What’s the Difference Between White Hat, Black Hat, and Grey Hat SEO?

One of the things people discover when they first launch a website is the importance of landing on the first page or two of search engine results. Most people simply won’t move beyond those results because they assume they’ll find what they want in those top racked sites.

That quest for better site ranking leads you to something called search engine optimization. SEO is that collection of tactics that people use to boost their sites in the results.

What isn’t always obvious is the difference between white hat SEO, grey hat SEO, and black hat SEO. Keep reading and we’ll give you a primer on the differences.

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO is the set of practices search engines endorse as ways to improve your site rank.

For example, building or rebuilding your website with responsive design is a white hat technique. Why? It makes your website display and runs better on mobile devices.

Here’s where things get a little tricky. White hat techniques aren’t static.

Every time a search engine updates an algorithm, the rules for what’s acceptable can change a little or even a lot. So, keeping your site white hat means constant study or using a professional SEO service.

Grey Hat SEO

Defining grey hat SEO remains difficult because the tactics don’t fall neatly into the white hat or black hat categories. The best definition is probably tactics that aren’t encouraged or forbidden by search engines.

Think of clickbait that entices people with provocative headlines. On arrival, the page bombards visitors with ads while splitting the content into dozens of slides.

It’s not forbidden, but it is a sleazy way of boosting a site’s page views.

Grey hat SEO techniques are a roll of the dice. Search engines may let the tactic slide or they may drop the hammer. If they drop the hammer, your site might never recover.

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO is any tactic or technique that a search engine expressly forbids under threat of penalty. For the most part, these are tactics with the express purpose of gaming the search engine results.

The once common practice of keyword stuffing is now a black hat technique. It’s a brute force technique that tries to outmuscle other sites through sheer repetition of the keyword.

Of course, the volume of keyword appearances means nothing in terms of relevance and content quality.

As with white hat and grey hat techniques, though, there are some subtleties at work. You should avoid overusing keywords, you still need them on your site.

Parting Thoughts

The difference between white, black, and grey hat SEO is largely a question of how search engines treat a technique.

White hat tactics are those a search engine endorses. Grey hat tactics are those a search engine offers poor or no guidance about. Black hat tactics are those search engines forbid and punish.

On the whole, you’re best off sticking with white hat techniques. A gray hat tactic can turn into a black hat offense any time an algorithm changes.

OSO Web Studio specializes in online business solutions, including SEO, web design, and content writing. To learn more about us or our services, contact us today.

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