The term black hat and white hat is something that has been passed down from old Western movies. During the making of these movies, the directors used hat colors to help viewers determine if a character was a protagonist or antagonist. The good guys wore white hats; the bad guys word black hats. Today, SEO experts use the phrases to differentiate between ethical and questionable SEO techniques.
White Hat SEO
The major search engines have created a list of guidelines pertaining to SEO tools. When a web site sticks to the guidelines, they are using white hat SEO. Using these methods means that there is no way the website can get into trouble. In theory it seems like sticking to white hat SEO methods would be easy. All a webmaster has to do is make sure that each page of their website is properly optimized and that they are using link farms. The problem is that the guidelines keep changing, what is considered white hat one day could be black hat the next.
Black Hat SEO
The goal of black hat SEO is to boost the websites ranking as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for a website that is just starting out to resort to black hat SEO in the beginning, and as their search engine ranking starts to climb, to switch to white hat SEO. The problem with black hat SEO is that it is not without risk. If a search engine realizes that the website has resorted to black hat methods, the website could be banned. Methods of black hat SEO that are currently very popular include;
- Hidden text
- Spammy links
Grey Hat SEO
Most SEO experts have found that working in the gray is usually the most successful way to boost their client’s website visibility. The trick is to figure out how to manipulate the rules that the search engines have set in their guidelines, but to not actually flat out break any of them. When done correctly, an SEO expert can use grey hat SEO to quickly improve their client’s search engine ranking, but not have them run the risk of getting black listed by the search engine. Just like with life, there are various shades of gray. It is important that both the SEO expert and the webmaster to communicate so that they are both comfortable with the methods that are being used.
It is not at all uncommon for a website to start out using white hat techniques for boosting their search engine ranking, however, over time and because of changes implemented by the search engines the website will often find itself working in the gray. What the webmasters need to keep in mind is that the type of SEO tools they use is also going to reflect on the business as a whole. Visitors to the website are going to know right away if a website has resorted to trickery in order to boost their search engine ranking.