Like all industries, the certain ways in which work is done, and how services are provided, can often-times involve making ethical decisions. Within the landscape of Search Engine Optimization, the ethical duality that has emerged over time is understood as Black Hat SEO, or the violation of search engine rules and guidelines, and White Hat SEO, or the adherence to search engine rules and guidelines. This poses the question – why would anyone knowingly, and willingly, violate the terms and conditions of search engines and jeopardize a website’s credibility and visibility? The simple answer, immediate short-term results despite potential long-term repercussions. Therefore, the ethical duality of Black Hat vs White Hat SEO is a consequence of the innate desire for short-term success in an industry that is centered on long-term services and solutions.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO techniques are short-term strategies that manipulate or violate search engine guidelines and rules. Typically, these techniques do not require high budgets since there are huge risks involved, such as drastic loss in visibility or a complete removal from search engines. This isn’t to say that Black Hat SEO provides little to no value, because it certainly can produce real value for those that have no need for long-term results. After all, high risk strategies can only exist when there is the potential for a high reward. However, for those that envision and desire long-lasting results from SEO services, Black Hat techniques should be avoided at all cost.
Common Practices found in Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO is not as clear-cut as White Hat SEO is, as it often involves creative manipulation/deception to avoid being noticed. Some common practices found in Black Hat SEO are:
- Invisible Text/Hidden Links. Perhaps one of the oldest forms of Black Hat SEO, invisible text and hidden links attempts to make immediate gains for many keywords by making them invisible for users to see.
- Buying Backlinks. Backlinks, or links on other websites that direct traffic to your own, are very influential in developing domain authority. As one of the most difficult, and longer-term SEO strategies, individuals or agencies may opt to simply buy these links.
- URL Manipulation or ‘Cloaking’. Cloaking is similar in theory to that of invisible text and hidden links. The main difference is that there is complete deception here, as the content on the page is totally altered for the user.
Black Hat SEO techniques will yield immediate results, but do not project for any long-term success. Furthermore, these techniques are rooted in violating rules and guidelines for search engines, and when found engaging in Black Hat SEO techniques, a website can be blocked from showing up in search engines. While Black Hat SEO can result in a high reward, as search engines continue to refine their guidelines and rules, the risk involved continues to increase. It is not rare for agencies to engage in these practices behind a client’s back due to pressure for short term results.
If you think an agency may be engaging in Black Hat SEO techniques for your website without your knowledge, our team at ASTOUNDZ is happy to provide a free of charge audit. Contact us now!
White Hat SEO
While it’s easy to label White Hat SEO as ‘good’ in comparison to Black Hat SEO, it should only be understood as an SEO strategy that follows the guidelines and rules of search engines. If the rules were not as strict, then you would likely see websites engaging in what is considered Black Hat SEO. As a result, White Hat SEO strategies are developed with long-term success in mind.
Common Practices found in White Hat SEO
While White Hat SEO is dependent on the guidelines and rules of search engines, which are always subject to change, some common techniques found in White Hat SEO are:
- Unique Content. Every page’s focus content should be totally unique, and offer real value for the user.
- Adapting to updated or new guidelines. Search Engines constantly update their rules and guidelines. In order for long-term success, websites must adapt to new rules.
- Consistent Content and Website Improvement. Constant improvement to a website’s content and design leads to better user activity metrics, which continue to grow in their influence for a website’s visibility.
- Mobile optimization. Mobile is still considered the next frontier in SEO. As search engines continue to develop dedicated rules and guidelines for mobile users, it’s important for websites to adjust accordingly.
White Hat SEO is certainly a long-term approach, where results may not immediately be seen. However, because White Hat SEO techniques are rooted in the adherence to search engine guidelines, there is much less risk involved. Additionally, the results that do come from White Hat SEO generally yield higher-value visitors to a website, which results in better leads and conversions.
The ethical dilemma between White Hat and Black Hat SEO strategies is a result of the desire for short-term results in an industry that is meant to provide long-term returns on investments. Because both strategies serve a purpose and offer viable solutions, it’s incredibly important to work with agencies that are transparent in the type of SEO services they provide. Ask if an agency adheres to search engine rules and if the services provided are based in short-term or long-term success.
At ASTOUNDZ, we base all our work in White Hat SEO techniques, but also offer other viable solutions for short-term results with PPC and Social Media management/marketing. To view our services, click here, or contact us directly for an immediate response.