When web-professionals talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), various approaches and techniques are often divided into two broader categories under the labels of “white hat” and “black hat” SEO, respectively. In what follows below we give you a short introduction to these concepts and their application in practice.
White Hat SEO practices
In what is also sometimes referred to as ´organic SEO´, a white hat approach employs techniques and strategies focused on a human audience – i.e. readers/users of a given website and people searching for, and wishing to find, the specific content it contains. Applying a white hat approach to SEO efforts also means being in compliance with search engine policies and their regulatory frameworks. To name a few commonly used white hat techniques they would include: usage of relevant keywords based on keyword analysis, quality content, link building, titles and meta-data.
“Content is King” is a catch phrase often heard when discussing SEO and web-traffic – and it still holds true. After all, the whole point of search engines is to help users find and choose websites with the most relevant content to offer. Bear in mind, though, that besides the actual content, it is critical for better search engine rankings that you make sure to also provide your web pages with relevant titles and meta-descriptions, as these factor heavily in the search engine metrics.
Finally, choosing the right keywords – essentially meaning the words you believe your potential site visitors/customers are most likely to type into the search engine – is essential. Once a number of most important keywords (perhaps also 2- or 3-word phrases) are identified make sure you also include them in the right places in your website´s CMS. You should make sure to include entering such keywords and some synonyms into the following:
- Meta Description
- Body Text
- Alt Tag
White hat approach is often regarded by professionals as the only real option for the online presence in the long-term. Conversely, other tactics and techniques exist for what is often very efficient and quick – sometimes short-term – results, namely under the “black hat” label.
Black Hat SEO practices
Comprising a range of differently targeted – some would say “aggressive” or “unethical” – SEO tactics and techniques, the “black hat” category includes the incorporation of methods such as: invisible text, link farming and perhaps including unrelated keywords in page content, as well as the use of page swapping, doorway pages and other techniques.
Put simply, “black hat” SEO refers to efforts of increasing a given webpage’s search engine ranking by use of tactics and specific techniques that are in violation of the search engine rules and terms of service. As such, it is important to note that the application of a black hat approach to SEO can result in a website being banned from the search engine(s) – and therefore generally counterproductive and not recommendable for any serious online website efforts.
To ensure that you always operate and stay within the realm of white hat SEO a good “reminder” question to ask yourself would be:
“Is what I am doing right now really adding value to the user or am I just fighting to rank high?”
As with much else in Life and professional practice, not everything about SEO is always ´black & white´. Therefore, we can also include to discussions about SEO practices a category of “Grey Hat”. As the name would indicate, this expression refers to practices which can not readily be determined to be “black or white”.
Basically grey hat approaches make sure that a given website is not being flagged and punished by search engines for being in violation of search engine regulations and policies while, however, also not aiming to deliver quality content to users – the aim is merely to improve rankings.
If you are serious about the long-lasting success of your online presence this question is well worth keeping in mind. Key to your website’s success will always be providing the quality service your users and potential clients are looking for – content still “is the King”!
For more reading on the topic of Search Engine Optimization, we recommend the following resources:
- Search-engine Optimization Starter Guide from Google – Includes Google’s own recommendations and some thoughts on the subject.
- The beginner’s guide to SEO from MOZ – A great comprehensive guide to SEO from the analytics and SEO-services company MOZ.
- MOZ Whiteboard Friday – Weekly updates with new insights and discussion topics from the employees at Moz, all explained in front of a whiteboard.
- Steps to a Google-friendly site – Tips for creating a Google-friendly website from Google Webmaster Tools.
- Search Engine Journal – An online magazine/community with frequent updates on the latest within SEO.