Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Right Hat Makes All The Difference

 S  E  O 

Black Hat vs. White Hat

Choosing a Search Engine Optimizer

     Companies providing Search Engine Optimization are a dime a dozen.  If you are responsible for finding one for your company to use you'll want to be aware of a few basic principles.  Most people don't intentionally enter into business deals with companies that are deceitful and dishonest, but it happens from time to time, even in the world of search engine optimization (SEO).  That is why it is important to always be aware of the industries you deal with.  In SEO there are two directions you can take when deciding on a strategy, the honest method and the dishonest method.  These methods are referred to Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO.

     The Black hat method, sometimes called spamdexing, is an unethical way of increasing the rank of your website within a search engine.  It usually results in short term gains that lead to undesirable long term consequences.  Many times practicing Black Hat SEO will get your website banned from the search engine.  This may not be a problem if the search engine banning you is DuckDuckGO, but if it's Google then you may be in some serious trouble.

     White Hat SEO is the ethical alternative to Black Hat SEO.  Its approach is less manipulative and more opportunistic.  With it you try and utilize effective keywords, descriptions, and quality content, all in an attempt to make accessibility and use as easy as possible for search engines and users.  Relevancy and openness are two of the words I would use to describe the White Hat approach.  

     The contrast between White Hat and Black Hat SEO may not be as distinct as the names suggest, but with a little knowledge you'll be able to see the difference easy enough.  Below are a few of the common techniques used by each:

Black Hat
Comment Tags, used to explain what a piece of code does, is one of the most common ways to hide content.  A couple of the other tags used are the <noscript> and <noframes> tags.  A less technical way to hide content is to use extremely small text or text that is the same color as the background on the page.  
This is when they “stuff” a lot of keywords in the Meta Description, used to concisely describe the content of your page.  Meta Keywords should reflect the main topic of your page but Black Hat SEO’s throw everything related to their pages' topic in there to "up" their search ranking.  This has been done so much that most search engines don’t use them at all in their algorithms.

Pages that end-users never see and just automatically reroute you to the page you want.  Anything can be thrown onto these pages because they are never seen.
Pages that are dedicated to listing links to unrelated websites.

White Hat

1. "Content is King"
Websites with quality content are given priority. You should write unique and engaging content that will provide users with the correct info and keep them on the site longer.

2. Structural Mark Up
Separate content and design elements to make it easier for search engines to find the content. It's also important to use heading elements correctly and research effective keywords because search engines focus on these a lot.

3. Titles and Meta Description
  Titles typically tell you what content is contained on the page and therefore are critical to getting positive results. Meta Descriptions serve a similar purpose.

4. Inbound Links
Having links on other credible websites that are in good standing and are relevant to yours can help direct traffic to your page in an ethical way.

Weeding Out the Bad

     Detection is not always possible but there are some tricks out there that can help you discover the Black Hat optimizers and ultimately protect your company from falling into their trap.  Checking backlinks is a very easy way to investigate.  You can either check your own backlinks to check up on your current SEO or if you're looking into an SEO, check out the backlinks of some of their current clients.  You'll have a definite red flag if a lot of the links are from forums or blogs.  By doing a little research at the start, you may be able to save yourself a lot of problems and stress further down the road.

Look at Livestrong

     Some people may be thinking, "why not use a little Black Hat SEO at the beginning, draw a lot of traffic, and then slowly switch to White Hat?"  Some may even be able to get away with it... for now at least.  Every year they are learning new ways to detect Black Hat methods and could get you on methods you used 3 years ago.  A way to illustrate this is to look at Lance Armstrong and the consequences he is facing now.  Back in 1999 the tests they did on Lance couldn't detect the EPO he had taken to enhance his performance.  With the advancement in technology came the ability to detect it.  That is why he was eventually caught.  The same thing could happen to someone that used Black Hat SEO in the past.  They may not have 7 Tour de France titles stripped from them, but they could face some serious consequences.

In the End, It Does Matter

     The major point to take from all of this is the importance of being informed before making any decision on who to hire as an optimizer or what methods to use in SEO.  Black Hat methods may give you a quick boost but you'll run out of fuel before you know it.  White Hat methods are more conservative but they can pay off big in the end.  Whatever you choose to do just make sure you do the necessary research beforehand and become familiar with your options and remember, who you put in charge is the most important decision of all.        

PSA: For all those that are inspired to play the classic game Spy vs Spy after reading this post, you can play online by clicking the picture above.


1. Rosini, Tim. Black Hat White Hat SpySpy. 2012. McClain ConceptsWeb. 25 Jan 2013.     <>.

2. Wilding, Roy. Top 5 White Hat and Black Hat Search Optimisation Techniques. PushOn Web. 
25 Jan 2013. 

3. 3 Rules You Must Know to Find Effective SEO Keywords. PananaDesign Web. 25 Jan 2013

4. Drysdale, Rhea. How to Choose an SEO Company: Ignore Top SEO Lists. 2012. Outspoken Media Web. 25 Jan 2013 

1 comment:

  1. Good to know, I have met with several "SEO" companies and they do not mention all of this. They are always so eager with promises...