White Hat Vs Black Hat
As with any other business practice, Search Engine Optimization can be performed within or without the boundaries of accepted business ethics. White hat SEO is optimization that follows the guidelines set forth by search engines. Black hat SEO intentionally undermines these guidelines.
For those who haven't heard, for the past year or two some have labeled different forms of search engine optimization by different hat colors. Those who practice what some refer to as “ethical” SEO are the White Hats (like the good guys in the movies), and those who some refer to as “spammers” are the Black Hats (like the bad guys in the movies). Those who are not quite as pure as the driven snow but who aren't quite as… umm… aggressive as a full-fledged “search engine spammer” are sometimes referred to as Gray Hats.
There are various new shades added to the list:
Dark Inky Black Hat SEO: So evil he’s a typo squatter installing spyware. Plain illegal, too.
Charcoal Hat SEO: Optimizes really unrelated pages for all kinds of queries, but within the bounds of legality.
Dark Gray Hat SEO: This SEO is e.g. a splogger stealing content from other sites. (What, that’s better than charcoal?)
Slate Gray Hat SEO: An SEO creating link farms and such.
Gray Hat SEO: An SEO who actually reads the search engine’s webmaster guidelines, but then tries as much “evil” as she can get away with.
Light Gray Hat SEO: This SEO creates original content (lots of it), but the content is still only aimed at search engines.
Off-White Hat SEO: This guy not only ensures the site is indexable – he’ll also make sure to get lots of backlinks from friends.
White Hat SEO: This person puts up the content that people are actually searching for, and prepares the site to make it very accessible. White Hat SEOs only optimize those of their pages they deem worthy to be ranking top in search engines.
Luminescent Pearly White Hat SEO: Not only does this SEO do everything the White Hat SEO does, the LPW Hat SEO also makes sure pages will not show up for irrelevant queries.
But are these labels helping anyone, and do they really mean anything? Certainly, the SEO methods I use would put me into the White Hat category. Does this make me better than those in the Black Hat category? I guess the question would be, better at what? It doesn't make me a better person, nor does it necessarily make me a better SEO. It might make me better at not getting a site banned from the search engines, but then again, most Black Hats know that their sites will eventually get banned and have figured that into their business model. So it's not really a question of good or bad, like the hats seem to imply.
White hat SEO includes:
Increasing keyword density within text in a relatively natural manner
Designing keyword friendly Titles, Meta Tags, Meta Descriptions, Headers, and Alt text for your site
Natural linking between your site and similar sites
Developing new, link-friendly content for your site
Both White Hat and Black Hat SEOs have their place. Lots of people are indeed looking for the types of products and services that Black Hatters specialize in. There is a huge demand for their black magic. As much as I hate lousy search results, as long as the Black Hats are doing their thing to the types of sites that I wouldn't be seeking out anyway, then it really doesn't bother me; it's the search engines' problem to get rid of it.
The important thing to note, however, is that most sites don't need to resort to Black Hat SEO.
There are definite advantages to cutting corners and utilizing black hat SEO, mainly that your page will increase dramatically in Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rank within a relatively brief amount of time. However, search engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.) are constantly updating their algorithms to detect and penalize black hat SEO.
Formerly, it was common practice in black hat SEO to create hidden text within web pages. This text increased keyword density without creating phony sounding text. For instance, if I wanted to increase my keyword density for copywriting I could simply insert the following line at the bottom of my text:
Then I could change the text font color to white and “presto” the text disappears — my keyword density for copywriting increases but my visible text remains the same.
It all depends on what the Website owner's goal is. Do they want quick fixes and throwaway domains for the chance of a temporary big payoff, or do they want a stable business that takes a lot of time and energy, but which pays off handsomely over time? Neither one is necessarily right or wrong — just different. It's just like the stock market or gambling in many ways. If you're willing to be extremely aggressive, there's a chance you'll make a ton of money. However, there's usually even more of a chance that you'll lose a ton also. It really comes down to how much of a gambler you are.
Fortunately, this basic black hat practice is no longer viable, as search engines have developed methods to detect ‘keyword spam' and same-color text. Websites with such black hat tactics are not only recognized by the search engines as black hat sites, but are penalized and often completely removed from SERPs. If this happens to your page, it can take months or years to regain your ranking.
Most current black hat SEO takes place on the design or programming side of website development. These tactics include:
Cloaking — Showing a different page to search engines than to site visitors
Duplicating content — creating numerous copies of web pages in order to increase page rank
Link Farming — Buying into ‘link farms', sites with no other intention than to increase your links unnaturally
Page jacking — Copying and pasting text from other websites and using it as your own
fIs Black Hat SEO worth the Risk? In my mind, no. You may get away with it and it will be very lucrative for you to quickly climb the SERPs. However, keep in mind that competitors and Search Engines are extremely suspicious of quick-climbing websites. If your site is found to have black hat SEO, it will be severely penalized by if not completely removed from the search engine.
For a company looking for long-term success, there is absolutely no reason to gamble with their site. But seriously, even though it may take more lead-time, the White Hat method is a lot less stressful, and quite frankly a whole lot easier.