Lately I’ve heard a lot of discussion regarding what is appropriate ways to SEO, or search engine optimize your content online. I’ve heard even more discussions about whether certain methods of displaying IDX data is legal. So let’s covering what this all means.
White Hat SEO
If you’re the kind of person that likes to play by all of the rules, 100% of the time, white hat SEO is for you. Practicing white hat SEO means that you stick to what’s proven over the long run, what Google, Bing, and Yahoo / Microsoft have suggested as best practices for getting your site to rank in their search engines. Most of you know that the number and quality of inbound links to your site is one of the biggest items as far as increasing your placement in Google. A true white hat SEO only does this through putting out good content and hoping that people naturally link back to your site.
Furthermore, tt means using configuring the smallest details on your site that can make a big difference, H1 H2 and H3 tags, ALT tags on images and links, good quality URL structures / permalinks. Furthermore, it means setting up unique information by page for the titles and descriptions of the pages. It means following the Top 10 List of SEO items for Realtors (but it carries over into everyone).
Grey Hat SEO
Grey Hat following search engine optimizers focus their time on all of the items above but in addition to that they try to push the envelope. They try new methods of getting their sites to rank. For example, they build server networks from 6 different web hosts and put sites that link to each other on those various web hosts (Hint: Google doesn’t count links generally if they are on the same hosting account, or if it can tell the two sites are owned by the same person. Think: when you registered your sites did you use the same name at GoDaddy for all of them? The same address? Are they on the same hosting account (if not do they have different C-level IP addresses?) If so Google probably discounts any of your links back and forth to each other. )
These are the people right now that are out aggressively learning how social media links affect search rankings. They want to push the envelope. Some of the things they do turn out to work well, others do not, but they learned something and were out willing to figure things out. They often don’t get banned from Google, but they find that of the tools in their arsenal certain methods just stop working after a while.
Black Hat SEO
These are the nefarious type. The type that site at home doing nothing but learning the ins and outs of how Google ranks sites and purposely try to find the loopholes. They look for every advantage they can get. They hear that little voice in their head saying this is probably wrong, but they laugh and suggest it’s Google’s fault for not fixing their error.
They build 30 sites that link to each other… . They pay people to put links to their sites, they flood social media with links to get ranked higher, they build content farms of sites that just aggregate data from numerous other sites (have you ever had your content stolen and placed on another site, it was either a black hat SEO or someone looking to get ad revenue selling your content). But in the end their methods either work amazingly well, or they get banned after a period of time. Black Hats are constantly chasing what will be the next big thing to get added. But they are forced to constantly defend their sites against the Google Slap, meaning their site is banned from Google for a long period of time maybe 6 months.
Keep in mind that even large organizations like JC Penney have been found to be employing black hat SEO methods to get their sites to rank. In the end it really comes down to what you are looking for. Do you want a high risk, potentially high reward? Do you want to play it 100% safe and work over the long run? Or try something somewhat in between where you toe up to the line of what is ok but don’t cross over?