When it Comes to SEO – Which SEO Hat Do You Wear?

When it Comes to SEO – Which Hat Do You Wear? social definition

Let’s Start with Why SEO Matters

Let’s just start with a recap on why SEO matters. SEO, or search engine optimisation, is important because it helps increase the visibility and accessibility of a website in search engine results. When a website appears higher in search engine results, it is more likely to be visited by users, which can lead to increased traffic, revenue, and brand awareness.

SEO is also important because it helps improve the user experience. By optimising website structure and code, creating high-quality and relevant content, and making sure the website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate, a website can provide a better experience for users.

Furthermore, SEO is important because it helps establish trust and credibility with search engines and users. Websites that are optimised for search engines and provide a positive user experience are more likely to be considered credible and trustworthy.

SEO can also be very cost-effective as compared to paid advertising and it can generate a steady flow of organic traffic to your website.

In summary, SEO is important because it helps increase visibility, accessibility, and credibility of a website, which can lead to increased traffic, revenue, and brand awareness. It also helps improve the user experience and is cost-effective as compared to paid advertising.

The SEO Fashion Choice

Having recapped why SEO matters, we need to move on to implementation and the tactics involved. This is where your fashion sense comes into play. Whether you like to wear hats or not, you have to wear one when it comes to SEO. There are 3 SEO hats to choose from: White, Grey & Black. Choose the right one and you’ll be the bell of the ball, choose the wrong one and you’ve everything to loose. Let’s take a look at your choices:

What is White Hat SEO?

White hat SEO refers to the use of ethical and legitimate tactics to improve a website’s search engine rankings. This includes things like creating high-quality content, optimising website structure and code, and building backlinks from reputable sources. The goal of white hat SEO is to improve the user experience and provide value to visitors, rather than tricking or manipulating search engines.

What is Grey Hat SEO?

Grey hat SEO refers to techniques and strategies that fall in between white hat and black hat SEO. These are tactics that may not strictly be in violation of search engine guidelines, but they may be somewhat risky or manipulative. Examples of grey hat SEO include link buying, cloaking, and using automated tools to improve rankings. While these tactics may not result in a penalty or ban from search engines, they may not be sustainable in the long term and can lead to a website’s rankings fluctuating or being penalised in future algorithm updates.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black hat SEO refers to the use of unethical and illegitimate tactics to improve a website’s search engine rankings. These tactics are in violation of search engine guidelines and are intended to manipulate search engine algorithms to gain an unfair advantage. Examples of black hat SEO include keyword stuffing, hidden text, link farms, and purchasing links. These practices can lead to a website being penalised or banned by search engines, and ultimately can harm the website’s reputation and visibility. It is important to note that the use of these techniques can get your website banned from search engines and it’s not recommended.

What Does Each SEO Hat Generally Involve?

Let’s Look at Some White Hat SEO Techniques

  1. Creating high-quality, unique, and relevant content that addresses the needs of your target audience and provides value to them. More specifically, content that matches your audiences ‘search intent’ – aka content that matches the purpose of a user’s online search.
  2. Optimising website structure and code, including using header tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags to improve the user experience and make it easier for search engines to understand the content on the website.
  3. Building backlinks from reputable, relevant, and credible sources, such as other websites, influential peer blog sites or respected industry forums.
  4. Conducting keyword research to identify keywords your target audience are using, avoiding competitive keywords, and using both short-tail and long-tail keywords in an organic – natural way throughout the website’s content and meta tags.
  5. Providing a mobile-friendly and responsive website, as well as optimising for site speed, to provide a good user experience on all devices. Creating a website that gives visitors a ‘Positive User Experience’ is one of Google’s key ranking factors.

To ensure you’re adhering to white hat SEO tactics and not entering the “grey” area of black hat SEO, you should be familiar with Google’s Guidelines for a search friendly web site  which shares how google finds, indexes and ranks a website.

Note, as dominant as Google is, Google isn’t the only search engine, and other search engines have their own guidelines, for example, here’s a link to Bings Webmaster Guidelines.

Now Let’s Look at Some Grey Hat SEO Techniques

  1. Paying for reviews: Google prioritises search results with positive reviews since visitors will usually be happier with these recommendations.  Accruing a few positive reviews can take some time.  You can accelerate this by paying for good reviews.  Morally this is a black hat tactic, but it is very hard for search engines to detect, so this is considered a grey hat tactic. It is this ‘undetectable’ characteristic that defines many grey hat tactics.
  2. Using expired domains: There are domain names that have long histories, but currently no owner, and domains with hundreds of backlinks that are for sale.  You can buy these expired domains and launch a new website that search engines consider reputable with instant authority.
  3. Doorway pages: Creating pages specifically optimised for search engines with the intention of redirecting users to a different page.
  4. Article spinning: Re-writing existing articles (lately using AI software) and adding synonyms, modifying sentence or completely re-writing content but still covering the same information to create faux new, unique content for the purpose of publishing on multiple sites or for backlink building.
  5. Automated tools: Using tools or software to automate the process of creating backlinks, optimising meta tags, and other SEO-related tasks.

If you are left thinking it’s a ‘blurred boundary between black hat and grey hat SEO tactics’, you would be right. It can be a matter of opinion whether a tactic is considered black or grey.

So, you will not be surprised that these techniques are risky or manipulative and, like black hat tactics, can lead to a website’s rankings fluctuating or being penalised in future algorithm updates.  They may not be strictly in violation of search engine guidelines, but they may not be sustainable in the long term and it’s best to avoid them or use them with caution.

Finally, Let’s Look at Some Black Hat SEO Techniques

  • Keyword stuffing: Simply filling up a webpage with keywords, or phrase you want to rank for, to manipulate search engine rankings. Such an old tactic, for some time now search engines have been able to easily detect keyword stuffing, and they will penalise you by simply not ranking your content.
  • Hidden text: Arguably one of the most dishonest black hat SEO tactics, using text that is the same colour as the background of your page to simply hide keywords from users but still have them be visible to search engines.
  • Link farms, Webrings or Blog Networks: Creating many low-quality websites with the purpose of building domain authority, linking back to a main website to manipulate search engine rankings. Another old tactic that used to work, but that is now a direct violation of Googles guidelines.
  • Purchasing links: Having a lot of external websites with links (your URL’s) back to your pages and blogs, etc informs google that your website or content is an authoritative and trustworthy source. Another ageing tactic is buying links from other websites to manipulate the search engines into thinking you have authority that you don’t warrant.  Once again, this is in violation of most search engines guidelines. These websites are quickly found by search engines, labelled as ‘spam’ and you will receive a penalty for participating.
  • Cloaking: This is a tactic where you show different content to search engines than you show to users. Again, this is designed to manipulate search engine rankings, and if google ‘think’ you are part of one, you will be penalised.

It’s worth noting that at the time of writing, these techniques are in violation of search engine guidelines and can lead to penalties or even a complete ban from search engines. There are many more tactics:

  • Sponsored pages
  • Sponsored posts
  • Hidden Links
  • Footer Links
  • Blog comment spamming
  • Schema markup abuse
  • Rich snippet spam
  • Article spinning
    and many more.

And new tactics appear all the time – accompanied by, often exaggerated, seductive claims to success, because they can/do work, for a while. However, all these tactics are eventually identified by the search engines, dealt with – and overnight proponents find their website penalised, ranking falls and search traffic stops.

When you see posts in groups and forums, bemoaning a ‘secret’ update in the search algorithms that has wiped out someone’s ranking and organic traffic – and there’s been no such update, that’s someone that’s been caught gaming the search engines.

We cannot state strongly enough that all black hat tactics should be avoided, sooner or later they will harm your website’s reputation and visibility, damage that can take months to recover from or even resulting in your website getting banned from search results.

When Should You Use White Hat SEO Tactics?

White hat SEO tactics should be used whenever a website is being optimised for search engines. These tactics are considered ethical and legitimate and are following search engine guidelines. They are focused on providing a positive user experience, creating high-quality and relevant content, and building backlinks from reputable sources.

White hat SEO tactics can provide a long-term and sustainable strategy for improving a website’s search engine rankings. They are also more likely to drive organic traffic and engagement which is beneficial for a website’s reputation and visibility.

In summary, it’s recommended to always use white hat SEO tactics to build a strong and sustainable website that will benefit both visitors and search engines.

When Should You Use Black or Grey Hat SEO Tactics?

We can’t put this any simpler – Black, or Grey, hat SEO tactics should never be used.

They are considered unethical and in violation of search engine guidelines and are an open challenge to the search engine algorithms. These tactics are intended to game, manipulate search engine algorithms to gain an unfair advantage, but they can lead to penalties or even a complete ban from search engines.
Using black or grey hat SEO tactics can provide short-term gains, but it comes with too high a risk of penalty and long-term damage to your business and website’s reputation. It is not recommended to use these techniques as they can lead to your website being removed from search engine indexes and can harm your online reputation.

Instead of using black hat SEO tactics, it is recommended to focus on creating high-quality and relevant content, optimising website structure and code, and building backlinks from reputable sources. These white hat SEO tactics will provide a long-term and sustainable strategy for improving a website’s search engine rankings and reputation.

In Summary – Are You Wearing the Right SEO Hat?

White hat SEO refers to the use of ethical and legitimate tactics to improve a website’s search engine rankings. This includes things like creating high-quality content, optimising website structure and code, and building backlinks from reputable sources. The goal of white hat SEO is to improve the user experience and provide value to visitors, rather than tricking or manipulating search engines. It’s recommended to always use white hat SEO tactics to build a strong and sustainable website that will benefit both visitors and search engines.

Black hat SEO refers to the use of unethical and illegitimate tactics to improve a website’s search engine rankings. These tactics are in violation of search engine guidelines and are intended to manipulate search engine algorithms to gain an unfair advantage. Examples of black hat SEO include keyword stuffing, hidden text, link farms, and purchasing links. These practices can lead to a website being penalised or banned by search engines, and ultimately can harm the website’s reputation and visibility. It is not recommended to use these techniques as they can lead to your website being removed from search engine indexes and can harm your online reputation.

Grey hat SEO refers to techniques and strategies that fall in between white hat and black hat SEO. These are tactics that may not strictly be in violation of search engine guidelines, but they may be somewhat risky or manipulative. Examples of grey hat SEO include link buying, cloaking, and using automated tools to improve rankings. While these tactics may not result in a penalty or ban from search engines, they may not be sustainable in the long term and can lead to a website’s rankings fluctuating or being penalised in future algorithm updates. It’s generally not recommended to use grey hat SEO tactics. It’s best to avoid them or use them with caution.

Finally

If you are researching SEO, considering your SEO strategies, or looking for inspiration and new idea’s (hopefully we have convinced you to stay with white hat tactics!) you might consider conducting an SEO audit of your website (here’s an article we wrote on the subject) to discover what is working, what is not working and benchmarking your website against your competitors. This process can help you better understand the effectiveness of your current SEO strategy and give you a baseline to build upon.

If you’ve already considered an audit, want to move forwards and you’d like to discuss social:definition carrying out a detailed full website SEO audit, please get in contact with us using the details you’ll find anywhere on our website or using the form on this page. We’ll arrange a suitable time to have an initial Zoom call, go through costings and our SEO audit checklist so that you know what exactly we’ll be doing for you to create the detailed report, and if you are happy to go ahead, we’ll gather some additional information from you to get things started and ask for you to come back to us with some further information and access to accounts where required.

If you’re still unsure that a full website SEO audit is the way to move forwards, why not hop across to our introductory website audit page. When there, just add your domain details, email address and telephone number and we’ll run a 25-page website SEO audit free for your website. You’ll receive an email (usually within 30 minutes) with an overview of how these first 25 pages fair.

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