Difference Between White Hat, Black Hat, and Grey Hat SEO

Difference Between White Hat, Black Hat, and Grey Hat SEO

In a concept that is as wide as search engine optimization, we all have different opinions about which is the most effective way to optimize a site. We know of different tactics that will work but finding the one that is perfect is often subjective in nature.

Although all the different tactics come under one head, that is SEO practices, they are divided into three types – white hat SEO, black hat SEO, and grey hat SEO. In order to use the proper SEO techniques and get the maximum outcome from them, you first need to understand the differences in each of the different types of black hat, white hat, and grey hat SEO. Read on to know more about the differences.

White Hat SEO

Any practice that helps to improve the search performance on the SERP or the search engine results page and also adheres to the guidelines & policies of search engines is known as White Hat SEO.

In short, it is the ethical way of doing search engine optimization. In White Hat SEO, you adhere to the rules. To give you a rough idea of what we exactly mean by following the rules, we present the three criteria which White Hat SEO strategies need to meet.

Follows the guidelines laid down by search engines

Google’s guidelines are the most followed set of rules that you should follow for White Hat SEO. These guidelines are the rules put up by Google in order to help us optimize a website in an appropriate manner.

These guidelines lay down all the dos and the don’ts that you need to follow in order to ethically top the SEO game. One major message that you will find at the end of going through the guidelines is that Google encourages you to NOT be manipulative in any way.

If you try to manipulate your site ranking or you try to deceive the algorithm that Google has in place, then you are definitely not following the parameters of White Hat SEO.

Lays focus on the human audience

White Hat SEO lays the primary focus on the experience of the website’s visitor. The top priority of any search engine is to provide the best & most relevant results to its users.

This is the most important component that you need to consider when you are doing your SEO in a proper and ethical manner. the proper, ethical way.

In fact, most of the SEO strategies that are effective already include steps that will help you improve the user experience of your site for all the visitors.

Certain practices like providing high-quality content or faster page loading time help the audience get the most out of your website, also making it easier for them to navigate through the site.

Approaches the long-term way

If you have an SEO strategy that follows the guidelines provided by Google and with that, you are able to create a positive experience for your customers, then you are on the right track. White Hat SEO is often extremely time-intensive and work-intensive.

Although this means that it might take you longer to see the results you are looking for, it also means that the impact will be long-lasting.

This is because when your strategies aim at improving the overall experience of the website, it helps you achieve steady rankings with the help of your target keywords.

As you need to invest in content that will definitely continue generating results for years, and as you will indulge in SEO tactics that will keep you on the safer side of Google or any other search engine, White Hat SEO is definitely the way to garner long term results.

Black Hat SEO

Whatever you have learned about the White Hat SEO, just think its opposite and you will have the definition of Black Hat SEO. If an SEO strategy meets the following criteria, then it definitely falls under the Black Hat SEO

1. Does not follow any guidelines

Black Hat SEO practices violate all the guidelines put down by Google. At times, they do exactly what Google instructs them not to do at any cost.

2. Relies on manipulation

Black Hat SEO depends on the manipulation of the algorithms that Google has placed on the search engine.

This basically means that even though the strategy being followed does not look into or focus on the audience and the experience that they are receiving at the website, it is tricking the Google algorithm to think that it values the users more than any other aspect. Simply put, Black Hat SEO is deceptive in nature.

3. Has a short-term approach

Black Hat SEO majorly focuses on the quick wins. This means that the strategies in Black Hat SEO pay attention to fully exploiting the loopholes present in the Google algorithms, so that the rankings improve, even without much hard work.

Even though these SEO practices do provide results, they are short-lived almost all the time. Websites that use Black Hat SEO strategies are always at a risk of losing their rankings, making the results short-lived.

The major reason behind this is that Google is always updating its algorithm and working towards providing the best results to the users while preventing websites without good user experiences from ranking well. In February 2011, Google introduced the Panda Update which aimed at stopping sites with poor content from making up to the top search results. In April 2012, Google launched the Penguin Update. This aimed at catching the websites which were spamming the search results. In September 2013, Google announced the Hummingbird Update which allows the search engine to fetch better results by improving the semantic search. In 2015, Google came up with 3 updates – Mobile Update, Quality Update, and RankBrain Update. Other updates that Google has introduced over the years are AdWords SERP Update (2016), Interstitial Penalty, and Google “Fred” (2017), “Medic” Core Update (2018), Site Diversity June, September Core, and BERT October (2019), with the latest being the January Core Update that was launched in 2020.

Grey Hat SEO

If you guess that Grey Hat SEO probably falls somewhere in between White Hat and Black Hat, then you have guessed it absolutely correctly. This means that you can call Grey Hat SEO practices to be manipulative, but that doesn’t mean that they are practices that Google has instructed you to avoid.

They might not be as risky as the Black Hat SEO tactics, but they do have a lot of potential for consequences. SEO tactics like building microsites, creating doorway pages, submitting to link directories, etc, all can be considered to be Grey Hat SEO strategies.

In the case of black and grey hat tactics, there is a chance of facing consequences, due to the manipulation of the Google algorithm. The consequences can either be a demotion in the rankings or a manual penalty.

What’s the Difference?

As Grey Hat SEO is mostly the amalgamation of black hat and white hat SEO practices, we will discuss the difference between the latter two practices alone:

White Hat tactics involve creating relevant content for the users whereas black hat tactics provide a duplicate, unoriginal content.

While white hat practices offer well-labeled images, relevant links, and references, have complete sentences with good grammar and spellings, and are coded with standards-compliant HTML, black hat strategies offer invisible text, stuffed keywords, and are always redirecting the users to a different or separate website or page.

White hat tactics provide unique and relevant page titles and content whereas black hat tactics offer you links from sites, which have irrelevant content to show you.


The bottom line for this topic is pretty easy. It just advises us to stick to the white hat SEO practices. Although it takes time, effort, and money, white hat SEO tactics will bring you your desired results eventually. So if you are looking at a long-term achievement, it makes the most sense to invest in white hat SEO.

As you go in deeper into the topic, the debate against white hat SEO, black hat SEO, and grey hat SEO will continue. And no doubt, white hat SEO will always emerge as the victor.

So with that in mind, you might now be wondering how to optimize your website so that you get a positive impact. In that case, the best way of strategizing is by leaving it to the professionals.

At Cheenti, we offer SEO strategies and services as well as numerous other digital media services for the well-being of your website. So pick up your phone, and give us a call, and we can sit down together and discuss every need you have.


Is black hat SEO legal?

Although black hat SEO cannot be termed as illegal, it does violate the guidelines that Google has shared with us through the Webmaster guidelines. This means that it is definitely against the rules. Engaging in it will attract a penalty as a punishment.

Can Google Penalize my site for using Black Hat?

Definitely yes. Google can easily penalize you for using black hat SEO strategies for your website. Google usually demotes your website’s ranking or it can issue a manual penalty in case you indulge in black hat SEO strategies.

What are the white hat backlinks?

White hat backlinks are basically SEO links that help you take your website to the top ranks of the Google search engine. They are the methods that Google encourages you to undertake instead of black and grey hat methods that belong to the don’ts lift of Google Webmaster.

What are Google’s guidelines regarding SEO?

Guidelines like creating unique content and page titles, proper usage of keywords, etc fall under Google’s guidelines. Google’s Webmaster guidelines provide a detailed explanation of all the dos and the don’ts that you need to follow instead of trying to manipulate the algorithm in place.


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