In the SEO sphere, we tend to differentiate between two types of SEO / SEO techniques. White-Hat SEO and Black-Haat SEO. Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde. One would be good, in line with Google’s recommendations (in particular), the other would be bad and risky, because it would play on the weaknesses of search engine algorithms.
White, grey or black hat seo: what is it?
White, grey and black hat seo are three completely different ways of approaching the natural referencing of a site. Why does black hat seo offer much faster results and why is it dangerous for your site?
Definition of white hat seo
White-hat SEO is a set of natural referencing and optimization practices that respect the official recommendations of Google, the leader in internet search. The main aims of these practices are to :
- Improve the site’s technical performance, for example by having a consistent page architecture or reducing loading times on mobile devices
- Enhancing the user experience
- Improve the quality of editorial content
Le white hat SEO est donc un ensemble de procédés considérés comme « éthiques » par les moteurs de recherche. Ceux-ci vont notamment dans le sens de Google qui cherche sans cesse à renforcer la pertinence et la qualité des résultats qu’il propose. Il s’agit donc bien d’une stratégie de visibilité s’inscrivant dans le long terme. Si elle nécessite un peu de temps avant d’offrir des résultats, ceux-ci sont en revanche pérennes.
White-hat SEO is therefore a set of processes considered to be ‘ethical’ by search engines. In particular, they are in line with Google’s constant drive to improve the relevance and quality of the results it offers. It is therefore a long-term visibility strategy. It may take a little time to produce results, but they are sustainable.
Definition of black hat seo
Black-hat SEO is a set of processes and automated methods designed to exploit the flaws in algorithms to manipulate results in your favor. The results can be surprising. Sites that engage in such practices can find themselves on the first page of Google, or even in first place, overnight.
With results like these, it’s obviously tempting. But any loophole is bound to be filled, as Google is constantly updating its algorithm to varying degrees. When the flaw is corrected, which is never very long, all those who have used it to artificially climb the SERPs are then unmasked by Google and punished. Depending on the extent of the dubious practices used, this ranges from downgrading to the total disappearance of the site.
Definition of grey hat seo
Grey hat SEO uses a number of techniques to try to improve a site’s SEO while respecting a certain ethic and quality. In particular, they try not to exceed the dangerous limits set by Google, such as using exact anchors in their backlinks or duplicating content.
If we stick to Google’s guidelines, any action aimed at optimizing search engine optimization, apart from the technical optimization of the site and the creation of original content, can be likened to Black-Hat SEO, because its purpose is to influence the algorithm. From then on, the slightest sponsored article or directory listing created would be enough to put a site in the category of those using Black-Hat SEO practices.
Fortunately, in practice Google is much more flexible on this issue, which is not the case for its employees, whose job it is to manually analyze sites that might be based on dubious practices.
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Black hat seo: what are the risks for your site?
Since 2011 and the deployment of filters such as Penguin and then Panda, Google has made it clear that it wants to purge all low-quality sites from its results. This includes those that try to manipulate its algorithm through automatic or fraudulent SEO practices.
Examples of practices prohibited by Google
Black-hat SEO techniques are all banned by search engines. Some in particular have been penalized in recent years:
- Cloacking, which consists of using scripts to display different content depending on whether the visitor is a robot or a human. The indexed page is therefore different from the page viewed by Internet users.
- Hiding text and keywords on pages: the editorial content of each page enables search engines to understand its theme. The richness of the lexical field used then makes it possible to appear on the most important expressions. It can therefore be tempting to add a long list of keywords to be sure of being well positioned, while hiding them behind an image or using a font color identical to that of the background.
- Keyword stuffing”, which consists of the abusive accumulation of keywords in a text or in Hn tags.
- Duplicating the content of other sites by simply copying and pasting a competitor’s text and displaying it on your own site
- Using a bot to automatically generate links on a massive scale when commenting on articles or blogs
- Mass generation of external links pointing to the same site
Le cas particulier de la génération massive de liens externes
Google’s algorithm was originally based on the number of external links pointing to the same site. In the early days, the engine considered that the more links you had, the more of a reference you were in your field. Logically, you should therefore appear in the top search results.
Link building is a common practice and an integral part of any good natural referencing strategy. However, its abuse, which consists of massively generating hundreds or thousands of links to improve your ranking in the results, is punished by Google. This is perfectly normal, since these poor-quality, artificial links (directories, link or domain purchases, etc.) have only one aim: to manipulate Google’s algorithm.
In 2013, Interflora suddenly disappeared from the results following a Google penalty. The cause was the company’s massive purchase of low-quality inbound links. Interflora then had no choice but to carry out a massive disavowal of all the artificially acquired links.
What are the Google penalties?
Using black-hat techniques or techniques prohibited by Google is always very risky. Many well-known companies and brands have learned this the hard way. BMW, Ricoh and Interflora are among the very long list of companies that have temporarily or completely disappeared from the web giant’s results.
There are two main types of Google penalty:
- Loss of positioning: the site moves back several pages. Demotion leads to a total loss of visibility
- Blacklisting: this is the most severe penalty, as it involves the removal of the offending site from the results. A Google penalty that is sometimes never lifted. For a company, this can mean considerable economic damage.
Is automation synonymous with dangerous practices?
Black-Hat SEO is often associated with automation, while White-Hat SEO is presented as a technique that is not, implying that automation is necessarily bad for SEO.
In fact, a good SEO who respects the guidelines imposed by Google can automate certain tedious or repetitive tasks. This is the case, for example, for automatic redirections, 404 error detection, internal linking or the integration of visitor requests into a section of the page – essential tasks that can be automated without risking infringing Google guidelines.
It is understood that BlackHat techniques present risks for the medium- and long-term visibility of your site, and today very few companies will offer you this type of service.
Our seo agency, for example, only offers WhiteHat services in correlation with the Google guides.