Black Hat vs. White Hat vs. Gray Hat SEO

Black Hat vs. White Hat vs. Gray Hat SEO

Search Engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing all have a singular goal: Return the best result for a user’s search. Therefore, each company constantly seeks better ways to identify the best answer to any given query.

Since answers to queries come in various forms, e.g. pictures, videos, products, articles, etc., websites need to do everything possible to provide these different types of answers. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. Properly optimized content can take a regular or plain website and make it into something that gets user and search engine attention.

SEO strategies can be classified into three very different and distinct categories: Black Hat, White Hat, and Gray Hat.


Black-Hat Tactics

As you may guess, black-hat SEO strategies are manipulative and unethical. Black-hat SEO exploits a search engine’s algorithm and abuses the system in order to increase a website’s rankings through duplicate content, keyword stuffing, paid links, and hidden content. While these tactics tend to give a huge boost to rankings, the rank increases tend to be brief due to the advancement in machine learning and algorithm updates. In addition, when discovered, websites that implement such tactics are heavily penalized by search engines. I covered the layers of black-hat tactics and the potential penalties associated on a previous blog post.


White-Hat Tactics

White-hat SEO thrives in creative, social content. White-hat tactics usually comprise content marketing, genuine connections with other sites owners, and a proactive and engaging relationship with your audience/customer base through social media. White-hat SEO also involves technical aspects of your website such as accurate Meta data and tags.  White-hat SEO requires time and patience, but it is certainly the safest and most effective strategy.


Gray-Hat Tactics

As with many things, there is a gray area in SEO. Gray-hat SEO is a somewhat newer concept in which over-optimization or accidental duplication can occur. Gray-hat SEO isn’t necessarily frowned upon but is also isn’t praised. Think of Gray-Hat as the neutral area where you can gain a presence fairly quickly with a potential risk of being penalized. These tactics include soliciting for guest posts and rehashing old blogs or information. Results vary and be careful not to plunge into the dark side of SEO.


Quick Review

Search engines are always looking for the best information to millions of questions. You can help them by optimizing your website and content. Implementation of SEO tactics can vary depending on your strategy. White-hat SEO may take patience and long-term commitment, but the results are quality and you avoid any penalization that comes from black-hat tactics.

Colton Miller
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Colton is the Director of SEO Strategy at Boostability testing and defining the products and processes that make Boostability's customers successful. He has been a part of Boostability for over 7 years. Colton loves hanging out with his family and gaming. He runs a personal blog over at where he discusses gaming, life, and SEO.