Warning: These Are the Ways to Land in Google Jail

By: | May 26, 2019 | Tags: , , , |

Black Hat vs White Hat SEO.

Google has so many algorithm changes, some large and some small, how can you keep up?

2020 Update: New information on White Hat vs Black Hat SEO

Since author Brennan Bliss first wrote this post in 2019, Google has begun refining what it considers Black Hat vs White Hat SEO.

Guest posting, for instance, is now considered taboo in 2020 since Google frowns on gaming the system by link building which guest posting provides.

Black Hat vs White Hat SEO

Black Hat vs White Hat:

The Wild West of SEO

Brennan Bliss


For many, search engine optimization represents uncharted territory.

It’s a tough world out there — and if you don’t play by the rules, you could make your life that much tougher. That’s why it pays to educate yourself about the best (and worst) SEO practices. That way, you’ll know exactly what it takes to get recognized as an SEO hero… and what might happen if you partake in villainous techniques.

It might seem like over-simplification, but it often is that black and white. We may not know everything about what Google wants to see (or what it might penalize), but we do know that behaving ethically will really pay off. That’s the whole idea behind white hat SEO. When you aim to help others and do good deeds in the world, you’ll get the recognition for all the right reasons. You might even get a shiny sheriff’s star for your efforts. What could be better than that?

But for some, that’s not enough. Even though the internet has certainly come a long way since its lawless infancy, there are still plenty of people who will try to get ahead by lying, stealing, and cheating their way to the top. These varmints would rather take shortcuts than put in the hard work or even partake in dastardly deeds to win by any means necessary. With black hat SEO, the risks are huge — and the rewards don’t typically make the risks worth it. If you get caught using these methods, you’ll go straight to Google jail.

If you’d rather be known as a cowboy with a heart of goal than as an outlaw who terrorizes an entire town, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with both black hat and white hat SEO techniques.

Not only will this help you make the right decisions for the sake of your business, but you’ll also be able to recognize when others are engaging in shady tactics. That way, you’ll feel confident that it’ll be only a matter of time before the long arm of the law catches up to those crooks. And in the meantime, you’ll be able to win out.

This post answers the questions, “What is White Hat SEO?” and “What is Black Hat SEO?” and offers examples of each.

What is White Hat SEO?

Before you can take on these techniques yourself, you’ll need to gain a better understanding of what white hat SEO is. White hat SEO specifically follows all Google guidelines. It’s about behaving ethically and providing a great experience for real web users. It’s generally considered to be the purer option (hence its angelic hue), focusing on offering value without trying to game the system.

Examples of White Hat SEO Include…

  • Content Creation: Developing and publishing long-form, in-depth web content on individual pages that satisfy user intent

  • Strategic Keyword Usage: Using natural yet targeted terms that are relevant to one’s industry and that can allow both Google and web users to determine value in ways that are not seen as spammy or forced

  • Link Building Strategies: Acquiring (not paying for) links from other sites back to your own to show your website’s worthiness and relevance

  • Guest Posting: Contributing content to other websites or blogs to build relationships, gain exposure and backlinks, and/or improve web authority

  • Descriptive Meta-Tags: Making good use of keywords and relevant information in these invisible web descriptions so that others understand what your site is about

Not only do white hat SEO practices follow Google’s rules, but they also ensure that all parties are benefiting from the techniques used. In other words: you aren’t merely out for yourself. Although you may see some improvement in return, your main aim is to provide something of value to readers, to build relationships within your community, and to showcase yourself as a true leader in your industry. With those noble goals in mind, those who use white hat SEO tactics will show their trustworthiness to both human audiences and to Google bots.

What is Black Hat SEO?

On the other end of the spectrum, you have black hat SEO. As its color suggests, these tactics are often frowned upon. They’re slimy, they’re low-down, and they may even be criminal in certain cases. And while they may yield impressive results at first, they’re a short-term solution that can land you in long-term trouble.

Examples of Black Hat SEO Include…

  • Auto-Generated or Stolen Content: Instead of spending time developing original, high-quality content to post on your website, you might think it’s easier to have some kind of automated system for doing this. Unfortunately, this process will cause your content to make no sense, rendering it useless to human readers. Google’s crawlers won’t like it, either. Some people will go so far as to steal content from other sources, which amounts to plagiarism. Even publishing duplicated content on multiple pages of your website can be dangerous.
  • Keyword Stuffing: In the case of SEO, less is often more. It may feel like you might never get noticed if you don’t use a specific keyword over and over again on a given page. But if you go that route, it will become blatantly obvious to both bots and humans what you’re trying to do. There’s no way your content will read in an organic way if you’re constantly stuffing certain keywords in. Rather than forcing as many keywords as you can into a specific piece of content, aim to have your content feel natural and relevant to your goals and your audience.

  • Cloaking and Doorway Pages: Those who partake in black hat SEO will often try to deceive both human users and Google crawlers in an attempt to get ahead. Cloaking is a  process that presents different content to the search engine than to someone visiting a page in a browser, while doorway pages provide certain search results and then reroute visitors to different pages. These practices are underhanded and often frustrate web users, which means all that effort could be better spent in other ways.

What are the Risks of Black Hat?

Partaking in these evil deeds doesn’t carry mere empty threats; Google will often take swift and severe action in order to uphold the law. In other words, you might get locked up (proverbially speaking).

If you get caught engaging in black hat SEO tactics, your site will be subject to penalties. That means your ranking could be significantly demoted, which will have a profound effect on the web traffic you’re able to generate. Google can even ban the worst offenders from showing up in search results at all. And if you don’t appear in search results, you might as well not exist. So before you decide to take the easy way out, ask yourself: is it really worth losing your entire business over?

If you follow Sheriff Google’s rules, all will be peaceful on your site and in search. But if you decide to become an SEO outlaw, you’ll have to look over your shoulder at every turn and deal with the consequences. Even if you never commit an actual crime, you might be treated as an outcast and lose it all when Google figures out what you’re up to. So if you want your business to grow and be recognized for your actual hard work, white is the only color hat you should wear.

Author bio: Brennen Bliss is the founder and director of the marketing agency, PixelCutLabs. From making websites and apps at age 13 for family and friends in his bedroom to partnering with organizations like the College Football Playoffs a few years later, Brennen has bootstrapped a company that is now recognized by UpCity as one of the top 10 SEO agencies in the United States, and one of the top SEO agencies in the USA by the global search awards.

Host Blogger’s Comments: Black Hat Vs White Hat SEO Techniques

When you strive to get Google traffic, you need an SEO plan. That plan should include White Hat SEO strategies.

Readers, please share so bloggers and marketers learn the difference between Black Hat vs White Hat SEO and the ramifications of each.

What was your opinion of Brennan’s post? Were you familiar with these Black Hat vs White Hat strategies? I look forward to your views in the comments section.

This post was made possible by the support of our readers.

  1. PurpleSlob

    Thank you , Brennan! I thoroughly enjoyed the Wild West scenarios! I don’t wanna go to Google Jail, for sure!!
    BBFFJ, you always find awesome authors! Thank you for such valuable info!!

    • Janice Wald

      Hi BBFFM,
      I thought Brennan was a funny writer as well. I told him so! His analogy was humorous and spot-on. I don’t want to go to Google jail either, but apparently one of my commenters spent a year there!
      Thanks for praising my choice of guest authors. I hope you’re having a nice day off.
      BBFFJ

  2. Fahim Chohan

    Blogging and internet marketing is useful when you are doing it as a long term thing. Black hat SEO just scamming users and generating some dollars via ad sense revenue. It is ethically and morally bad and we shouldn’t do that to get our page to top of the list.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Fahim,
      I see we are in the same niche! I also write about Instagram.
      I agree with you. I’m sure affiliates feel desperation and resort to Black Hat tactics. I’m glad my guest author explained the consequences. Thanks for writing.
      Janice

  3. Thabo

    Thanks for this very informative post that clearly spells out Black Hat and White Hat SEO. I know that some people try Black Hat SEO because they think it’s worth the risk to get faster ranking. As you point out, however, that might be a foolish strategy because Google is on the look out for such tactics.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Thabo,
      Great to see you again! It’s been a while! Thanks for commenting!
      I’m glad you feel my guest author clearly spelled out the differences between Black Hat and White Hat SEO and the consequences of engaging in each.
      Janice

  4. Lisa Sicard

    Hi Brennan – I don’t understand why people would use cloacking. Why have a page be different than what it was advertised? That really doesn’t make sense to me. I’m so glad the over stuffing of keywords is really a thing of the past. I once had my website penalized by Google. It took 1 full year to overcome it! So I think people should really take your advice on this one. Thanks! Happy Birthday Janice!

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Lisa,
      How awful! You were penalized by Google for a year! How did you find out, Google Search Console? Do they also email you when that happens? For keyword stuffing? I try to follow Yoast as far as how often to include my keyword.
      Regarding your question about cloacking, I wrote Brennan and told him your question. I’ll keep you posted as to his response when I hear back from him.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Janice

  5. Moss Clement

    Hi Brennan,
    There is no in applying black hat SEO in your marketing mix, knowing fully well that you are laying with a time bomb that will devastate you whenever it goes off. Although the risk is high, many marketers are still using it. Lisa just related what happened to her site, which took about a year to recover from it. That is an eye-opener. However, thank you for highlighting the meaning of “Cloaking and Doorway Pages.” I have encountered a couple sites that are using the doorway tactics. At first, I thought it was a mistake, but when I click again and again, and it kept redirecting me to an unrelated site, I knew something fishy was up.
    Thank you for such a helpful post.

  6. Yogesh Kandpal

    Hi Sir,
    I really liked your blog post, it clearly informs the reader about white hat and black hat SEO. I just want to know what are different Link Building Strategies.

  7. Gaurav Kumar

    Hi Janice,

    Running madly after SEO is enough to land a business into Google Jail. If one should definitely want to be brand and rank high in Google search then he/she should focus on working for readers and building exceptionally well user experience.

    Thanks for sharing these points.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Gaurav,
      I agree with what you wrote if– people do SEO research. When I knock myself out composing content just to find bigger blogs outranked me is demoralizing. Making sure I can compete for readers in Google’s SERPs enables me to help my readers and give the post longevity so it helps search engine users for possibly years.
      Janice

  8. Lesly Federici

    Ah yes .. one must jog their memory of this Black Hat Vs White Hat when it comes to promoting content. Important to know and your article is a good resource for anyone not sure of these terms… thanks!

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Lesly,
      Thanks for your comments. I agree that my guest author did a great job explaining the difference between Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO methods. I also liked his sheriff analogy which added humor.
      Janice

  9. Jignesh

    I remember the old days when websites used to make thousands of dollars following the Black Hat SEO practices. All of those have now invested that money back in blogging following the organic route.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Jignesh,
      I feel it’s better if people are more honest and ethical in every area– SEO included. Thanks for writing.
      Janice

  10. Nikola Roza

    Yeah, Black hat SEO is unsustainable and not to be used on a long term project.The problem for me is that I’m often competing against sites that are using PBN’s and injected links. I see them and I know Google will see them but they’re ranking above me now. It’s frustrating.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Nikola,
      Great to hear from you. Thanks for commenting. I heard about PBN’s. Do they offer Google visibility over others? I’ve heard mixed. Are injected links Black Hat?
      Janice

  11. Nirvana Guha

    Wait, people still use cloaking?
    Holy Mother of Mu!

    Good stuff, Brennan. Hey Janice!
    Great to read your blog as always. Let’s catch up sometime soon, OK?

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Nirvana,
      Thanks for the compliments. I’m glad Brennan could educate people about cloaking.
      Janice

  12. Lukas

    Hey,
    thanks for the great entry about the differences between white hat seo and black hat seo. As before, the commenter I also dont understand why people still use cloaking if Google does it quite well. Same situation with strong linking for specific keywords.

    • Brennen Bliss

      Unfortunately, a lot of very old content is still out there convincing people that these techniques work. When someone is not well-educated on the topic of SEO, they may see a guide about how to get links, but it tells them how to do it using spammy tactics. They don’t know any better. That’s why it’s our job to get the best content out there, helping people who are new to SEO better understand what is and what is not okay!

  13. Kyra Rodriguez

    I think people are just wasting their money in black hat SEO. Because their website may rank on the first page but probably not in the long run. Anyway, thanks for sharing this!

    • Janice Wald

      I agree with you Kyra. It’s the end game that counts. Some of my posts have brought me Google traffic for years. I’d rather have that through ethical means than short-lived traffic with a Google penalty.
      Janice

  14. Elise L Ho

    I always get much good advice from your posts. Now I understand even more about SEO. We definitely dont want to see stolen content, etc being used.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Elise,
      Thanks for your compliments on my posts. I’m glad the article gave you new knowledge about SEO. Thanks for writing to tell me.
      Janice

  15. Jakub

    Recently I noticed that more and more agencies use black hat seo and spamming phrases … and Google does not do anything about it and how to fight it … Is the current White hat seo no breakdown? Currently, I am testing with a black hat seo on the site and it has not been moved for 2 months and the positions are slowly growing (I’m curious for how long)

    • AlexB

      And best of all I saw the site on the local phrase where there were 40 phrases with the city and the site is in top3 and algorithms dont ban such sites … I think that Google really has lost something and is testing human options …

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Jakub,
      Your comments seem to have touched a nerve with my other commenter, Alex, who also replied to you.
      I agree that people get away with Black Hat tactics. However, Google changes algorithms so often, I’m sure they’ll introduce some solution down the road. Thanks for sharing these observations.
      Janice

  16. Vincenza

    Hi Janice,
    This piece is very informative on what is black and white (literally) in SEO and Google. However, I was wondering if there were grey areas that could be interchangeable or questioned, and if so, how I can utilise that in improving SEO?

  17. Tomasz

    Hey,
    thanks for the great entry about the differences between white hat seo and black hat seo. As before, the commenter I also dont understand why people still use cloaking if Google does it quite well. Same situation with strong linking for specific keywords.

    • Janice Wald

      Hi Tomasz,
      1. I love that people read the other comments. I do as well when I comment on a blog.
      2. Thanks for your comments on my black hat SEO article.
      3. I wrote Brennen, the guest author, and told him you have a question.
      Janice

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