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The Differences Between Black Hat, White Hat & Grey Hat SEO Techniques

Written by Scott C, May 9, 2017
black grey white SEO

The Differences Between Black Hat, White Hat & Grey Hat SEO Techniques

The terms White Hat, Black Hat and Grey Hat are often used to explain certain SEO tactics, but what do they actually mean?

White Hat SEO Tactics

White Hat SEO tacticians maintain a code of ethics that strictly adheres to the guidelines set by the leading search engine authorities, generally Google or Bing.  Their sites are organised to be relevant and appealing to users whilst also performing well for search engines. A site with good use of White Hat SEO methods is written for end users but are also easy for spiders to crawl. The content of their sites will be useful and, as a result, they will have a good rate of inbound links built organically.

white hat SEO hits target

White Hat SEO tactics hit the target for end-users and search engines every time. Image via Pixabay.

Black Hat SEO Tactics

The culprits of the SEO world, strategists who employ Black Hat SEO techniques will be optimising the content of their websites to try and fool search engines into boosting their rankings.

There are a number of methods used in Black Hat SEO, all of which are against the guidelines laid out by the major search engines but are still employed by some, namely:

  • Doorway pages – these false gateways are a smoke and mirror method of capturing traffic searching for a specific keyword that has nothing to do with the actual focus of the site. These pages provide no value to end users.
  • Keyword overload – The overuse of keywords in a text aimed at capturing as much traffic as possible whilst rendering the content nonsensical for human visitors.
  • Interlinking – setting up multiple websites to create false backlinks.
  • Cloaking – producing pages that return information for search engines that differs to the content seen by users.
  • Plagiarism – using content under copyright and publishing it.
  • Hidden content – similar to cloaking but the use of invisible text, using images with the same colour as text/links.
  • Automated spam bots – using software to produce comments across blogs and forums to produce links.

All of these tactics can result in your site being penalised or banned from search engines.

automated spam robot black hat seo


Using automated spam robots to publish links can get your site blacklisted. Image via Pixabay.

Grey Hat SEO Tactics

As Mae West once said, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted…”

The use of Grey Hat SEO tactics is largely believed to be used by people who try to employ legitimate techniques to boost their SEO but fall into Black Hat practices accidentally. Another group of Grey Hat tacticians actively seek to ‘tack close to the wind’ by borrowing Black Hat methods in the mistaken belief that they can get away with it.

Either way, Grey Hat SEO tactics can be as damaging as Black Hat SEO irrespective of your initial intent.

Some common SEO methods deemed to be more Grey than Black, include:

  • Paid links or link swapping – buying legitimate backlinks for the purposes of advertising is fine but buying links simply to boost your link popularity is considered a breach of Google’s webmaster guidelines.
  • Duplicate content – Reusing the same content, whether intentionally or not is an indicator to Google of plagiarism and should be avoided.
  • Cloaking – Image based sites that use text to legitimately describe the content run the risk of being picked up by Google as cloaked and could result in penalties.
  • Mild keyword stuffing – either using keywords that falsely misleads search engines as to the actual content on your site or a slight overuse of keywords in content so that they appear unnatural can be deemed a Grey Hat SEO method.

Whilst the penalties for Grey Hay tactics are not usually as severe as those for Black Hat, your site can still be penalised as a result.

Understanding Google’s SEO rules is essential to avoid penalties after the penguin update.

Speak to Opace

If you are in any doubt as to which methods your SEO supplier is using, or confused about how to stay in Google’s good books, get in touch online or speak to Opace today by contacting us on 0845 017 7661.

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