White Hat vs. Black Hat vs. Gray Hat SEO: What’s the Difference?

white hat vs black hat vs grey hat seo

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In SEO, there are no fixed set of methods for ranking.

SEO strategies can range from ethical tactics to unethical practices.

As a result, SEO strategies are classified into three categories.

They are called white hat SEO, black hat SEO, and grey hat SEO.

SEO Classifications

White Hat SEO vs Grey Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO vs Grey Hat SEO vs White Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO refers to the practice of using unethical methods to trick search engines into improve SERP ranking.

This is completely against Google search engine’s guidelines and most of its search algorithm updates’ goal is to prevent this.

People still use this because it works in the short term and likely to fail in the long run.

Some of the techniques include:

  • Hacking websites for links
  • Hidden link injection for links
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Cloaking pages to show different pages to search engines & users
  • Hidden & doorway pages
  • Duplicate & copy others’ content
  • Blog comment spam
  • and more

A few examples where Black Hat SEO is commonly used include casinos, adult industry, sneakers, and loans niche, where even ranking for short time could mean a lot of profits.

Although not every black hat SEO method is illegal, some of these methods are illegal under the law could cause serious harm to your business and reputation.

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO refers to the practice of using ethical methods to improve SERP rankings.

In this strategy you mainly focus on user experience and this is what Google encourage you to do.

Some of the white hat SEO methods are:

  • Schema & structured data optimization
  • Relevant SEO marketing outreach
  • On-page SEO optimization
  • Content optimization & SEO copywriting
  • Brand awareness building
  • User intent focused keyword research
  • and more

This is the most safest SEO approach which protects your website in the long run too.

Grey Hat SEO

Grey hat SEO refers to the practice of using semi-ethical methods to improve SERP rankings.

It’s like a hybrid between Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO.

Different people will have various definitions and strategies which they consider has grey hat SEO.

Some of the Grey Hat SEO techniques include:

  • Buying high-power expired domains
  • Paid links outreach
  • Automated backlinks creation

These grey hat strategies still haven’t been announced as bad practices yet by search engines, but we know that it’s not entirely ethical too.


SEO strategies will keep on changing along with their SEO type classification.

A grey hat SEO method can easily change into Black Hat SEO method tomorrow.

So don’t spend too much time worrying about classification.

I advise you to focus on ethical strategies if you want to do safe SEO and protect your website or web properties in the future from SEO algorithm updates.

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