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The Difference Between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO

Feb 21, 2019
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The Difference Between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO

When developing an inbound marketing strategy and generating traffic through links, marketers face a choice to either play by the rules of search engines or cheat. Some in the industry classify these strategies, and those who employ them, as either White Hat or Black Hat SEO.

In this article, we will help you learn the differences between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO and make you aware of some of the strategies you should be using and those which you should avoid.

White Hat SEO

According to WordStream, White Hat SEO refers to the SEO tactics that are in line with the terms and conditions of the major search engines, including Google. Generally, White Hat SEO refers to any practice that improves search engine rankings on a search engine results page (SERP) while maintaining the integrity of your website and staying within the search engines’ terms of service. You can see Google’s SEO terms here.

Search engines want to make it as fair as possible for websites to rank. This is why White Hat SEO strategies are by far the most successful. Here are some examples of White Hat SEO techniques:

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is the process of writing a blog post on someone else’s blog. Blogging as a guest is a great way to increase your search rankings in search engines because it helps you earn backlinks, or links that connect back to your site from the blog you are appearing on. Google likes to see links leading back to your site because it’s a vote of confidence. If sites are linking to you, it means you’re providing valuable, interesting, and quality content. Keep in mind that there are “good links” and “bad links.” Be sure all off-site links are relevant and offer high-quality content, as well.

Producing Quality Content

The more content-rich your site is, the better your odds are of ranking. It is important to produce quality content that meets your visitors’ needs and helps them solve their problems. Use an SEO keyword research tool, like Serpstat, to help identify the most relevant keywords for which your content should be optimized. Focus your content around the keywords that help address some of the common issues and questions your user may have.

Internal Links

Internal links, or linking to content within your own site, indicates to search engines that your site has value. Be sure to never “overstuff” internal links. Search engines may mark this as spam, which makes it extremely difficult to rank. A good rule of thumb is two or three links to core pages or other blog posts on your site.

Black Hat SEO

According to Search Engine Journal, Black Hat SEOs are the “gun-slinging outlaws” of the internet because they rely on rule-breaking techniques to earn higher rankings. Black Hat SEO strategies typically focus only on search engines and not on human audiences. Black Hat SEO is used more frequently by those who are looking for a quick financial return on their website, as opposed to making a long-term investment in growing their business.

Black Hat techniques are incredibly risky and are quickly detected by search engines. Consequently, sites that employ these strategies are often banned or penalized with a lower rank. Here are some examples of Black Hat SEO techniques:

Keyword Stuffing

Various sources deem keyword stuffing as an unethical search engine optimization technique. According to HubSpot, keyword stuffing refers to the practice of filling your content with irrelevant keywords in an attempt to manipulate where the page ranks on search results pages. An example of this is repeating the same words of phrases so often that it sounds unnatural. While this leads to a poor experience for users, it may also cause your page to rank for irrelevant queries.

Invisible Text

Black Hat SEOs often employ the invisible text technique where they hide text or links within their content in an effort to improve their rankings. This is done by adding white text on a white background or using a very small font size. No matter how it is performed, invisible text is identified as search spam by each of the major search engines.


Cloaking is a deceptive technique that involves presenting visitors and search engines completely different content. Black Hat SEOs use this technique in hopes to make their content rank for a variety of terms that are irrelevant to their content.

In order to be successful in SEO, it is important to do whatever you can to avoid search engine penalties. SEO can be a lengthy process, but staying within the White Hat lines is a sure way to rank.

Looking to improve your SEO strategy? At SMA, we specialize in White Hat SEO strategies guaranteed to help your ranking improve. Check out our On-Page SEO Guide where we detail ethical and effective SEO best practices. Click below to download our FREE On-Page SEO Guide!

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Amanda Marra

By Amanda Marra

Amanda is SMA's Lead SEO Strategist working from her home office in Port Orange, FL. She is passionate about SEO and the Inbound Methodology. As a Florida native, she enjoys spending her spare time at the beach with her beloved dogs, Bentley and Kona.

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