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White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO: A Case of Good Against Evil? - Awkward Media
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White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO: A Case of Good Against Evil?

There is a Darker Side to SEO

You're going to have to forgive me. I have a feeling that if you're not a fantasy fan, you will probably find this post incredibly insufferable. If, however, you're brave enough to venture into a magical world wherein good is good and bad is evil, you will, by the end of this journey, be forced to choose sides. Just kidding. Kind of. The side you choose will largely have an impact on how you boost your SEO. It may already be a reflection of your current website practices. Only you can decide. We are, of course, talking about white hat and black hat SEO.

Is This Matter Really Black or White?

Before we delve too deeply into the murky depths of black hat SEO, note that some people don't actually see these tactics as so binary. Is there actual truth behind the vilifying of black hat SEO and the glorifying of white hat? In the words of Moz, "Over time, these distinctions have become little more than caricatures, cartoon villains and heroes that only exist in our individual imaginations, usually embellished to suit our marketing agendas." So, take my hyperbolizing as seriously as you wish. Meanwhile, let's get back to our fantasy world. giphy (3)

Once Upon a Time...

There was darkness. A void. This void called itself black hat SEO. Black hat SEO doesn't care how it gets the job done, just that the end is successful. Kind of like a mercenary. Black hat SEO represents low-brow tactics that give your SEO a quick boost. Whereas white hat is concerned with the end user's experience, black hat SEO is all about exploiting search engines to boost rankings. I imagine this is what the search engine world was built on before ethical and highly policed practices came along. In the beginning of the search engine universe, there was probably not a lot that websites couldn't do.   [caption id="attachment_1307" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Beware! Black hat can be very charming Beware! Black hat can be very charming[/caption]

Alas, Times Have Changed

Here are some basic black hat practices, and if you've been writing blogs for some time, you will definitely recognize them as SEO no-nos:
  1. Content Hiding
    1. Basically, sneakily adding and inserting links, keywords and other optimized content through code, which isn't seen on the page, but which is indexable by search engines. Some might call that cheating...or evil. It's like doubling your chances of winning at cards.
  2. Keyword Stuffing
    1. We've written about the futility of keyword stuffing many times in the past. Keyword stuffing is using the same set of keywords or phrases to ensure search engine indexability. These days, keyword stuffing is not only annoying, but it also won't get you very far. When the big guns at Google, Bing, and Yahoo come across content stuffed more than a Thanksgiving turkey, your rankings will suffer.
  3. Link Farming or buying backlinks
    1. Instead of earning your links, you buy them or get them by some other nefarious means. Backlinks from these sites may lead to greater indexing in the beginning, but current SEO practices care more about the quality of backlinks than the quantity.
  4. Spamdexing
    1. Basically doing anything you can to manipulate search engines in order to be ranked higher, without any care for the quality of content.
  5. Duplicating content, pages, websites
    1. The purpose of duplicating content and web pages is essentially the same as spamdexing, which is to build up fake content that is rife with keywords in order to climb higher on search engine result pages.

Black Hat = Red Flag

If you're curious to see even MORE black hat SEO behaviours, check out this link. It should be said that if you're looking to hire an SEO firm, make sure that they don't employ these tactics to boost your SEO. Your website may get ahead in the beginning, but if you're looking for long-term, sustainable optimization, white hat is the way to go. Just for the record, Awkward Media considers itself a white hat kind of company. giphy (1)

And Then a Hero Comes Along

Imagine white hat SEO riding in on a white steed, rescuing damsel websites from their penalized states and cleaning up the messes left behind by the villainous black hat! All hail white hat SEO! In a nutshell, white hat SEO is everything that black hat is not. It's polite, on the level, adheres to common practices and stays within the confines of legitimate optimization. In other words, it doesn't try to cheat its way to the top. Rather, it works its way to the top with good old fashioned hard work.

The following are common white hat procedures:

  1. Up-to-date SEO Practices
    1. Many black hat tricks employ old and outdated practices. You could still be using them without even realizing that you're putting your website at risk. A great way to fix this problem is to hire a bona fide SEO firm.
  2. Semantic Keywords
    1. The opposite of keyword stuffing. Semantic keywords reach a wider audience, make your content more enjoyable to read and can significantly improve your ranking.
  3. Quality Content
    1. Give your customers something of value. This is the basis of content marketing. The more interesting, educational, entertaining and inspirational your content, the more likely it will be viewed (and shared) by more people.
  4. Backlink Earning
    1. Backlink building is all about networking and associating yourself with other websites of authority. In a big way, you are who you hang out with. So try not to associate with spammy link farms if you want to be seen as a legitimate website.
  5. Mobile Friendly
    1. Want to annoy your customers? A non-mobile-friendly website will certainly do the trick. Talk about high bounce rates. As more than half of all web searches are performed on the go, building a mobile-friendly site should be your main priority. Remember, white hat SEO is all about improving the user's experience. Appeal to the user by making it as easy as possible to review your site.
giphy (4)

What Side Are You On?

As I hope you've gleaned from this post, there is clearly a right way and a wrong way to employ SEO methods. Does that mean that black hat is entirely bad or evil? In a way, black hat serves a purpose. From the search engine's humble beginnings, black hat got things done. It's dirty but effective. Its methods aren't entirely up-to-par, and yet it does the trick. For a while, at least. But sadly, black hat SEO methods are no way of sustaining long-term optimization. White hat SEO, on the other hand, may take longer, might be harder and require more effort, but the rewards far outweigh the risk. If you want a website built up of legitimate SEO practices that achieve long-term results, consider hiring an SEO firm to get it right. Akward Media only wears a white hat when it builds your website. We know that true business success is a marathon and not a race. If you're looking for a white hat SEO company with a proven track record for building beautifully optimized websites, give us a shout.  
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