What Color Hat Do You Wear?

If you’re working in the area of SEO, you’ll likely end up talking about hats at some point.  This isn’t meant to indicate an excessive interest in headwear, more that there are three main kinds of SEO that people tend to engage in – white hate, gray hat, and black hat.  The “hat” refers to different strategies in SEO, and measures how much a certain strategist plays by the rules.

What are the rules, you might ask?  Well, there are several, but here’s a sampling:

  • No keyword stuffing. This is the practice of cramming site text so full of keywords that the content is totally unreadable.  If you’ve ever read a paragraph of site text that was using the same phrase every other sentence, you were reading keyword stuffed content.
  • No doorway pages. A “doorway page” is a fake page that a person surfing the internet will never see. Essentially, what it does is trick Google or another search engine into ranking the site higher.
  • No paid links.  The process known as “backlinking” is a source of major link juice – that is, if site A links to site B, site B rises in the rankings since it is considered an information source by site A. However, there are certain services where a website can pay a company to take their website and randomly paste it across the internet – most often as random comments on unrelated blogs – in order to get that backlink juice.

There are literally hundreds of different rules that govern SEO – and nobody knows all of them. But the color hat that you wear depends on how you do your SEO.

One Hat, Two Hat, White Hat, Black Hat

The white hats avoid breaking any of the rules – if white hats want backlinking, for example, they’ll go to a related blog and leave a thoughtful comment with a link back to their site.  This is encouraged by Google and other search engines.  So is well written content, and pages that make use of header tags in order to make websites more readable for search engines.

Gray hat SEO is the next step down the rabbit hole.  There are several tactics that gray hats use which are not entirely forbidden by search engines, but are not smiled upon, either. An example of content marketing that would be considered gray hat is content that contains enough keyword stuffing to be noticeably repetitive, but not overbearing.  If you can read a website and pick out the keywords, you’re probably dealing with content that is a little bit gray hat.  Redesigning a website is also considered gray hat – even if the content on the site is the same, the fact that the code is changed during the redesign makes Google think the site has fresh website content.  You can read more about gray SEO techniques by reading Gray Hat SEO Techniques at Endue.

The last rung on the ladder is the nefarious black hat.  Black hat SEOs use tactics that have been explicitly forbidden by search engines, like purchasing links and using duplicate content.  The reason why black hat is still so popular is that it does work – but with a price.  If Google or another search engine finds out that your site is black hat, you can get deranked or even banned from that particular search engine.

Now I Know – Where to Go?

How serious is Google about the black hat?  Well, Google penalized the Google Chrome website after paid links were found on blog posts about the company’s browser.  Read: Google penalized themselves over black hat tactics.  They’re serious.

No matter how much of a hurry you are to get up the Google Charts, it’s imperative that you keep your SEO as white as possible.  Black hat SEO may indeed get you immediate results, but SEO is not a process that is designed to happen overnight.  The process of building your trust with the search engines, if done correctly, will take you just as long as the process of building trust with customers.  White hat SEO will take longer, but the results are long-lasting.

Feel free to contact us at Content Equals Money to learn more about the importance of staying white hat.  Our hats are as white as can be – and we can’t wait to help your website up the Google Charts and make your whites whiter along the way.

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Laura Hancock is a co-owner of ContentEqualsMoney.com. She has also been a long time writer for us. She writes with a passion for accuracy and flow. While her administrative duties have grown, she is a still a big piece of our content writing services team! Currently pursuing a certification in Technical Writing at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle. +Laura Hancock

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