The techniques used for search engine optimization (SEO) are generally grouped under the hat jargon: white hat SEO, gray hat SEO, and black hat SEO. While the white hat SEO are considered as acceptable SEO techniques, the black hat SEO techniques are considered unethical. The sites which employ techniques which will be severely penalized by search engines even to the extent of banning them from their search results. The grey hat SEO falls somewhere in the middle of white and black hat SEO techniques. Even though they employ questionable techniques, they may not attract the same kind of penalties from search engines as black hat SEO. Each of the SEO techniques is elucidated below along with their pros and cons.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO is the ethical SEO. A white hat SEO plays as per the rules laid down by the search engines like Google and Bing. Search engines lay down rules as to how their services can be used by SEOs. Sometimes, the rules laid down by search engines regarding some aspects may not be very clear. These techniques are beneficial to both site visitors and search engines. White hat SEO improves search engine results in such a way that search engines don’t punish the site like blocking your site from their search results. But, white hat SEO gives results slower than the black that SEO and is an ongoing process. Examples of white hat SEO techniques are: creating quality content, site optimization, guest blogging, internal linking, semantic mark-up, link baiting, etc.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO is the unethical form of SEO. It refers to the use of techniques which are not acceptable to search engines to improve the rankings of the site. These techniques aim to fool search engines to give better rankings to their pages. The techniques used in black hat SEO will not have any benefits to the users. Black hat SEOs can be spammers but employ other kinds of techniques too. Examples of some other kinds of black hat SEO techniques are: link farms, hidden text, scraping, doorway pages, cloaking, comment spam, paid links/content+, keyword stuffing, etc. Despite being unacceptable to the internet community, black hat SEO techniques are used because they work until the search engine finds out about them and lower awareness about the fact that search engines will ban their sites once they find out about the use of such techniques.
Grey Hat SEO
Gray hat SEO refers to the techniques that take more risks than a white hat SEO but still not likely to face the wrath of search engines and get banned. Grey hat SEOs generally try to see what they can get away with. The tactics used by grey hat SEOs try to exploit the vulnerabilities in the ranking algorithms followed by search engines like Google and Bing. Even though they are questionable SEO techniques, they are not the same as the black SEO techniques. These techniques though not prohibited by search engines can still get your site into trouble. Search engines may levy other kinds of penalties on sites employing grey hat SEO techniques like search engine ranking penalties. Examples of grey hat SEO techniques are: Google bombing/washing, spinning/rewriting of articles, reciprocal links, buying old or expired domains, etc. But, it should be remembered that search engines keep on changing their policies and what is classified as a grey hat SEO technique today may be considered as a black hat SEO technique tomorrow.
Which is the Better Option?
It should be remembered that while white hat SEO takes time to give results, black and grey hat SEOs will hurt you in the long run. Black hat and grey hat SEO techniques are against the rules and extremely risky. Search engines have the capability to distinguish between white, black, and grey hat SEOs and will rank your site accordingly. Sometimes, even if the search engines fail to detect the black hat SEO techniques, sites which compete with the sites employing these techniques can find them and report to the search engines. Google accepts spam reports from sites whose competitors are found out to be resorting to black hat or grey hat SEO techniques. The consequences for a business site of being caught by search engines for practicing black hat SEO techniques can be fatal. It will damage the reputation of the site for ever. So, if it takes time to get results using white hat SEO techniques, it is better for business sites to stick with them lest they may end up ruining their fortunes.