In order to understand the difference between these two types of SEO techniques first we should understand a little bit about Google. Google have built their multi-billion dollar, transnational corporation on the foundations of ‘Search’. It is relevance that drives Search, by being more relevant to the searcher than the competition Google rose to the top of the pile many years ago.
So in order to protect their interests, the relevance of search results and, more importantly, their profit margins they created a set of guidelines. The guidelines define what Google have deemed to be acceptable and unacceptable behaviour; but the primary function of these guidelines is to explain to website owners how to optimise their website without “gaming or manipulating” the SERP’s.
The Difference Emerges
It is therein that the difference between “white hat SEO” and “black hat SEO” emerges. In the simplest terms, White hat SEO techniques adhere to Google’s guidelines and Black hat SEO does not adhere to them. But these guidelines are just that, they are not laws or precedents, constitutional or anything else enforceable by the police or courts. So there is no prison sentence associated with breaking one of Google’s rules.
The Consequences of Rule Breaking
That is not to say that there are no consequences for breaking the rules, after all rules are without meaning if they cannot be enforced. Although you won’t end up in jail, your website could end up being wiped from Google’s index, meaning that it cannot be found in the search results. For an online business or even a business with an online presence, this would be catastrophic for profits. JC Penney is an example of this.
Why Black Hat?
So the obvious question is why you would risk using black hat tactics if it could get your website banned from Google? Well this is the age old question, keeping the theme of relating black hat to crime… In short black hat SEO techniques will net you results far quicker than using white hat SEO Techniques.
As with all types of rule breaking there are ways and then there are ways of breaking the rules! Not all crime is guns and ski masks and not all black hat is blatant link buying. Using skill and experience, trial and experimentation an SEO consultant can use techniques subtly in order to net quick results. But no matter how subtle or skilled you are, there is an unavoidable risk that if caught you could suffer a penalty from Google. Hence the phrase; “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”.
There are several industries that thrive on black hat techniques, such as the pornography and gambling industries which will use a rinse and repeat style approach to website optimisation. Building a site, black hat it into the SERP’s, rinse it for everything it’s worth as quickly as possible and when wiped from the index, repeat over again. In order to compete in some of the darker online markets, black hat SEO is often the only way forwards.
Why White Hat?
White hat SEO is the long game strategy for businesses looking to have a lasting online presence. More often than not white hat SEO is used to optimise a website, most people engage in this kind of activity and in truth it is a harder slog than Black hat but comes with the huge and enviable advantage of being associated with no risk.
Whether you use white hat SEO techniques or you want to employ the dark side, it is vital to have a clear understanding of what you are doing. Many times I have seen a website been wiped from the index because a site owner has bought links, or duplicated their website, or some other black hat tactic. In nearly every case this has been the result of ignorance rather than a deliberate attempt to break the rules. Sadly Google do not care why you broke the rules and as in the law, “ignorance is no defence”.
Understand what white and black hat SEO techniques are, so that you can either implement them or avoid them knowingly.