SEO is truly a cornerstone to business marketing in the modern age; and if any organisation wants to find its place online, SEO must form part of their ongoing strategy. With Google facilitating some 3.5 billion searches every day and a market share of over 92%, it makes sense for companies to optimise their SEO efforts in a way to fit the Google algorithm.

However there are different techniques to be used, and not be used – you may have hear the terms ‘White Hat’ and ‘Black Hat’?

What is SEO and why is it important?

SEO refers to Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is the practice of optimising online content through a business’ website, social media or any other presence online. Content can be optimised through the creation of relevant content, through increasing usability and accessibility of a website and through the production of authentic third party comments and links on the business.

SEO is important because when done correctly, it fits the Google algorithm and helps the machine learning behind the scenes to best understand when and where to display a search result based on its relevancy to the search being carried out. This means that when a Google user searches a word or term on the site, they are more likely to see relevant results – and therefore, if they’re googling something linked to your business, your business’ online presence is more likely to be prominently displayed in the Google ranking. This can gain significant competitive advantage over competitors.

In a world where ‘to google’ has become a verb and an everyday way of life for the majority of the population, having a carefully curated presence online that displays when people look up something relevant isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ business marketing tool – it’s a must.

White Hat SEO

White Hat SEO is a technique used to optimise content online by targeting it and shaping it for a human audience. This means that the content is created for and aimed at relevant users and viewers without the concern of any additional tools used to target an algorithm or Google ranking.

White Hat SEO includes the creation of high quality, niche content, rich in naturally occurring keywords and phrases, the proper construction of links and meta tags, and the organic linking to and from content by appropriate third parties.

White Hat SEO is considered the most ethical and appropriate way to optimise an online presence in order to improve a Google ranking.

Black Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO is the usage of techniques that directly targets search engine algorithms to increase Google ranking position, without the consideration of the human audience who may be reading, viewing or using the content displayed.

Techniques used by those practising Black Hat SEO include keyword stuffing, link farming, spamming and buying followers and likes. Such techniques are used in the hope of ‘tricking’ the Google algorithm into understanding and promoting the content to a higher ranking on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Black Hat SEO techniques are commonly employed by low quality or altogether false SEO or business marketing agencies who do not intend to deliver on a proper investment.

What does Google prefer – White or Black Hat SEO?

The ethos behind Google is always to deliver the most appropriate search results possible, so Google rankings should be based on real human behaviour and relevancy. Therefore, it is of no surprise that Google favours White Hate SEO tactics over Black Hat SEO tactics.

White Hat SEO sits comfortably within the Google Terms of Usages (Ts & Cs), but Black Hat SEO does not – so technically, those utilising the latter techniques for their online presence are in breach of their user agreement and can be removed from the site altogether. Indeed while this doesn’t often actually happen in practice, the risk is more than the Google ranking priority will be realigned and so the results of Black Hat SEO negative rather than positive for the business.

White Hat SEO is a long-term and continual practice, whereas Black Hat SEO is a quick means to an end rather than a solution that lasts. This means that not only is enacting Black Hat SEO techniques a risk, it is unlikely to ever be effective for more than a short period of time anyway.

So does Black Hat SEO actually work?

It can seem frustrating to see businesses using Black Hat SEO techniques to improve their Google rankings – particularly if it appears to work and list their online presence ahead of those genuinely trying.

However, Google’s algorithms and the machine learning behind them is amongst the most sophisticated in the world; and it is always working to better learn and comprehend human behaviour. We see updates to Google’s SEO requirements every few months but behind the scenes, changes are being made all the time. The most recent update, Google Page Experience, rolled out in May 2021 saw Core Web Vitals being introduced as a Google ranking factor – all of which are based on user experience and accessibility above criteria that can be artificially inflated, such as keywords.

No matter how tempting it may be to purchase a quick and easy Black Hat SEO ‘fix’ service, it should always be avoided. Even if the gains seem positive in the short term, they will never last and in the long term will only detract from a positive Google ranking.

In order to best promote and nurture your business online, only White Hat SEO techniques should be used. If you’re outsourcing any part of online business marketing, it’s critical to ensure that the agency used is only applying authentic White Hat and reputable SEO services – your online ranking, your reputation, and your bottom line, will thank you.

Woya Digital is a digital marketing agency providing SEO and Local SEO solutions that are aimed at getting you to page 1 of Google. We can assist companies of all sizes, anywhere, promote themselves through the internet. Our fixed price offering is straightforward and yields results!