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SEO: It's more than just black and white

The classic battle between the light side and the dark side is very much alive within the digital marketing world.

Black hat and white hat SEO tactics have both been around for a very long time, and both utilize very different approaches to ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). However, only one of those approaches can have negative repercussions.

These tactics are essentially two different ways to approach SEO marketing. Black hat SEO tactics are used by the villains of the Internet world; tricks that hack the system to make your website rank higher in as many searches as possible. White hat SEO is a safe way to build up your relationship with Google and do right by the leader of all search engines.

What is Black and White Hat SEO?

Essentially, black hat tactics target the search bots and spiders, while white hat tactics focus on the user.

Black hat SEO tactics can do more harm than good. Sure, you may be looking at some absolutely incredible results right this minute, but Google is no fool. Google knows the truth, and it knows when it is being manipulated. As a digital marketer, your relationship with Google is extremely important, and what happens when you begin to manipulate your human relationships? They fall apart.

When your relationship with Google falls apart, you will begin to notice the negative consequences – your search rankings aren't as high as they used to be, your organic traffic seems to be slowing down, people aren't finding you as easily... These are all negative consequences for dabbling with the dark side.

Old, outdated black hat SEO tactics include:

  • Keyword stuffing (the practice of stuffing as many high ranking keywords into a piece of content as possible to rank for as many things as possible).
  • Cloaking (the process of showing one thing to Google’s spiders, such as links and HTML, and another thing to the user, such as an image, to hide hidden keywords).
  • Link schemes (buying or selling links, participating in a link exchange, or using an automated linking program).
  • Duplicate content (copy and pasting multiple pages to increase the amount of keywords on the site).

White hat SEO, on the other hand, shifts the focus to user interaction and behaviour. It helps tell Google what your site is all about, but also provides information and value to the most important element of the equation: the user.

Pillar Content

These SEO tactics used to be important when it came to the world of keywords, but there’s a new player in town: pillar content. How do black and white hat SEO tactics fare in the new world of SEO marketing – the world where content remains king and Google’s RankBrain is smarter than ever?

Pillar content is a product of this stellar RankBrain intelligence. Google no longer relies on matching your search query. Instead, it focuses on user intent based on an interpretation of what you are searching, trying to stay one step ahead of the user using artificial intelligence. So, instead of relying on long-tail keywords in blogs, we rely on a content cluster system that consists of pieces specialized content connected via hyperlinks. Google connects those topics and then determines that your website contains relevant information for your industry, and ranks you accordingly.

Google’s artificial intelligence makes it a little bit tougher to hack the system, but while many of the more traditional black hat tactics won’t cut it anymore, people will always find a way. The best thing to do is make sure you stay safe and execute a growth-driven, data-based strategy that will pull in real and tangible results for the long term.

How to Triumph Over The Dark Side of SEO

Here’s how to win at white hat SEO marketing and not put yourself at risk with Google.


Keep your SEO hat on, but focus on the human element. Google’s RankBrain algorithm is focused on user intent. Create valuable, memorable content that your audience will actually want to read, and that will provide them with relevant answers or information. Do your keyword research, figure out what your audience is talking about, and build a relationship with them.


When you implement SEO properly, it doesn’t produce results overnight. You need to give it time to work its magic. Black hat SEO is done with the goal of getting as high on the SERPs as possible as fast as possible, while white hat SEO is all about building and growing. Which one would you rather have: temporary satisfaction or long-term growth?


Always monitor how you’re doing and look for any opportunities that may come up. Do not expect that you are going to sit back and watch your site climb the ranks on its own. When you reach a goal, keep setting new ones and never stop. It’s going to take work, but that work is going to pay off as you watch your business soar.

Practicing Safe SEO

This may sound like a lot of information at once, and truthfully, it is. When your brain isn’t driven to think in SEO terms and marketing language, it can all blur together. In fact, you may even be considering whether your own agency is using these tactics to secretly get you ahead. If that’s the case, it may be time to reconsider.

One of our company values is transparency, so we will be completely honest with you. Get in touch with us if you have questions – we are always here to give advice and talk you through our world.

Abbey Hills

AUTHOR: Abbey Hills

Marketing Assistant

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