Black Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO: What’s the difference?

When you first start dealing with SEO, there will likely be a number of terms that you are not too familiar with, including, perhaps, SEO itself, which of course stands for Search Engine Optimization. Other terms that you are likely to hear refer to White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO.

If you are like most people, your thoughts probably go straight to old westerns, where the cowboys with the white hats were the good guys and the heroes, while the black hats were worn by the villains, and to a degree that might be a good way of looking at this.

Whether you are dealing with white hat or black hat, the basic goal is the same: to improve your SEO. Like the heroes and villains of the old west, however, the approaches that they take are different. With this comparison being made, you might wonder why anyone would want to use black hat SEO, but there are advantages to both.

So, what exactly are these different types of SEO? Let’s take a look!

Black Hat SEO

So, having compared black hat SEO to outlaw cowboys, are we really saying that those who use it are akin to Billy the kid? Well, nobody is being gunned down in the streets, but black hat relies on rule-breaking techniques in order to earn higher rankings. Here are some examples:

Automation of Content

It is quite easy to tell when you have come across a bot comment. Why? Because these are comments that are designed to help the URL rank higher through the use of one or more keywords and are automatically generated. This means that they will rarely make any sort of sense to a human reader, who will most likely recognize it for what it is.

Doorway Pages

These are fake pages that are designed to be easily spotted by search engines, as they are loaded up with keywords. The pages themselves are meaningless, as they serve only to redirect users to another page once clicked upon.

Unrelated Keywords

Many search engines will pick up this technique due to how unnatural it looks. Essentially, using unrelated keywords is exactly what it sounds like: using keywords that have no connection to what you are writing about. This is done by using widely-searched keywords and inserting them into an article that is focused entirely on something else. For example, there may be a single throw-away sentence mentioning a celebrity, product, or service before moving on to the main focus of the article. This contributes nothing to what you are writing beyond catching your audience’s attention.

Invisible Text or Links

This is another trick that involves hiding a link or a bit of text within your content in the hopes of improving your rankings. There are a number of ways to do this, including setting your font size to zero, or using white text on a white background.

These techniques can be effective, which is why they are used in the first place, but the downside is that they will most likely be discovered at some point, and the consequences can include having a site be penalized with a lower rank, or even potentially being banned. Why take the risk when there is a perfectly viable option?


White Hat SEO

Frankly, black hat SEO doesn’t make too much sense when it comes to long-term results. White hat SEO seeks to build up your brand through the creation of quality content and organic link building. There are a variety of ways to do this:

Quality is King

You may have heard this expression already, but if you haven’t you are likely to encounter it several times going forward. The most successful brands use high-quality, helpful content that is relevant to their niche. It should be original content and much like school, spelling and grammar do indeed count.

Keyword Use

The effective use of keywords that are relevant to your niche and the topic of whatever you are writing will help people find your content. You want to avoid keyword stuffing, but the proper use of keywords remains very useful.

Internal Links

Again, like keyword stuffing, this is not something that you want to overdo, but linking to other content within your own site has value.

Quality Backlinks

There is some debate over the value of backlinks, but Google does consider other sites linking to you as a sign of confidence and an indicator of quality. Not all links are equal, though, so you will want to ensure that off-site links are relevant and of high-quality.


The meta description of your site is what appears as the first few lines of text in search results. Make sure that these are well-written and not overstuffed with keywords. They should be written for your audience, not the search engine.

It can be tempting to make use of black hat techniques if you are looking to make fast gains. White hat SEO can take some time to reach full effectiveness, but do you really want to risk any gains you make being lost due to penalties imposed against you down the road?

Take the time to invest in quality content and proper SEO. Don’t put your hard work at risk for quicker, but potentially short-term gains. And if you are not crazy about the cowboy hat analogy, then maybe you can think of a galaxy far, far away. Don’t give in to the Dark Side of the Force.


About Marwick Marketing

Marwick Internet Marketing is a Premier Google Partner Agency specializing in Search Marketing (SEO, Google Ads, PPC & CRO). 


Christian Thomson

Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing. Founded in 2012, Marwick has grown from a start-up to the 11th Fastest Growing Company in Canada in 2020 and expanded into the UK in 2019.

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