If you’ve started to research a little bit into the wierd world of search engine optimization you’ll be aware of the use of strange terminology.
A lot of this terminology will often be reported as fact – such as ‘White Hat’, ‘Black Hat’ and ‘Grey Hat’ SEO. But what exactly are these ‘hats’ and how fluid are their descriptions?
About The 3 Hats
The 3 hats of search engine optimization refer to 3 different methodologies or mindsets when it comes to conducting an SEO campaign.
Each search engine optimization methodology relates to a different level of risk in relation to reward. Or if you prefer, a different level of ethics.
As you may imagine, White Hat search engine optimization gives you the lowest degree of risk but is more likely to take longer and deliver mediocre results. Black Hat SEO on the other hand can drive significant volumes of traffic to your site – but you also may get your domain de-ranked or banned in certain places. Grey Hat is somewhere in-between.
White Hat SEO
‘White Hat SEO’ essentially describes a search engine optimization campaign which is merely trying to guide search engines. This style of SEO will ensure that site architecture is logical, relative and easy to read for search engines. It will also focus on adding valued contributions to industry-specific communities.
White Hat Search engine optimization always focuses on bringing relevant visitors to your website – and an increased search engine ranking is a by-product to a White Hat campaign as opposed to a primary focus.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat search engine optimization has only one aim – to make your website as big a success as quickly as possible, not matter who you step on on the way up.
The Black Hat technique will try to build thousands of links to a website quickly and the primary focus is to skew search engine results. Black Hat search engine optimization involves as much automation as possible.
According to Matt Cutts, in 2008 many black hatters will attempt to illegally hack other websites to include their links. This is a good reason for continually monitoring both your incoming and outgoing links.
The most common use of Black Hat SEO is for websites that generate a passive income from advertising that don’t have a long-term business model. If these type of websites are banned by Google or other search engines then it doesn’t matter to the website owner, becuase they’ve probably got hundreds of other similar websites.
Grey Hat SEO
Grey Hat search engine optimization tries to apply principles learned from Black Hat SEO in a White Hat manner.
This is where the majority of search engine optimization firms sit. They understand how to quickly drag a website to the top of search engine results for relevant keyword searches while automating as much as the process as possible, but targeting visitors as well as search engines.
The tricky thing with Grey Hat search engine optimization is there isn’t a distinctive line between Black, Grey and White.
If you get things wrong with Grey Hat then you may be OK with search engines now, but you may also find your website being penalised by search engines in the future.
Which Hat to Choose?
The colour of hat that you wear depends on two things…
1) Your business model
2) You level of search engine optimization knowledge
If your business is advertising driven, you don’t want to create a long-term respectable brand and you don’t mind if your website is suddenly banned, then Black Hat may be for you.
However, if like most people reading this blog you have a long-term business model, then white or grey’s where you want to be.
Interestingly, Diane Aull says in her article on Black and White Hat SEO that both white and black hat can deliver high quality results and that the main difference is the level of agression.
I would tend to disagree. I think it’s more like the following:
White Hats – Non-aggressive – Low Risk – Mediocre results
Black Hats – Aggressive – High Risk – Good Short-term results
Grey Hats – Pushy but not aggressive – Low to Medium Risk – Good short, medium and long-term results if managed correctly