The Blog: WhiteHat SEO vs BlackHat SEO

Why Is It Called BlackHat and WhiteHat SEO?

The golden era of westerns from the 1940s-60s has left an indelible mark on our culture. The image of Clint Eastwood, or John Wayne, heroically running the bad guys out of town is instantly recognizable. As is the sound of the opening bars to Ennio Morricone's theme for 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly '

Incredibly, 70 years on, spaghetti westerns shape the way we talk about Digital Marketing. Those infamous black-hatted villains and white-hatted heroes are the inspiration for the terms Blackhat SEO & Whitehat SEO. This is why WhiteHat tactics are SEO strategies that are permitted by search engines; whereas BlackHat SEO is the tactics that are against the rules of search engines. In this new 'wild west' of Digital Marketing, you really shouldn't fall in with the black-hat wearing bad guys. These days, there are a fair few sheriffs in town; Google is the most important with 89% of global search traffic. That’s why today we will focus exclusively on Google’s rules for BlackHat and WhiteHat SEO. This is our guide to WhiteHat SEO vs BlackHat SEO: good, bad and the ugly ways of optimizing your website.


Blackhat tactic 1: Content Scraping

A rule from the real world, which is equally true for SEO, do not steal, in this case, content from websites that are then posted word for word on another site. People who do this are called scrapers by the industry. Search engines do not like them: Google sees these activities as adding no value to the user and most likely committing copyright infringement. Search Engines can detect this duplicate content and will not attribute it with the same value as original content. In fact, it probably won’t list copies in its exact results at all. The search engines already know the original article because the scraper found it through the search engine in the first place. 

Is Pasting Articles Together Content Scraping?

Yes pasting multiple articles together is indeed scraping. If a content creator lifts large amounts of text from multiple pages and pastes them together. Google will also be able to identify the scraping and will punish accordingly. Mosaic pasting is also forbidden. Copyright rules vary from country to country but Google is obliged to respect the copyright law of the countries it operates in and to remove reported pages that violate copyright. 


Blackhat tactic 2:  Keyword Stuffing 

Keywords are still a very important factor in SEO. WhiteHat content in this area uses keyword content sparingly to create meaningful keyword-rich content. The focus should always be on making written content enjoyable for the user to read. Keywords should never be used to impact the readability of the text. It’s important to note that readability is also a ranking factor. So even if the content is judged as keyword stuffing it won’t rank very well because the user and Google will identify it as uninteresting content. 

Examples of BlackHat Keyword Stuffing

From the stuffers we have terrible tactics like 10 thousand word articles about Kanye West's love of 'low cost viagra' 'and 'next day delivery', by this I mean content with so many keywords stuffed into it that it becomes hard to read or completely nonsensical. 

WhiteHat Keyword Stuffing

Rather than stuffing the body of your text with as many keywords as it can take, just place them occasionally in the text when they make sense, and in key places such as the H1, H2s, and URL. If you feel like you have to force your keywords into the titles of your content, you should focus on planning more and finding topics that don’t require stuffing. If you want to get more visitors to your pages with keywords you should also focus on finding the right ones. Keyword tools like those found in rankingCoach can really help get the best value keywords which will lead to more of the right traffic. They will also help you to pick the right topics that your audience is interested in. 

Blackhat tactic 3: Keyword Smuggling 

Another activity that often goes with keyword stuffing is keyword smuggling. This is when site owners hide keywords in places that search engines can’t see. The ingenuity smugglers use is sometimes almost impressive.They try to hide keyword spam in a place where it cannot be seen by the user, hoping that the high keyword volume will improve their SE ranking. For example, they hide it behind images, in white text on a white background, positioned off-screen with CSS, written in font 0. 

Whitehat Smuggling and Stuffing 

All of these smuggling and stuffing tactics have been used at some point Google knows about all of them and punishes websites for stuffing and smuggling. They have also become increasingly ineffective as Google updates have made site ranking much more nuanced so having hundreds of keywords stuffed or smuggled into content is more likely to make a page rank badly than well. There is no such thing as WhiteHat smuggling and stuffing because these tactics are the opposite of what Google’s rules are about which is serving the user.  WhiteHat is about doing everything you can to help the user find the content they need and want, not tricking them. 

Blackhat tactic 4: Cloaking

Since the early days of search engines, Google has been punishing rule-breakers no matter how big or small. We discussed BMW's tough experience with Google in a recent article for this blog. It was BMW'S BlackHat use of keyword stuffing in combination with doorway pages that got them in hot water with Google. Doorway pages are a form of Cloaking. This practice refers to when web designers offer keyword-stuffed pages, to bump themselves up the search rankings which they then switch out for another completely different page when the user clicks on it. 


BMW received a zero PageRank as punishment for using this tactic. This is because Cloaking is against Google Quality Guidelines, which are the Google equivalent of the ten commandments. In the words of Google Pagemaster Matt Cutts "We say that all types of Cloaking are against our quality guidelines so there's no such thing as WhiteHat Cloaking" 

You might wonder why Google is so strict on this; It all comes down to the danger created by the ability to switch out one kind of content for another. Imagine a child searches for their favorite cartoon character online, clicks on a link, and is redirected to an adult website; SEs are doing everything in their powers to prevent this from happening. Hence the severity of their stance, You have been warned. 

There's WhiteHat SEO in Them There Hills!

Today we have seen some pretty dastardly deeds, so how do you stop yourself from falling in with the wrong crowd and getting ridden out of town by the search engine sheriffs? Stick with rankingCoach and we'll show you how. As a Premium Google Partner, we get the rules straight from the horse's mouth. 

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06 Jan, 2021