SEO Hats Explained – White, Gray & Black Hat SEO

Sean Michael 0
What is Black Hat SEO

A Search Engine Optimization Practitioner optimizes websites for the sole purpose of increasing rankings so the website may benefit from the free traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Being a Search Engine Optimization Practitioner may refer to anyone with low, moderate or advanced technical skills, but often refers to a person who uses their abilities to promote websites through search engines.

The term ‘Black Hat SEO” has historically been a divisive term. From the days of the wild west, black hats were typically bad people, villains or criminals. In today’s world of computing, black hat is a term used to describe someone who hacks into computer networks with malicious or criminal intent.

Types of Search Engine Optimization Practitioners

White Hat SEO – also known as ethical SEOs, strive to operate strickly within search engine’s guidelines like Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Gray Hat SEO – theses SEOs fall somewhere between white hat SEOs and black hat SEOs. Their motives may be similar to those of white hat SEOs but are more likely than white hat hackers to play in search engine onptimization stratagies that could be considered black hat. Most SEOs I’ve evaluated fall into this area.

Black Hat SEO – these SEOs intentionally violate search engine guidelines and deploy many of the most egregious deceptive search engine optimization stratagies such as coaking, SEO spam hacks (MySQL injections), sneaky redirects and injecting malware.

In the wonderful world of SEO, most SEOs claim (at least client facing) to be white hat SEOs when in reality, many of them or gray, or even black. For an example; one of Google’s ‘specific guidelines’ is ‘sending automated queries to Google.’

“Sending automated queries consumes resources and includes using any software (such as WebPosition Gold) to send automated queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage ranks in Google search results for various queries.”

Almost every SEO I know violates this specific guideline for their clients and research daily. In order to check rankings, search engine position checkers crawl Google’s search engine result pages to check rankings resulting in an automated query. Does this mean any SEO who deploys 3rd party ranking software should be penalized and coined as a black hat? I don’t believe so but this is one of the many reasons my team at Altitude SEO reports only in Google Data Studio.

The bottom line is this; Google writes most of its guidelines extremely vague so SEO practitioners like myself have to rely on videos, forums and other outlets Google uses to determine what is ethical practices, and what is not.

As far as the black hat vs white hat argument, most SEOs are a little less white then they claim to be. If you’ve got time, be sure to check out Google’s Webmaster Guidelines here. If you have questions, I’m always open for a discussion, feel free to drop me a line at 303-731-6588 or email me at (seanhakes) @


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