White Hat VS Grey Hat VS Black Hat SEO : Differences and What to Choose?

White Hat VS Grey Hat VS Black Hat SEO : Differences and What to Choose?

Many are familiar with the concepts of White Hat/ Gray Hat/ Black Hat SEO and professionals are often discussing White Hat vs Black Hat SEO. Most experts think that to ensure the most effective implementation of SEO strategies for the long term, you can only fiddle with White Hat. But can you have a really measurable effect without applying gray techniques? Let’s try to figure it out. 

White Hat vs Black Hat SEO: concepts, features, methods

The terms White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO come from 1950s westerns where heroes would wear white hats and the bad guys preferred black ones. Ten years ago, what is now referred to as black methods were widely used, which was considered totally normal and yielded results.

The founder of Backlinko.com, Brian Dean, recalls that in 2010 during the launch of his first website he used Black Hat methods. Overusing keywords, shady links, and various ways to cheat Google worked great. But he soon found out that this brings short term effects and then switched to the White Hat way.


Today, the concepts of White Hat/Black Hat SEO are especially relevant in the context of SEO strategies and choice of techniques. Annually, Google complicates algorithms and ranking factors, additional filters appear, and new challenges for SEO specialists are constantly emerging. It is enough to say that in 2018, 3,200 changes were made to the search engine.

Therefore, it is important to understand what White Hat and Black Hat SEO look like now, which methods are effective and acceptable. 

What is White Hat SEO?

The term White Hat SEO refers to working methods that are within Google’s instructions . Sites that are progressing in this way do not run the risk of being sanctioned by search engines.

White Hat SEO tactics it is a clean game under Google’s rules . White optimizers hold high positions in SERP issuance as a result of long and systematic work. It takes time but it eventually brings stable and long term effects.

Similar to this term, the concept of White Hat Marketing arose, which characterizes methods that are applied in digital marketing. As with SEO, here they use only legal and ethically acceptable techniques that do not produce results quickly but ensure a good reputation and a long term profit.

One of the effective tools of White Hat Marketing is analyzing competitors’ activities to form strategies. For this, you can use statistics, research data, and special services. For example, Semrush has a marketing analytics tool, Marketing Explorer:


Let’s consider White Hat SEO examples, technical features, and methods.

White Hat SEO Techniques

Creating relevant content:

  1. Research and keyword selection.
  2. High quality and unique texts, their regular updating.
  3. Presence of keywords in headings and subheadings.
  4. Quality original images. 
  5. Creating content for users and not for search engines.

A clear site structure and URL- code:

  1. a structured website is convenient for users and is ranked better by search engines.
  2. a relevant code that matches the theme of the site.

Mobile friendly optimization and adaptability :  

  1. Developing an adaptive design considering the features of a mobile device.
  2. Shortening or deleting the only the site’s non-essential blocks in the mobile version.
  3. Ensuring high download speeds for mobile and desktop versions and speed optimization for mobile devices – PageSpeed tools.
  4. Dynamic serving for using different HTML and CSS for devices depending on the User-Agent data.
  5. Optimization for voice searches.
  6. Convenient site navigation that takes into account that mobile internet users spend less time on a page. Forming a reference environment:
    1. Filling the site with relevant content that users will share.
    2. Link exchange with partner sites and the placement of sponsored links.
    3. User-generated (UGS) links obtained from comments, posts, forums, social media, etc.
    4. The use of internal links in the site’s structure.
    5. Blogging, relationship building, communication, and working with social networks.

    The priority of Interaction Experience (UX):

    1. Creating useful and interesting content.
    2. Developing original and high-quality website design.
    3. Clear and convenient site structure.
    4. Analysis of user behavior.

Today, a majority of SEO specialists try to stick to white tactics, especially when working with long term projects. As Google’s algorithms evolve, methods evolve, and new cases emerge. 

As an example of this, he cites a joint microsite The Future of Car Sharing of Collaborative Fund and Hyperakt.


Highlighting a portion of the content with commercial potential as a separate platform can bring a good result because the information does not look commercialized and attracts an audience. Another example is a popular stock resource Unsplash.com which grew out of  Dribble.com.

The main tools include White Hat SEO services through which an effective strategy can be developed and implemented. For creating and optimizing a site, professionals recommend using Schema.org. It helps to build a clear site structure that is convenient for users and contributes to the Google ranking.

The main feature of White Hat SEO content is that it is people-oriented, useful, and user-friendly. High-quality and interesting content is a natural tool for attracting organic traffic and is a way to keep the attention of visitors. Also, it increases the time that users spend on the site and increases the likelihood of a second visit.

The use of keywords plays a major role in creating relevant content and the ranking of a site. You should choose the keys that are suited not only to the theme of the site but also to a specific post. When selecting keywords, it is useful to analyze the content of sites in your niche that are consistently listed high in search results. It is very important that keywords and phrases fit as organically as possible into the fabric and structure of texts. They should not stand out or be conspicuous. In this case, the content will be attractive for users while simultaneously meeting the requirements of the search engine.

What is Black Hat SEO?

The antithesis of rules and legal methods is Black Hat SEO. The degree of blackness is influenced by the Black Hat SEO tactics and how optimizers go about achieving their goals. The range of tricks that circumvent search engine restrictions to illegal actions that can be wide, for instance, hacking into websites, pages, and user accounts.

Black Hat SEO techniques

  1. Cloaking. creating different content for users and search robots. For visitors, content that is visible and easy to understand is created. For spider programs, tailor texts according to their preferences are written. Check IP data, addresses, or user-agent strings, to determine when and what to display.
  2. Hidden Text and Links. Adding text to the site with keywords or links that are not visible to the user. They can merge with the background or be written in zero-point font, off-screen by using CSS, be hidden behind pictures or placed on invisible one-pixel images, or a link in the form of one small symbol can be hidden in the text – Support.google.com 
  3. Duplicating content using a foreign text. In practice, Black Hat SEO does not pay attention to quality, as it is a laborious and expensive process. Overt piracy is rare, but compiling parts of others’ carefully optimized texts is a common practice. 
  4. Doorway. Are created specifically for sites to attract the attention of users and promote another resource. They are overloaded with keywords and links, they do not hold any useful information and serve as a means to transfer visitors to a promoted website.
  5. Private Blog Network. Uses domains that are often useless to the user, where links to promoted sites are placed. This is one of the ways to increase the mass of the links.
  6. Satellite Websites. The creation of many low-quality sites with content that is oversaturated with keywords and links. Due to their amount, they can attract users to the main site.    
  7. Sneaky Redirects. redirect the visitor to another address without warning, where they might pick up malware or be hacked. It might also include merging several pages into one.
  8. Clickbait. The use of provocative bait titles, which attract the users’ attention and are aimed at receiving a large number of clicks. The clicks are calculated quite quickly due to the short amount of time that users spend on the page.

In the world of Black Hat SEO, there are openly illegal methods, such as hacking sites and user pages, spam sent from hacked resources, and parasite tactics, which is placing content on reputable sites with a redirect.

Typical Black Hat SEO Examples offers to buy popular pharmaceuticals on websites that are unrelated to this topic.

They do not stand out and do not appear on the first page of results. But if in Google Tools, you select a weekly search, you can immediately see the use of parasite tactics.

When you follow all of the links:


Actual Sites:




These methods, along with the more harmless issues, are actively discussed on various Black Hat SEO forums.

Members are hidden under nicknames, their ratings are marked by the seniority, activity, or experience on the site.

Popular topics include:

  1. How to hack SEO services to extend the availability of free resources.
  2. Ways to increase reference mass (most use PBN).
  3. Methods for hacking sites to inject content (parasite).
  4. Options for receiving/ buying social signals.
  5. Ways to duplicate and generate content.

Aside from the ethical component, the biggest flaw of Black Hat SEO is the risk for the client and the promoted site. If violations are detected, Google imposes strict sanctions, and not only the malicious violators get penalized. Having a good reputation and resource status cannot save you from punishment.

In 2006, BMW was caught in the crossfire for using the doorway. At the time, bmw.de used doorway pages to attract traffic and ranking. After discovering this activity, Google completely deleted the German auto giant’s site from the index.

Google employee Matt Cutts described this violation in his blog.


In February 2011, Forbes was caught selling links on its website. Unlike BMW, the publishing house was let off easy by only receiving a letter of warning from Google and even attempted to argue and prove their case. 

Certainly, Black Hat SEO might look attractive due to its high efficiency for little effort.


Moreover, it is clear that its effect is short-lived, the risks are too high, and the question of returning to higher positions might remain open. But between black and white there are many shades, and some tricks from the arsenal of Black Hat SEO can be adapted and used without the risk of being penalized by Google. This practice is known as Grey Hat SEO and is actively used by many professionals as a part of strategies. 

What is Grey Hat SEO?

If you exclusively follow Google’s guidelines and do not stray away from the rules prescribed by the system, it will take you many years to reach top positions. In reality, every optimizer is looking for the most efficient and quickest route.

Grey Hat SEO Tactics have white tools that predominate, but Black Hat SEO methods are also adapted and used. A similar term, Gray Hat Hacker, originated in a related niche. What is a Grey Hat Hacker? Grey hat hacker definition is a professional who uses tools on the line of what is permissible and impermissible, but unlike black hackers, they do not intend to cause damage.

Balancing within the framework of what is permitted is becoming more and more difficult each year, as most of the Black Hat SEO arsenal remains illegal. However, some methods can be adapted and with caution, applied in modern SEO practice. When choosing borderline methods, you should remember the risk of being put under sanctions and carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Grey Hat SEO Techniques

  1. Backlinks. The link volume directly affects SERP ranking and issuance. For creating backlinks you can use a mechanism that is somewhat similar to PBN. Links are also obtained from additional publications, reviews, comments, social media, but from independent and useful platforms. Relationship building, outreach, and guest posting are among the effective practices. Content written for another site might provide a backlink and even attract targeted traffic.
  2. Saturation of Content with Keywords. As opposed to oversaturation, which is a characteristic of Black Hat SEO, Grey Hat SEO tactics involve filling content with relevant keywords and phrases. This will make the site visible for indexing and ranking but will avoid spam and getting sanctioned by Google. Such a Grey Hat SEO Example in practice looks like a review and analysis using SEO services.
  3. SEO-driven Brand Building. Using keywords that are relevant to the content of the brand name, page, and URL address increases the likelihood of a high position in SERP. 

In addition to these methods, some SEO specialists use non-standard and even adventurous ways to outsmart Google. For example, Go Blue Media founder, William Sen recommends using stock images because Google perceives them as being unique.

Another one of his hacks is reverse indexing. Specifically, processing the texts of competitors’ that steadily rank at the top. However, this is a controversial and time-consuming technique that is hardly worth serious consideration. 

Prospects and Trends of SEO Strategies in 2020

Obviously, in 2020, Grey Hat SEO will become more and more akin to White Hat. Today, the content remains to be the main competitive advantage, its value cannot be overestimated. One of the most effective promotional tools is creating a high-quality and interesting blog on the website. It attracts users, helps to construct links, and improves citations.

When working with increased reference mass, you should be careful; a number of SEO specialists assume that in November 2019 Google launched a new, undeclared filter to track activity. Sites that practice link sharing (mainly psychological, culinary, and tourist industries) have noticeably lost their rank positions.


To ensure a higher rating and its sustainability, you should earn links through reviews by establishing relationships with catalog sites and authoritative resources.

The introduction of a new BERT algorithm, the dynamic development of Google services, and the improvement of the search engine may soon render Black Hat SEO methods irrelevant. They will be replaced by new ways of competition, attracting organic traffic, and improving ratings. It can be assumed that they will be based on creativity and the ability to produce a unique and relevant product.

About author
Leyla is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience. She also worked at marketing - PR and advertising (about 7 years). She was so interested in IT, especially SEO. Now Leyla is deep in SEO, this sphere inspires her for new issues and researches.