White hat and black hat have recently crept into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) dictionary. Those practicing ethical SEO are known as white hats, unlike the spammers who would rather break into IT systems. The practioners of ethical SEO, the white hats focus on securing IT systems, rather than breaking into them. Somewhere in the gray zone lie gray hats, who are unlike the full-fledged spammers.
If you follow the rules of the game, you are in the white hat camp, the camp that sticks to ethical search engine promotion. The web designers labeled black hats resort to unsavory techniques like spamming the web with dummy pages with thousands of links, back doors, cloaking or any other technique. The tricks are all geared to optimize their search.
When does SEO become spam?
“Google doesn’t consider SEO to be spam. To Google SEO only becomes spam, when it goes against its quality guidelines and moves into things like hidden text, cloaking or sneaky redirects”, says Matt Cutts, a key player in SEO battles at Google.
Let us briefly see what techniques are used by black hats and white hats and with what advantage or disadvantage.
Black hat SEO is a technique to basically fool the search engine indexer. No search engine would approve it, even as the technique aims to improve rankings. The black hat techniques may include one or more of the following:
-High traffic key words that are irrelevant or spammy, not visible to the human readers by merging the words in web page color background or hiding them beyond the visible space in the page.
-Mismatching the content the web visitors see and search engine indexers redirect.
-Pasting a large number of hidden links to and from unrelated sites to generate high volume of traffic.
White hat SEO techniques steer clear from deception. They obey the search engine guidelines- stated as well as implied. Moreover, white hat SEO ensures that the visitors see the same content that has been indexed and ranked by a search engine.
White hat techniques include both off and on-page techniques. As far as possible they have correct and complete metadata compliance (W3C guidelines). Their key word density, link accessibility, visibility, use of site maps, robots.txt files are all correct.
Off-page white hat techniques comprise an ethical and relevant link construction system. Their media releases are almost regular and forum participation includes site owner and/or their staff. Blogging and podcasting are inbuilt features in them.
It is noteworthy that a major segment of web community believes that in the long run white hat SEO will have a long term advantage over their black hat SEO counterparts. On ranking, traffic, conversion or profit, may have an immediate or short term advantage, but ultimately it is the creative web page content that meets the expectations of human visitors will win the race.