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The Difference Between Grey, Black, and White Hat SEO


Are you a good guy or a bad guy? This question applies to a lot of things – but especially to setting up your website’s SEO strategy. 

Like in many situations, website operators are faced with the question of whether to take the ethical route, even if it takes longer, or to find shortcuts that might deliver short-term success. Or you could also take a middle route – the grey hat.

Before you pick your strategy, it’s important to know the difference between white hat, black hat, and grey hat SEO strategies. 

Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and not every strategy will work for every site. In this article, find out what goes into each of these methods and why it may or may not be the right direction for your website’s online strategy.

White, Black, and Grey Hat

How ethical do you want your website to be? This will impact your SEO strategy and possibly your ranking on Google and other search engines.

White-hat SEO is the strategy that prioritizes following Google’s guidelines above all else. Their quality guidelines ban several kinds of deceptive or manipulative SEO tactics, such as cloaked pages or scraping content from other websites. 

White hat SEO might work a little slower, but your site is unlikely to incur any penalties. It focuses on building quality backlinks and partnering with high-quality sites while eschewing any sort of spamming, clickbait, or paid links.

Black hat SEO is the exact opposite, relying on risky practices that may run afoul of Google’s content guidelines. This does not involve tactics like hacking, which are genuinely illegal and could get your company in serious legal trouble, but Google’s guidelines are not legally enforceable. 

Sites that consistently rely on black-hat tactics might find themselves penalized or even blacklisted from Google’s search engines. Still, many companies do stay below the radar and gain a fast boost from unethical tactics. 

Many sites use Grey-hat SEO strategies, and the general strategy is to build a sustainable white-hat strategy that some carefully chosen black-hat techniques can enhance. 

Many grey-hat strategies are looking forward, assuming that the market is going to change and may become more friendly to a strategy that’s considered out of bounds. While there always is a risk to using any black-hat tactics, many companies stay below the radar while incorporating black-hat tactics into a larger strategy. 

Regardless of which strategy you wind up using, you’ll likely be using them in tandem with a link-building strategy. To get the most out of it, you’ll want to use techniques like backlink checkers that can keep you updated on the quality of your links and the links used by your competition. 

You can check backlinks with site explorer and other tools by Ahref, and use that information to hone your strategy no matter which hat you’re wearing. 

Choosing a Color

The right color hat for your site will vary based on your needs, but it’s important to know which technique you’re targeting before you begin. 

Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages, but by flip-flopping between them, you might wind up with the disadvantages of all of them without having the time and consistency to get the advantages. 

White-hat SEO strategies are best for companies that are planning on a long stay in the market. 

If you’re expecting your company to become a trusted name in the field, building that trust in every area is important. A white-hat SEO company will develop an online strategy that will last the test of time and keep you organically ranked high on search engines. 

So when might a company want to experiment with black-hat tactics? This technique will usually give you short-term boosts in traffic and interaction but may have diminishing returns and get you flagged by Google. 

This is only advisable when you’re trying to deliver quick results, such as a company concentrating on holiday sales for success. 

Grey-hat SEO tactics are less clearly defined and often rely on shifting tactics as the market change. This is the most popular technique, as most companies fail to stick to one or the other full-time. 

There are different shades of grey, and many companies see benefits from occasionally using black-hat tactics that can boost sales without doing it often enough to get flagged. 

Find the Right Strategy For Your Company

Only you know the core goals for your company’s social media strategy. All these hats have advantages and disadvantages, and balancing the risk and reward is part of success. 

No matter which strategy you’re going for, the core principles of link-building and SEO can help you take on the competition. 

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