How does Google rank webpages?
When you read a textbook with factual information in it, it will have citations that refer to studies and other forms of “proof” that give credibility to the information you are reading about. This same concept applies to websites. You can think of “backlinks,” which are links from one site on the internet to another, as the “citations.” When a website with high domain authority links to another site, it passes some of that domain authority (via “linkjuice” – ugh I hate that term) on to the site that it is linking to. For example – if Wikipedia links to my website, it will pass a high level of domain authority to my site. When Google crawls Wikipedia and comes across the link from Wikipedia to my website, it will follow the link and say, “hey, Wikipedia linked to this site? Nice. This site must be legit if Wikipedia references it!” And thus, my site will then rank higher in search results than my competitor who doesnt have a backlink from Wikipedia. This is a very simple example but hopefully it gets the idea across.
What is White Hat/Black Hat SEO?
To understand the difference between these two areas of SEO, you need to understand how Google ranks webpages. This is important – BLACK HAT SEO will ruin your websites reputation and likely get your site dropped from Google and other search engines. This is where a lot of businesses get conned by bad SEO agencies (more on that below). White Hat SEO refers to the use of SEO methods and practices that lead to long term, legitimate organic growth and rankings. If you are a business looking to hire an SEO expert or agency, you need White Hat SEO.
Surely you’ve gotten an email promising top rankings on Google for little money. Getting your website to show up at the top of Google is actually not a hard task if you employ black hat techniques. With black hat SEO, you can artificially increase the “authority” of a website in the eyes of Google. The problem is that this kind of SEO is detectable by search engines. Google and other search engines go to great lengths to detect websites that use black hat techniques as they are often full of misinformation.