Search Engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing all have a singular goal: Return the best results for a user’s search. Therefore, each company constantly seeks better ways to identify the best answer to any given query. Answers to queries comes in various forms such as pictures, videos, products, articles, etc. Because of this, 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. There are multiple ways to have properly optimized content, however it’s important to follow the right rules. SEO strategies can be classified into three very different and distinct categories: Black Hat, White Hat, and Gray Hat SEO. These opposing categories help boost your visibility and online presence in different ways.

In this article, we will go over what these categories are, what they do, examples of them, and how Boostability can help your business with this through SEO.


Black-Hat Tactics

Black hat SEO strategies are known to be 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.

These are few examples of black hat strategies that tend to be used: 

  • Duplicate content
    • Plagiarism or copying another article’s information without citing the source could be considered duplicate content.
  • Invisible text
  • Cloaking or redirecting to a page you do not own
  • Links from irrelevant sites

In addition, when discovered, websites that implement such tactics can be heavily penalized by search engines. While utilizing black hat SEO can give your website a spike in traffic, it’s never beneficial to your website in the long run. You can find more information about the layers of black-hat tactics and the potential penalties associated in this previous blog post.


White-Hat Tactics

White hat SEO thrives in creative, social content. These tactics usually comprise content marketing, genuine connections with other sites owners, and a proactive and engaging relationship with your audience and customer base through social media. White hat SEO also involves technical aspects of your website such as accurate metadata, link building, and tags.

These are few examples of white hat strategies that tend to be used:

  • Original content creation
  • Linking to relevant sites
  • Referencing information
  • Standard and compliant site code
  • Unique and relevant page titles

Opposite to black hat SEO, white hat SEO follows the rules and guidelines set to help boost visibility and online presence. 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 concept in which over-optimization or accidental duplication can occur. Gray hat SEO isn’t necessarily frowned upon, but it 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 are few examples of gray hat strategies that tend to be used:

  • Cloaking
  • Purchasing:
    • Old domains
    • Links
    • Followers
  • Social media automation

These tactics can also include soliciting for guest posts and rehashing old blogs or information. Results can vary and be careful not to plunge into the dark side of SEO.


How Can Boostability Help?

At Boostability, our SEO approach offers white hat link building services. We do this in a variety of ways depending on what will provide the best results for your business:

  • Business Profile Creation and Optimization: We make sure your information is up to date for your customers to have a better understanding and user experience. Without updated information, directory and citation building won’t have as great of an impact.
  • Social Bookmarking: Also known as website bookmarking, social bookmarking helps increase brand awareness and promote valuable information regarding your business to a large audience.
  • Outreach Services: We make sure to research your designated industry and go in-depth on creating a complete outreach strategy. This includes finding opportunities to contact high-authority websites, publishers, influencers and bloggers, community thought leaders, and more relevant places for your business and target audience.

There are many more white hat SEO link building services available through Boostability.



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.

For professional SEO assistance, learn more about Boostability’s SEO services and how our white hat services can help improve your business.


Colton is the former Director of SEO Strategy at Boostability testing and defining the products and processes that make Boostability's customers successful. He was part of Boostability for over 8 years. Colton loves hanging out with his family and gaming. He runs a personal blog over at where he discusses gaming, life, and SEO.


  • Drew Whitmill, August 13, 2015 @ 9:51 am

    White hat and Black hat are pretty easy to recognize. It’s that grey hat that requires testing on a website. It seems like grey hat not only means that it could help immediately or in the future, but also that there usually isn’t as much information on those topics.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, August 13, 2015 @ 12:46 pm

    Before this article I wasn’t even aware that gray hat SEO was even a thing – totally makes sense now though. I can definitely see how that happens.

  • Andrew Williams, August 24, 2015 @ 9:24 am

    It is important to understand the difference between Gray, White, and Black hat SEO.

  • Caz*, October 5, 2015 @ 8:21 am

    What exactly are examples of these differences Colton? Can you add any specifics?

  • Maria Williams, October 5, 2015 @ 8:27 am

    I’m with Jamision, I thought that it was just a black and white hat SEO only. After reading the article now I understand the different of the three of them and how important they are to know about them for SEO.

  • Caz*, October 8, 2015 @ 9:10 pm

    What are some of the gray hat tactics you’re thinking of?

  • Caz*, October 8, 2015 @ 9:14 pm

    BlackHat, WhiteHat, and GrayHat are non-SEO terms that have been taken from the computer programming community and used in the same, general manner. Search engines like Google can only read code. They have no eyes to see. So you can argue that SEO is implemented entirely through programming, which is where the use of BlackHat and WhiteHat first came from. In programming, BlackHat and WhiteHat (to put it most simply) were ways of deriving the differences between how a hacker programs and how someone does the same thing, but legally. GrayHat spawned initially as a term for WhiteHat programmers (which erwe usually “Hackers gone good”) that could possible still be living an alternate life posing as a BlackHat programmer. When I started my career a million years ago, I was a programmer and it has been quite entertaining to watch the word turn into an SEO buzzword. All my programmer friends just roll their eyes at it. haha

  • Becca Watters (Vaughn), October 12, 2015 @ 12:02 pm

    Now my favorite color may be black, but when it comes to SEO I go for the white! Black hat tactics can really harm a site, and I have seen it prevent sites from being able to make a recovery! Now that is scary!

    As Drew Whitmill said, grey hat is actually harder to spot, and does take an in depth audit to recognize sometimes. It is actually common to see people accidentally cause these types of SEO mistakes on their site by themselves, and not even realize it could be hurting them. I would say that onsite duplicated content is one of the more common ones we see, and can be one of the easiest to fix, granted you have the resources.

    Thanks for laying this out in an easy to understand post! You rock, Colton!

  • Parker Wood, October 12, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

    The grey-hat SEO is a dangerous place, you may gain the ranks quickly but you could be penalized in the future for it. What are some good examples of grey-hat SEO?

  • Ben Hanzel, October 14, 2015 @ 4:48 pm

    I think that black and white hat methods are very easy to identify, but the grey area seems a little bit trickier. I’d love to learn more, I think it could benefit me here in my position.

  • Josh, October 20, 2015 @ 8:29 am

    I tend to think of most gray-hat SEO as future black-hat SEO. I could be wrong, though. For me, it seems that living in the gray is a serious gamble and a good way for a person to wake up one morning and find that their SEO tactics are suddenly obsolete. It is easy to say that black-hat tactics will be penalized. We know that happens. But the gray-hat SEO tactics, in my view, seem to be those that the big search engines have given us clues that they want us to avoid, but maybe they haven’t started levying harsh penalties yet (keyword YET). If I’m completely getting gray-hat wrong, someone please feel free to straighten me out. 🙂

  • Robin Johnson, December 15, 2015 @ 5:33 pm

    Good overview. I remember when I started in this industry, gray-hat SEO wasn’t really a thing. But as SEO has changed an evolved, I’ve seen it creep in to where everything just isn’t always as clear. Also, in an idealized world, everyone would always only do white-hat SEO. But since we live in the real world, the practicality of the situation is that sometimes things in the gray areas are beneficial.

    What I love about Boost, though, is that we really focus on white-hat SEO as much as possible. We really do want to give the best value to our clients and help them get found online, and that informs every decision made in their SEO campaigns.

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