Anyone who is beginning to explore the potential of search engine optimization will come across references to black hat and white hat SEO strategies. What is not always clear is how a particular strategy falls into a certain category. It's true that perception makes a difference, but there are a couple of key areas in which each of these approaches are clearly nothing alike. Here are examples of how one can decide which camp a strategy fits in with more easily.
The Choice of Keywords and Keyword Phrases
The way that keywords are used today is very different from a decade ago. Simply put, strategies that once triggered a lot of search engine love will now banish pages to the bottom of search results. Unfortunately, black hatters have found some ways to get around current standards and continue using some of those old methods, at least until the search engines catch on and take punitive measures.
The black hat approach to keyword use doesn't involve utilizing words or phrases that have an obvious connection with the subject matter. The focus is more on using something that is likely to gain a lot of attention and trigger a series of hits as people search for that word or phrase. The fact that they will be disappointed when the blog in question has little to do with the searched topic doesn't matter. All that matters is driving traffic to the blog or website and hoping enough visitors stick around long enough to buy something.
For example, an article about patio furniture may include the name of a celebrity in the text. Typically, it's a celebrity who is currently riding on a crest of popularity. The way the name is worked in may vary, but it could be something as simple as saying that the celebrity would love to own the furniture.
This is a black hat approach simply because that celebrity has no established connection with that brand of patio furniture, and speculating about what the individual would or would not think about the product serves no useful purpose. It's there for no purpose other than to gain attention from anyone who is searching for information about that celebrity.
By contrast, white hat methods are focused on the judicious use of relevant keywords. They will have something that directly rates to the subject matter of the article and provides a means of giving readers something of actual value. While it may not be as sexy, opting for relevant keywords and keyword phrases does increase the odds that those readers will be back for another look at that educational and informative blog or website. It is also likely to earn the blog or website a more favorable ranking on the major search engines for a longer period of time.
It's fine by today's standards to include a link or two within the text or as a list of references at the end of a post or an article. With white hat approaches, those links will take the reader to other places that provide additional facts about something that is addressed in the blog itself. The connection will be obvious, helpful, and add some degree of credibility to the blog post.
Think of what it means when a blog post about treatments for a specific health issue includes links to data found on websites operated by professional associations, governmental health organizations, or hospitals. Readers are likely to find the blog is trustworthy, bookmark it, and come back to see what other posts are made in the future.
With a black hat approach, the links don't necessary have anything to do with the blog topic. In fact, they may not even be easy to see. Using a method known as cloaking, the link is associated with a group of words in the blog that have nothing to do with the topic. To further confuse things, the black hatter may employ what is known as invisible links. This means white text with links on a white background that the reader may accidentally land on while moving the mouse across the screen. It could even mean something as simple as embedding a link in a hyphen that accidentally triggers a visit to that unrelated site.
The main point to remember is that white hat strategies are designed to inform, educate, and help the reader find data that is helpful and relevant to the search. Black hat strategies are more focused on generating traffic at any cost and are not that concerned with providing readers with what they hoped to find. As search engines continue to refine their algorithms, it makes sense to use white hat measures that are likely to earn a lot of love and not lead to being pushed to the back of the line.