linking, etc should grow naturally over time.

Stay away from Black Hat techniques. You do not want to be the bad guy. The good guys always win.


About the Author


Mark is a marketer and sometimes writer. He's trying to get better at that sometimes thing.

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