What Are the Different Types of SEO? White Hat vs Grey Hat vs Black Hat SEO

different types of seo hats search engine optimization white vs black hat

You want to rank higher, you want to get those leads and you've been informed that search engine optimization (SEO) is the answer. Well, it is, but that's not without an asterisk and a whole lot of confusion.

For one, it begs the question, what type of SEO should you be implementing, anyway? And hold on, there is more than one type of SEO?

Yes, there are different types of search engine optimization, but no you don't have to worry too much. Each type of SEO has its risks and benefits.

Stick with us, and we will go over the various types of SEO strategies out there, and also highlight the considerations that come with each of these types.

White Hat SEO

In a nutshell, the hat color distinction is used to denote ethical considerations while practicing SEO. Here, white is "good", grey is in-between, black is cause for concern and negative is downright "wrong". It is a spectrum of SEO ethics, and your actions determine where you fall on the spectrum. 

Think of white hat SEO as the standard for brand strategy. However, you should ask any strategist you intend to hire what practices they use. Even if it's a reputed SEM agency, you want to be sure you're getting what's best for your brand.

It is low risk because it's based on Google's Webmaster guidelines, but it is also a little slower than others. It is a more positive way of going about SEO for your brand and if done right can be extremely rewarding. 

Here are a few standard practices within white hat SEO strategies, as proposed and rewarded by Google. 

User-Oriented Content

Rather than creating and catering your content for a search engine, Google asks that websites create content that benefits users. This includes avoiding deception, adding real value to your content, and refraining from underhand tricks to boost your rankings or deceive the algorithm. 

You are encouraged to write industry-specific content that is relevant to your niche. This is a good practice because as a brand, you are able to share your expertise within a field, as well as attract customers who are interested in what you do.

On-Site SEO

On-site SEO practices include optimizing your HTML code and making your site more user-friendly. This includes creating more readable content, paying attention to design, and creating a more engaging space. 

The algorithm is all about enhancing the experience of the viewer. That's why your primary focus should be on creating the best possible user experience within your budget. 

Local SEO

Local SEO practices that fall under white hat SEO include optimizing your pages with keywords specific to your relevant area. However, these practices could just as well come under black or negative hat SEO if they violate Google's guidelines or fall within a grey, or even black area.

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO strategies are more exploitative than their white hat counterpart. You do get quicker results, but the rewards tend to be short-lived and quite damaging in the long run. 

One of the reasons for this is that Google doesn't take kindly to deceptive strategies based on trickery and deceit. So while you may take the black hat shortcut to success, know that the success often turns sour over time. 

Here are some commonly practiced examples of black hat strategies.

Spamdexing and Keyword Stuffing

Spamdexing involves a blatant manipulation of a search index online. This includes unnecessary repetition of irrelevant phrases, adding invisible text to a web-page, creating low-quality pages, and rewriting existing articles to rank higher amidst the search results. 

Keyword stuffing is a more specific type of spamdexing where irrelevant words are overused in irrelevant contexts within a given page to boost rankings for that particular word.


While plagiarism is actively discouraged and punished by the Google algorithm, some articles slip through the cracks. When it's a popular article that's been plagiarized, a site can expect a quick boost to the top. However, algorithms catch on quickly, and if you are ranked that high, the original authors are bound to flag your article too.

Grey Hat SEO

Grey hat SEO isn't wrong. But grey isn't right either. It's the questionable, debatable middle ground that exists between the two extremes of SEO. 

This kind of SEO could involve giving your headlines a clickbait spin or paying for good reviews. These practices are common, and not necessarily exploitative in the way black hat SEO is, but can dance over the line of black and white search engine optimization. 

Some white hat SEO best practices from years ago have become grey hat, and some grey hat tactics have become black hat. It all depends on the most recent guidelines and algorithm changes from Google, Microsoft, and other search engine owners.

Negative SEO

In many ways, negative SEO is almost on a different spectrum. But it does depend on how you look at it. For example, if white is positive, in the sense that it focuses on what you can add to your brand, negative is more focused on what you can take away from your competition. 

You could be on the receiving end of negative SEO, or you could be the perpetrator. The roots of negative SEO come from a drive to sabotage other brands. This includes publishing negative and untrue reviews on a competitor's site or establishing irrelevant backlinks to your competitor's site so that they get flagged for being out of context.

The real extreme of this is hacking competitor sites to tweak content and make it less relevant. Hackers could even delete website content entirely, sabotage their Yoast settings, or hit their Google Search Console hard.

Choosing the Right Type of SEO Strategy

After reading through you may come to your own conclusions on which of these types of SEO strategies is right for you. Just be sure to evaluate the pros and cons of each for your business and consider the long-term implications of each strategy. 

Often, businesses get caught up in "quick rewards", rather than consistent ones. If you plan on continuing a good, ethical, fruitful business, white hat SEO is the way to go. But hey, that's just our opinion on smart search optimization strategy! You do you and choose the right types of SEO strategy for your business.

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