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Black and White: The Basics of Ethical SEO

Black and White: The Basics of Ethical SEO

There are very different approaches available in search engine optimisation, both ethical and unethical in nature. These have been broadly categorised as ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ SEO, in homage to the tendency of old Western films to don their heroes and villains in white and black hats, respectively.

Both white and black hat methods seek to maximise traffic and visibility of the site, but ethical, or ‘white hat’ SEO primarily focuses on the human audience and user experience. Conversely, unethical, or ‘black hat’ methods, aim to take advantage of shortfalls in search engine algorithms with manipulative tactics. So, let’s examine the main differences between these two SEO approaches in greater detail.

What is White Hat SEO?

  • Content is designed for a human audience: white hat SEO aims to increase engagement by improving the UX of the site for its human audience. This is done through creating unique, engaging and bespoke content designed with the specific site’s audience in mind.
  • Methods always follow the rules: the guidelines laid out by Google, such as avoiding duplicated content, are enforced with at-times heavy penalties if breached. White hat SEO always adheres to these rules and works to generate organic traffic, use keywords effectively, and build links from trusted and high-quality sources.
  • It is a sustainable and long-term approach: by adhereing to Google’s guidelines and focusing on creating engaging content for the site’s unique human audience, white hat SEO provides a stable method of increasing site traffic and visibility for the long-term.


What is Black Hat SEO?

  • Content is designed for the algorithm: black Hat methods of SEO focus on forcing visibility by tricking the search engine into believing the site provides high-quality content relevant to a broad audience. Techniques like keyword-stuffing and hidden text are used to trigger the algorithm, but do nothing to aid the UX of the site.
  • Methods attempt to subvert the guidelines: the guidelines provided by Google and other search engines are in place to ensure high-quality and unique content is given priority and visibility in any given search. Black hat SEO tries to work around these guidelines to force sites into more prominent positions than the algorithm would organically assign them.
  • It is an unreliable and short-term approach: because these practices neglect the human audience, they will not result in high-quality content or reliable, trustworthy links. Audience interaction is likely to end after the initial click as the user notices the content is of low relevance or poor quality. At the same time, search engines are constantly updating their algorithms and guidelines to prevent black hat methods from succeeding. Due to this, black hat SEO is far more risky, and is unlikely to result in long-term success for any site.

Shades of Grey

In addition to white and black hat SEO, there is also a ‘grey hat’ middle-ground. Grey hat SEO can be roughly defined as a mixture of white and black hat techniques, like bolstering geniunely unique content with additional or hidden keywords, or creating new content that does hold some relevance to the site, but is created solely to aid the visibility of the page and not to improve the UX. Grey hat SEO is ill-defined and its adherence to Google’s guidelines varies by individual method or mixture of methods and therefore, is not a solid base to build your SEO strategy on.

Ethical SEO, Audience Engagement, and Content Quality

The differences between black and white hat SEO make it clear that by enaging in ethical methods, you can advance your ranking while also:

  • Improving the quality of your content.
  • Accumulating strong links from well-trusted sources.
  • Building healthy and sustainable relationships with your audience.
  • Removing the risks involved with unethical methods and ensuring longevity for your SEO strategy.

Black hat methods may provide a quick boost, but you will have ever-updating guidelines and algorithms always working actively against you. These techniques are incredibly risky and will not improve the UX of your site, meaning you are unlikely to maintain your visitors’ engagement and will have to contend with a high bounce rate. It is quite easy to see the benefits of white hat SEO for any reputable business looking to enhance its page ranking, and the risks involved in engaging with unscrupulous methods. Despite the appeal of quick short-term gain that black hat methods offer, white hat SEO remains the only competitively viable way of increasing traffic and engagament. Build an honest and ethical relationship with your target audience and they will show their appreciation by buying your product and sharing your content.

SEO Enterprise specialises in providing SEO services with complete transparency! Our team offers comprehensive expert advice with absolutely no black hat methods in sight. Contact us today to find out how we can help!

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