In the world of SEO, you often hear the phrases 'white hat SEO' and 'black hat SEO', but what do they actually mean? Clue - it's got nothing to do with the colour of your hard hat.
In a nutshell, white hat SEO and black hat SEO can be simplified into good SEO and bad SEO. And that's not good and bad in terms of the results they produce, but good and bad in regards to how they are viewed in the SEO community and by the search engines of the world.
Let's start with the bad kind of SEO, black hat.
Black hat SEO
Black hat SEO is the unscrupulous kind. It basically focuses on getting high SERPs rankings by breaking the rules and tricking search engines into thinking the website or webpage should be ranked highly. Black hat SEO focuses only on search engines and, as such, completely ignores any human audiences - that's why the content is often complete crap.
Black hat SEO constantly strives for quick wins, but the long-term effects are nearly always harmful. For example, if a website is found to be using black hat SEO techniques, it could be penalised or de-indexed from the search engine altogether.
Here are some classic black hat SEO strategies:
- Keyword stuffing - Littering a piece of content with keywords, even if it makes it almost unreadable.
- Unrelated keywords - Using keywords that are completely irrelevant.
- Link farming - Artificially increasing the number of inbound links to a web page using so-called link farms (websites that are created with the sole aim of linking to other web pages).
- Hidden text - Placing text on a web page that is the same colour as the background or hidden from view.
- Blog content spamming - Using automated methods (bots) to comment on other people's content with random text and links.
Fortunately, Google and the other search engines of the world have got wise to many of the tactics being utilised by black hat SEO practitioners and penalise their websites using algorithm changes.
Nevertheless, black hat SEO is still being used today. As a tradesperson, you should still well clear of it and only deal with reputable companies that practise white hat SEO.
White hat SEO
White hat SEO, the good kind, is what you should be utilising as a reputable tradesperson. It focuses on giving people what they want and not just ticking boxes on a search engine algorithm checklist.
Here are some classic white hat SEO strategies:
- Quality content -Nothing beats quality content that people actually want to read and share.
- Effective keyword research and use - We've talked about keyword research before. Do yours and get those keywords naturally placed in your content.
- Relevant backlinks - Backlinks from websites that are trustworthy and have a good reputation are worth their weight in gold. Encourage people to link to your site by creating great content and sharing it regularly.
- Meta tags/description - Appropriate meta tags help search engines digest and understand your content. Your meta description is what is displayed in the SERPs whenever your website appears.
White hat SEO represents a long-term investment, but get it right and the rewards are definitely worth it.
[Related reading: SEO basics: what is search engine optimisation]