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

| November 21st, 2022 | 3146 Views

White Hat vs. Black Hat vs. Gray Hat SEO

The phrase white hat and black hat comes from the Western films that were created in the 1920s. This is because it was a simple way for those watching to be able to distinguish between the villain and the hero. In these films the hero was always wearing the white hat, while the villain donned the black one.

This terminology has since been adopted and used in various industries over the years, especially when it comes to security. The white and black hats are just a way of describing ethical and malicious hackers. These phrases have also been adopted into the SEO industry related to the type of SEO activity use.

What is Black and White Hat SEO?

You should be aware of what each of these phrases stands for when it comes to SEO since it can help you to decide which ones you are going to opt for. The term white hat SEO services just means that these expert follow only the set rules. They would be the ones who are using the best and only the ethical tactics that are in place and follow all of the guidelines set by the search engines.

Those who are called black hat means that they would use some of the riskier practices and tactics that search engines don’t recommend. This means that these tactics would work, but at some point they would stop working. This can be simply going against the various guidelines that are set up to other dangerous activities that would affect your website.

The question then becomes who determines who is good and who is bad? This isn’t per a legal problem since not following the guidelines isn’t something that is illegal. However, if you are caught using some of the most nefarious SEO tactics like hacking, then you might be looking at some legal issues. There isn’t a governing body that sets and determines what is ethical when it comes to SEO and the guidelines.

What are Bad and Good Practices?

There are only a few rules that are set in SEO and those are the ones that are given by the various search engines to the experts. This is because when the day ends this is still their platform and they get to decide the various conditions that need to be met in order to be featured. There are some algorithms that are used by these major search engines and they have been honed and developed carefully over the years. This was done to help fight the unhelpful and obvious manipulations in terms of the search results.

The algorithm is there so it can catch the websites that are going against what they think is the spirit and credibility of the system for rankings. This means that the search engines are determining what is considered illicit behaviour and what is thought to be fair play.

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Guidelines Set by Google

One thing that Google is famous for is having some pretty clear guidelines for webmasters that are used all over the world by professional SEO These guidelines can help to identify just what could land your website in trouble if it is discovered. Google calls these the “Quality guidelines”, which tells about the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behaviour”.

These guidelines have a wide variety of activities that are mentioned like “scraped content”, “doorway pages” and “cloaking”. You should make sure that you are reading what is allowed and what isn’t so you can keep your website on the right track.  The guidelines are directly related to the various and numerous changes that Google has made to their algorithm over the last few years.

Differences Between White and Black Hat

The major difference when you are talking about black hat experts and white hat SEO marketing experts is if they are going to be working within the spirit of the guidelines set by the search engines. There are going to be some nuances in regards to the guidelines that might not be clear, but are you attempting to meet these guidelines or are you finding a way to work around them? If you are working to reach them, then you are a White Label SEO Reseller expert, but if you are trying to get around them, then you are going to be considered black hat.

What is a Gray Hat?

When it comes to SEO there are plenty of opinions in regards to just what a grey hat SEO expert is. According to the definition set up by Google it is one who uses a mixture of both the white and black hat techniques and it is a tactic that is either of the categories, but with some changes to the methods that the search engines work that could change later. It is clear by this definition that gray hat is somewhere in the middle and it isn’t exactly ethical, but neither is it completely wrong.

This is a blurred line and it isn’t something that you would want to willingly tell Google that you are up to. This isn’t something that you should face an automatic penalty for either since it isn’t a bad practice in general, but it is being done so that you can get ahead when it comes to the rankings.

Do These Definitions Matter?

Essentially the use of the terminology of gray, black and white hat is arbitrary. What these definitions do is help to keep the white label SEO experts in line when they are working on the websites that aren’t owned by them. The techniques that are used by the black hat experts deliberately goes against the guidelines set by the search engines and it can carry risks. This means that the sites that are using these methods can be penalized by a partial or outright ban from any search engine.

This is extremely serious if your website isn’t one that you own since it can cause any business to lose their largest revenue stream if it can’t be found through the organic and main source.

What Activities are Part of What Category?

There are so many types of activities that you need to think about when it comes to SEO and you should consider what is white, black and grey for each, including:

Link Building

The guidelines that Google has set for link building states “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.” So, if you are hoping to be in the white hat category, then you need to make sure that you are creating valuable content that the users will use to educate, inform or delight them. 

Also, this content can be easily used as a link builder to become a resource for other websites while if you are adding your website link to the various blog comments you are posting, then it becomes black hat. However, if you are thinking about using the content in order to purely gain links, which is against the guidelines set by Google. You would need to think about whether or not this content is going to be valuable and relevant to what readers are searching for.

Quality of Content

According to the guidelines set by Bing it says, “Websites that are thin on content, showing mostly ads or affiliate links, or that otherwise redirect visitors away to other sites quickly tend not to rank well on Bing. Your content should be easy to navigate, should be rich and engaging to the website visitor, and provide the information they seek.”

When you are doing the right thing your content should be written to delight the reader, answer their questions and aid their navigation. It would rank higher because it is helpful and relevant and optimized to allow the right audience when searching and it is written for the needs of the users first. If you are using a black hat techniques, then the content would just be a doorway page, which is copied from various websites that doesn’t add any value and it would be full of keywords.

This would mean that the copy is just there so that the search engines can find it rather than being there for the users. However, if your content doesn’t have an overwhelming number of keywords while still being written just for a higher page ranking, then it can be considered gray hat. This would also consider that the page might be useful to the visitor, but it doesn’t have a lot of text or value.

How They Differ

Another thing that you need to consider when it comes to this is how they differ and it isn’t just in the definitions, but also in the rewards and risk.


No matter what implementing any of these techniques can carry risks and black hat ones have a clearer risk of using manual actions. If you are found going against the guidelines of the search engines, then you can be penalized by some or the majority of your content being removed from the search engines. Another risk that you need to know about is that some white hat techniques might not work well enough for your website.

This is because there are some industries that are extremely competitive and it isn’t as easy to reach the same rank as other competitors that might be using these black hat methods. However, if you want to reach the highest rankings, then you need to consider what you are doing since if you are playing by all the rules you might not ever reach reach.

The techniques that are used by grey hat experts runs the risk of facing penalization later, especially if the methods that are being used are borderline. This is problematic because you never know when the algorithms are going to be changed or when they are going to start cracking down on that technique.


Another area that you need to consider is longevity since not all technique are going to be useful for long periods. There are some techniques used by black hat experts that could be effective for the short-term, but when they are discovered, then the effects and ranking will also be short-lived. The techniques that have the best change of standing up against the various changes and time are the ones used by white hat experts, while the grey hat ones would be questioned and looked at harder over time.

There is a lot that you should consider when you are thinking about grey, white and black hat SEO methods and techniques. If you are hoping to get the best ranking possible by following the guidelines, then it is vital that you are finding a white or grey hat company. If you don’t want to face any penalizations or problems, then ensure that you are avoiding the black hat type for your business. Looking White Hat SEO, Here You Can explore our SEO Packages!

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