What is White Hat SEO?

A while ago I came across a Search Engine Optimisation company whose business directory entry confidently stated, “We offer top class White Hate SEO services”. Which illustrates the importance of checking your content carefully before distributing it willy-nilly all over the interweb!

Hopefully they meant ‘White Hat’ but that’s another story.

So what is White Hat – as opposed to Black Hat – SEO?

Think cowboys. In old western films the goodies wear white hats and the baddies wear black hats. The same goes for SEO. White hat SEO involves methods, tactics, strategies and media that Google and co recognise as legitimate. Black hat SEO involves techniques that skate right up to and over the edge into ’spammy’ territory; automatic ‘comment spamming’ into unsuspecting do-follow blogs and the like.

How do you tell if you’re being naughty? Common sense is your best bet; think humans first. If your SEO strategy benefits people as well as search engines, you’re probably on the right track.

If your SEO work has nothing to do with making the internet a better place for visitors but fills it with irritating, irrelevant crap, you’ll eventually get a slap from Google. And their slaps can be painful… blatant ongoing black hat SEO practices can even get your site thrown off Google altogether.

When doing your own DIY SEO, check what you’re doing isn’t frowned on. When someone else is doing it for you, make sure they’re aware that black hat simply isn’t cricket.

Update for 2015 – Google has managed to quash most old-school black hat SEO practices pretty successfully. But there’s a lot of negative SEO going on, which is even more scary…