Building a website for your business is essential. Building a website without optimizing it for search engines, however, is a costly waste of time.
After all, there’s no point in having an online platform for your company if consumers don’t know how to find it. SEO or search engine optimization is the process of ensuring that your website is both visible and accessible to anyone who’s looking for it.
When your website is optimized, if people search for services or products like your own, your business will show up within the very first page of results.
The importance of achieving this placement cannot be overstated. After all, fewer than 10 percent of web users travel beyond this first page.
Understanding this, you might wonder what the best SEO methods are.
The following is everything you need to know about white-hat vs. black-hat search engine optimization: what’s the difference?
Black Hat SEO
Black hat search engine optimization refers to unethical techniques that are used by businesses to drive their websites to the top pages of search engines fast.
Major search engines use complex algorithms to determine which pages will rank and where. They regularly revise and improve these algorithms to reflect changes in how people are accessing and using the web and to ensure that the process remains effective and fair.
Black hat techniques are generally employed by companies and people who have a fairly keen understanding of these algorithms and who know how to leverage them to their advantage.
It is also important to note that they are sometimes leveraged by unsuspecting parties who don’t know any better.
One of the most common black hat techniques in the past was to spam websites by loading and overloading them with every keyword or search terms that people were likely to use.
As an example, if a company was selling car insurance, the word “car insurance” might appear on its web pages hundreds of times, along with relevant or related terms like “automobile coverage.”
This method of spamming was widely used at one time due to its incredible effectiveness in SEO.
By using this technique, many companies were able to force their pages to the top of search results, even though their content and other offerings were not necessarily the most relevant or the highest in overall quality.
Search engines recognized this fact over time, and in response, they altered their algorithms to make them more complex and to consider more website factors.
This way, consumers could use their platforms to reliably find high-value and helpful information, rather than pages that were littered with spam keywords.
More importantly, they began penalizing websites that were using this technique to discourage it quickly. With just a single warning, websites might lose a prime page placement on search engine results pages (SERPs).
After multiple warnings, however, some sites were eventually blacklisted.
Once a site is blacklisted, it can never be found on the engine that has penalized it at all, until the blacklisting is removed. Being blacklisted by a major search engine can be devastating for businesses.
SEO is continually evolving. The overarching goal of every search engine is to ensure that it is providing users with good value. After all, this is what keeps search engines relevant.
When people find that the first pages of results are consistently low in value, they generally start migrating towards other search tools. If a search engine wants to maintain its relevance and popularity, it has to deliver.
As such, countless dollars are spent by these entities to design new algorithms and learning software or AI, that better streamlines and refines the ranking process.
Moreover, countless companies are penalized and blacklisted for either purposefully or mistakenly using the wrong optimization techniques. In essence, black hat SEO is everything that businesses do to trick this system.
The goal is to get expedited and appealing results, without having to invest a lot of time and money into ensuring good value for human users.
White Hat SEO
Conversely, white hat SEO is designed to provide human users with the help and information that they need. It is the ethical and considerate approach to both building a website and optimizing it.
Now that algorithms are becoming increasingly smarter, white hat SEO is becoming increasingly essential.
Not only is it more difficult to take unethical shortcuts, but the penalties for doing so can come faster, and they are usually much more severe.
In addition to the penalties that are leveraged by search engines for black hat techniques, there is also the fact that black hat optimization can be very damaging to a business’s reputation.
Rather than spamming their content with keyword-dense language, ethical companies strive to craft articles and on-site blog posts that accurately and comprehensively address the many questions that consumers have related to their industries or businesses.
This way, when they achieve first-page placement, top-ranked companies are actually able to meet the needs of web users who click their links.
Consumers get the information they want, search engines maintain their viability, and company owners can increase their sales. With white hat techniques, everyone wins.
There are numerous factors that search engines consider when ranking pages. As algorithms have become increasingly complex, the requirements for optimization have become increasingly complex as well.
Fast-Loading Responsive Websites
This is especially true in the technical sense. It is no longer possible to achieve a first-page placement with a basic, slow-loading website just because this platform is keyword rich.
Technical fitness for websites is essential, as is overall responsiveness.
As such, search engines generally rank websites well when they are correctly coded, are accessible and viable on many different types of viewing devices, and when they are rich with information that people actually want.
More consumers are using mobile phones, tablets, and many other small-sized devices to conduct their searches. Thus, companies have to be cognizant of the different demands of these devices when building their websites and optimizing them as well.
For many small business owners, it was once possible to use low-cost templates or other free and affordable tools to build their online platforms.
Now, however, this is a process that is best handled by professional web designers. These professionals know what search engines are looking for.
More importantly, they can make sure that your website is coded correctly form the ground up.
Paying for professional site design is ultimately cheaper in the long-run, given that the costs of fixing mistakes that have been introduced during the development phases can be exceedingly high.
More importantly, these corrective efforts can also be very time-consuming and will increase the amount of time that it takes to get a reasonable page rank.
Mix Outbound & Inbound Links
Beyond making sure that technical SEO is good, companies must work hard to establish organic inbound and outbound links. This can only be done by building relationships with reputable businesses and mutually capitalizing on each other’s domain authority.
Many black hat SEO companies buy these links, use web directories to establish them, or engage in other practices that expedite the link-building process.
When links are built too fast, web crawlers and other technical tools that search engines use to see this and often issue the appropriate penalties.
Keyword stuffing is undoubtedly not the only black hat technique that businesses can use. As search engine algorithms have become more complex, these strategies have become more complex as well.
For instance, several companies are using doorway pages. These are pages that are rich with keywords or that have used keyword stuffing techniques. They are appealing to search engines and often get indexed.
When people click these links, however, they are directed to entirely different pages. When doorway pages are identified, all pages on the company’s platform can be instantly de-indexed as a penalty for the trickery.
Furthermore, their domain authority or the digital prestige of their websites can be dropped all the way down to zero.
Maintain Good SEO Practices
Search engine optimization is a long-term game. It is never a quick, set it and forget process.
Companies need to maintain their high ranks (as well as their domain authority and their positive commercial reputations) by continuously providing consumers with high-value content.
They must create technically high-performing websites (pages that load fast and sites that have virtually no downtime), as well as links that are slowly, methodically, ethically, and organically built.
The entire complex process is usually too vast for most businesses to handle for themselves in-house. This remains true, even when these entities have their own SEO teams.
White hat SEO is always the preferable approach for companies who are looking to achieve lasting success in their fields. This approach accounts for the needs of human users, rather than using mere trickery to appeal to web crawlers temporarily.
Search Engine Objectives
Search engines aim to appease the demands of human users. If businesses want to do well on these major platforms, then they need to align their SEO goals with those of search engines.
Efforts to appeal only to web crawlers are short-sighted trickery. This is trickery that can lead to pages being permanently de-indexed, and sites being temporarily or permanently blacklisted.
When penalties are leveraged by search engines, they are often severe and have very long-lasting effects.
As such, any business that hopes to stick around for some time, particularly in the digital arena, should only ever use white hat optimization techniques.