There are four main types of search engine optimization (SEO), all aimed at helping you increase your site’s visibility in search results:
The primary differences between these types are how long it takes to see results (time), cost, risk, and value.
Black hat SEO gets you where you want to go faster.
Black hat SEO is typically more affordable than other SEO types because it involves taking shortcuts to the top by going against published Google Webmaster Guidelines.
In fact, many black hat SEO tactics are specifically spelled out as things you should NOT do. Because of this, these tactics carry the risk that your website and/or content will be banned from search results or demoted the next time Google updates its ranking algorithm.
That is no small concern.
Google updates its ranking algorithm roughly 500-600 times a year. Black hat SEO returns value quickly, but there is a high risk that the value cannot and will not be sustained.
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White hat SEO techniques, on the other hand, adhere to Google Webmaster Guidelines but typically take longer and cost more to carry out.
However, white hat SEO carries far less risk and tends to deliver lasting and compounding value over time.
You’ll find most respected SEO and content marketing companies such as Moz, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, the SEM Post, Stone Temple, GSQI, and Philadelphia-area Seer Interactive and SEMRush all use and recommend white hat SEO tools and techniques.
Grey hat SEO falls somewhere in the middle.
These tactics are not specifically addressed in Google’s Guidelines. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that because a specific technique isn’t labeled as deceptive or troublesome that it will not negatively impact rankings.
In fact, Google says:
Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.