SEO Ethics: Black Hat vs White Hat Methods

In old Western movies, the “good guy” would ride around in a white hat, taking care of all the bad guys, who were typically clad in black hats. Just think about the Lone Ranger, for example. In the world of SEO, competition is fierce, as positioning on the front pages of search results is key to performance. Before you begin promoting your site, it is important to look at some of the characteristics of white hat and black hat methods.

Black Hat SEO has to do with ethically unsound practices of website construction to boost the number of views that a website gets. Three of these tricks include keyword stuffing, using invisible text, and doorway pages. Keyword stuffing just means sticking keyword after keyword into your website page, with little regard for making sense with your text. Your users will hate it, because your website will be nonsense, and after a limited amount of time, the search engines will catch up with you and penalize your site.

Invisible text involves putting text on a background in the same color. You can’t see it as the user, but the hope is that the search engine spiders will see it and boost the rankings of the page. Eventually the search engines will discover the hidden text and penalize your site as a result. Finally, doorway pages are phony pages that users never even see. They are put in place to try and trick search engine crawlers to point users toward your page.

While black hat SEO focuses on tricking the search engines, white hat SEO focuses on the users. White hat SEO also includes the use of keywords, but incorporates keywords seamlessly into existing text, using keyword analysis to figure out which keywords bring in the most user traffic. This set of techniques also includes link building in order to drive popularity, the use of backlinks to increase page views, and focusing on high quality content that will interest human readers — not just search engine spiders.

End users, over time, prefer the white hat method. After all, no one wants to pull up an illegible website in the middle of a detailed search. Also, invisible text and doorway pages do not even benefit the user’s experience. The white hat techniques of backlinking and link building help the user navigate more easily; while the navigation follows the website designer’s wishes, it is still up to the users to decide what to do.

The question of profitability really depends on the focus of the website. If you want to offer very little in terms of content, or you don’t have a viable product or service, then black hat methods can bring in cash without anything in the way of overhead. You just have to be willing to go in and frequently change your website so that the search engines do not catch up with you. If you have a viable product or service and intend to set up one website for the long haul in order to build your brand, then white hat will bring in more profits over time.

Black hat is tempting — it’s easy, cheap, and fast to do. However, white hat methods perform better over time.