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White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO: What’s the Difference?

Sean Parnell - Sunday, June 05, 2011

White Hat vs. Black Hat SEOAs long as it produces results, does it really matter who does SEO for your company? If you answered "no," think about how a $17 billion a year company like JC Penny was penalized by Google for using a 3rd party SEO firm that tried to game the search engine's organic (a.k.a. natural or unpaid) search rankings.

And claiming ignorance about the use of these tactics is no defense.Whether the perpetrator is a rogue vendor or a misguided employee, if you get caught — and all SEO scams are eventually caught — the risk is that your business is demoted — or even removed — in search results. For those that rely on the online channel for a significant portion of their prospects (read: all businesses now), this can effectively be a death sentence.

Black Hat SEO techniques come in dozens of variations, but generally fall into three main categories:

Link Schemes – these can include comment spamming on forums and blogs, link trading (both rendered ineffective by the search engines), and paid link placements (JC Penny's crime).

Content Schemes – these have evolved from "keyword stuffing" and hidden text to various forms of cloaking—where search engines are shown one set of information and website visitors another.

Site Hacking – where a dubious SEO firm penetrates a legitimate website to plant unauthorized SEO content for a non-related site. Sounds unlikely, but a United Nations website recently became a victim.

White Hat SEO, by contrast, implements user-first techniques such as:

High Quality Content – Original, relevant site content is not only the best way to engage site visitors, it's the bestway to entice highly ranked external sites to create non-reciprocal links to your site—one of the biggest factors in search engine rankings.

Logical Navigation – Clear site architecture make sit easier for site visitors to get around your site and search engine web crawlers to index your web pages.

Unique Metadata – ensure that each page site page contains unique metadata that supplements on-page content, focusing on highly targeted keyword variations at the individual page level.

More white hat SEO techniques are found here.

So, how can you tell if an SEO method is legit or a sham? Ask this question: does the SEO method provide any benefit to site visitors?The answer to this question will go a long way in telling you if your SEO strategy is on the right track, or if you're working with the right SEO partner.

If you're still in doubt, feel free to contact Innovaxis with your questions. We're the good guys.