SEO: White Hat vs. Black Hat vs. Gray Hat

Sinoun Chea

The world of SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t simply white and black. In fact, there are three different techniques commonly referred to in SEO including white hat SEO, gray hat SEO, and black hat SEO. Each category has different pros and cons, and each is viewed differently by search engines including Google.

How To Tell the Difference

With the penalties and advantages of the three different SEOs varying considerably, it may be hard to tell which technique you would like to use on your website. Below we will go over the different methods and the consequences and advantages of each.

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO is generally characterized as SEO that is not contrary to Google’s quality desires. Furthermore, this type of SEO usually produces long lasting results, but can take awhile to achieve top rankings in search engines. A site using white hat SEO will have the following characteristics:

  • Guest blogging
  • Link baiting
  • Quality content
  • Internal linking
  • Site optimization

Although sites using white hat SEO may take longer to make it to the top of the search engines, when they eventually do, they will benefit tremendously from their choices. In addition, when it comes to risk, sites using white hat SEO pose the least risk of being banned, warned or penalized by search engines.

Gray Hat SEO

Whenever something is labeled black or white, there is always that middle ground; the gray area. In SEO, the gray area, is called gray hat SEO. Gray hat SEO doesn’t intentionally break all the search engine rules like black hat SEO does, but they do use some methods that can get them in trouble with search engines. Common signs of a site that is using gray hat SEO are listed below.

  • Three-way link exchange
  • Article spinning
  • Buying old domains
  • Buying expired domains
  • Googlebombing, sometimes called, Googlewashing, which is a process where a site will link to other pages in sole effort to trick the search engine crawlers with other site’s keywords

In terms of risk, gray hat SEO is risky. Search engines may not pick up on the rule twisting right away, but if negative action is taken against the site, it can have devastating, long-lasting effects.

Black Hat SEO

When you think about black hat SEO, think in terms of the black sheep of a family. In the family of SEO, black hat SEO is unquestionably the black sheep. Black hat SEO is aggressive, and defined by Google as being in violation of Google’s Quality Guidelines. Sites using these SEO methods concentrate solely on search engines, and not real customers or viewers. Usually black hat SEO is used to create quick financial returns, and is not used as part of a long-term website investment. Symptoms of a site using black hat SEO include:

  • Hidden text
  • Link farms
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Blog spam
  • Scraping, which is essentially plagiarism
  • Paid links
  • Doorway pages
  • Parasite hosting
  • Cloaking

With Google’s aggressive efforts (with Panda and Penguin) towards eliminating spammy and low-quality content, sites with black hat SEO are extremely risky. Usually these sites will end up getting banned by Google. If they are lucky enough not to get banned, their page rankings will likely be incredibly low.

The key to pleasing the search engines is to create high-quality, unique content that offers value to your customers and website visitors. Doing this will allow you to have success on the search engines and with those who view your page as well.

If you have any questions or need help with SEO, let us know here or comment below! We would be happy to help.


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Sinoun Chea

I help small businesses Do Better Online™. When businesses thrive, people also thrive. #morethanjustbusiness

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  1. Pingback: Black Hat SEO » SEO: White Hat vs. Black Hat vs. Gray Hat | ShiftWeb Solutions | Rede SEO

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