White Hat V/s Black Hat V/s SEO
People sometimes refer Black Hat techniques as Black Hat SEO as if it were part of Search Engine Optimization! However, let’s not categorize this is a branch of SEO, but merely an aspect, a darker side of the moon.
It is hardly talked about these days, but it has somehow evolved over the years, despite Google’s stringent algorithmic changes. Let’s dig in an example of a black hat technique and reach down to its core.
A few important points before that:
Differentiating Black Hat from SEO:
SEO is optimization, i.e. improvement of your website, whereas black hat techniques do not improve anything. Definitely, black hat increases your short term ranking however it does not improve your overall relevance*.
We can say Black Hat and Grey Hat are the darker side of SEO. What Grey Hat is, is another topic of discussion though.
*Using the Term ‘Relevance’: I’m using the term ‘relevance’ as opposed to PageRank, SERP, inflow of traffic, etc. because as Google says, “create websites for users, not for search engines”.
Defining Black Hat:
Trusted Wikipedia description – ‘Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception’.
A “black hat” hacker is a hacker who “violates computer security for little reason beyond maliciousness or for personal gain” (Moore, 2005). Black hat hackers form the stereotypical, illegal hacking groups often portrayed in popular culture, and are “the epitome of all that the public fears in a computer criminal”. Black hat hackers break into secure networks to destroy data or make the network unusable for those who are authorized to use the network. They choose their targets using a two-pronged process known as the “pre-hacking stage”.’
So what do black hat techniques comprise of? All of these:
- Disapproved of by the search engines
- Violation of computer Security
- Breaking into secure networks
- Destroy data
- Maliciousness or personal gain
- Cause online public fear
I have tried to explain a few more black hat techniques in my Backlink Building: What you should not do! article, but these are only related to backlink building, as the name suggests. Wiki has a full page on all these spamdexing (a.k.a black hat) techniques.
Pros of Black Hat
- (Short term) Better Ranking
Cons of Black Hat
- Banned by Search Engines
- Penalized by Search Engines
- Jail on charges of being a “computer criminal”
Contrast with White Hat – The Brighter Side
An actor with a black hat is generally considered a villain in a play, and an actor with the white hat corresponds to one who is a hero for the people around him, and thus the names. White hat techniques represent the goodness they bring with them that lasts for long.
“Content for users and not for search engines” defines the rules of a white hat.
And all things in between – The Grey Hat
Sometimes what can be deceptive can also be acceptable by the search engines. These techniques are often debatable, and many SEOs have tried to reason with them.
There is no definite line that can be drawn between black and white hat techniques, but this grey area hovers there. Search engines may or may not overlook that useful piece of cloaking on your image website.
For simplicity, you can differentiate between the two for your own website by writing down the intent of the technique usage.
NOW Let’s Dig in the Example of a Black Hat Technique–
You will come across products that claim to create automated email accounts on various social media sites. More traffic does indeed equate to more income, doesn’t it?
You can be assured of no returns through traffic if the traffic is unreal though. Unreal traffic does not buy your products.
Sure, you can log onto those accounts to click on your AdSense advertisements. And definitely an existing higher count of traffic on your biz website will attract more ‘real’ traffic, which in turn will generate more income for you. You can also use that to generate some backlinks. Sure, you’re absolutely cent-per-cent correct!
You’ll have 100s of accounts created in full name and with complete phone verification done for each too. You can create accounts in Hotmail, Twitter, Yahoo, Gmail Phone Verified Accounts (PVAs) and YouTube Channel, Pinterest, Instagram, and the list goes on.
Very tempting isn’t it? There’s just this teensy-weensy glitch (-es).
One, these dummy profiles will have very thin content since they do not provide any real contribution. And as you know search engines do not give much weight to pages with less/thin content. And you also know about bad neighbourhood (with low PR websites).
Secondly and most importantly, Google is promoting Google Authorship. Eventually, they may try to map them with corresponding real user accounts across the globe and thus, give appropriate relevance. Thereby, dummy profiles with no author markup might get filtered out. One example of Authorship aggressive mapping by Google is this hilariously spooky case of Truman Capote, who was credited by Google Authorship 28 years after his death!
It all comes down to the intent. And thus we have always encouraged “righteousness” in every aspect of SEO. Don’t let your website pass over to the darker side. Keep it in the bright and let search engine relevance shine upon it. We say, let the debaters debate over black, white, or grey hat. All you need to be concerned about is getting your content right, and delivering it to the right audience.
I read this fantabulous way of putting these tri-colours into their sections:
“Whitehat is hackers who are 100% legit, an example is security consultants (somebody that a company may hire to find security holes in their company).
Greyhat is hackers who are kind of on the fence. they do it for the game, or for the thrills and aren’t actually going to cause any harm.
Blackhat is hackers who are in it for the lols and who aren’t afraid of causing harm. Like stealing credit card info, email info etc. etc. and using this info.” –Chris M