A wide variety of SEO techniques exist for improving the search engine rankings of web sites and their individual pages. Some of these techniques are considered positive and ethical, while others are risky and manipulative. Different SEO marketers use one or both of these strategies to varying degrees of success.
Internet marketers call safe, non-manipulative techniques White Hat SEO, while less reputable methods are referred to as Black Hat techniques. Some examples of White Hat SEO include optimizing META tags, putting keywords in URLs, submitting sites to directories, making sitemaps, obtaining links on related sites, and creating keyword-optimized content. These techniques help search engines locate relevant pages people are looking for. Search engines encourage such methods through services like Google Webmaster Tools.
On the other hand, Black Hat SEO includes efforts like redirecting search engine “spiders” to different pages than human visitors see, mass-posting “spam” comments (on blogs, forums, articles), or putting lists of keywords at the end of each page in very small fonts. Black hat methods may actually reduce the quality of search engine results. Some of these SEO strategies try to deceive users into visiting sites about subjects they don’t have any interest in, which puts them at odds with the purpose of search engines.
So how does White Hat compare vs. Black Hat for marketers and web site operators? Black Hat SEO techniques can often be faster and easier to implement. However, they run the risk of causing search engines to downgrade or remove a site from results. In the long-term, they sometimes become ineffective; search engines usually catch on to each Black Hat technique after it is introduced, often penalizing sites which have used it.
White Hat SEO remains more time-consuming, but it yields better long-term results and has a more positive impact. People prefer to use web sites they haven’t been deceived into visiting, and search engines don’t like to list sites which have manipulated their way to a high ranking. Sites using white hatted techniques usually don’t have to worry about being removed from search engine results.
However, it remains important to carry out White Hat SEO techniques correctly and effectively. Using white hatted methods excessively or improperly can turn them into Black Hatted techniques. For example, posting linked comments on related blogs isn’t considered very problematic, but using software to submit huge quantities of identical or irrelevant comments is definitely viewed as a Black Hat technique.
White Hat SEO methods, if done properly, can actually product the best long-term outcome and create a greater impact on the web in general. Several once-common Black Hat techniques have fallen into disuse after search engines successfully developed ways to detect them.