The different SEO hats

If you have done anything in the field of search engine optimization (SEO) you must have heard about various “hats” that exist. Which hat do you want?

But what do they all mean … what do and don’t you want … and which hat do you actually want to work with?

Why are there different hats?

Briefly explained, it has to do with how closely they follow the guidelines of the search engines. By that I mean much more the Google guidelines, because let’s face it the search market is largely dominated by the search giant. That is why they also determine the regulations.


Google has a whole set of guidelines that go from webmaster to developer to Google application (think of Google Analytics, Adwords, My Business etc.) specifically.

The good performance and rank in Google is seen by many people as a kind of holy grail and one person has more to spare than the other.

What they have left over varies from hat to hat;

  • How freely do they handle the guidelines
  • How much time they can / want to spend
  • How much money they can / want to spend

These aspects largely determine whether you are a so-called White-hat, Gray-hat or Black-hat SEO-er. But let me include some examples that are often assigned to the different hats.

White-hat SEO

A white-hat SEO person will try to follow the guidelines as set out by the search engines as closely as possible. They will advise customers to color in lines at all times.

Then you are talking about one extreme side, the pure left side, as it were.

The motives are often linked to the fear of incurring a (manual) penalty from the search engines.

Often pure white hatters are enormously focused on control; they prefer to carry out all promotions rather than having the customer carry out one promotion. If they do, they have the feeling that they are freeing an elephant in a porcelain cupboard. With all possible consequences!

Grey-hat SEO

If you have a gray-hat SEO, you will still look pretty closely at the guidelines set out by the search engines. But if there is a chance to win somewhere in forms of rankings and the like, you are someone who looks at it and sometimes goes for it.

But they are still well aware of the risks and will usually coordinate with the customer whether the potential profit is worth the underlying risk.

You could see gray hats as the ones tasting the proverbial apple of the Garden of Eden. But also be careful with that step. They dabble with the lines but remain close to the drawing board.

Then you are talking about the middle, the side where you sometimes move to the left and right.

Black-hat SEO

Black-hat SEO people have assumed a very negative name with. And before I color what they actually do; that is not always entirely justified.

Many people have the impression that the black hatter is only concerned with things that are not good. A nuance really needs to be added. They really seek how far they can stretch the border. They consciously look for options that are obvious, challenge the system etc. As long as it means that they can book a result quick and directly.

However, this means that they sometimes go beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable from the point of view of a search engine or even law.

They go beyond the lines and if necessary outside the whole drawing board, outside the system as long as it produces results. Black-hatters are risk takers, daredevils … and that can go well, but of course there are also some risks involved and whoever has to burn themselves on the blisters.

Here I am talking about the one extreme side, the pure right-hand side as it were. That does not alter the fact that a black-hatter will always discuss this with the customer before deploying it.

But what are SEO-ers most nowadays?

Before I try to paint a picture of what most SEO people actually are, it is perhaps to clarify the main feeling.

You can be a white hat, gray hat or black hat … as long as you are not an ass hat.

What is an “ass hat” you might be wondering?

In general you can divide asshats (for a lack of nice translation) into two categories;

  1. Someone who uses Black Hat SEO techniques and other risky strategies that could endanger the client site WITHOUT telling the client
  2. Someone who is not good at SEO, but still takes money from people to rank sites – these have an even better name in SEO In Name Only (SINO)

Situation 1

Being a black hat is simply risky. Endangering other people’s livelihoods, even when informed, is where lines should usually be drawn. But that choice must be informed in any case.

If you use these tactics ethically, you must tell the customer that you are using strategies that could give them a manual penalty or the like. But also with the addition that it could take months to recover if the site is punished.

This only becomes more ethically difficult if the site is also a tool / tool that ensures the livelihood of people on the payroll. If so, then you have to ask yourself if it is ok to put them in a risky position, even if they are aware? Or not?

This simply is not ok!!

To do this with an eye on rankings. If the jobs of people depend on a site, you simply should not use that site for Black Hat SEO.

If you do that you are a jerk or an “asshat”!

Even the best Black Hat can make mistakes or get caught by an unexpected update or manual action. You simply take a risk and that sums it up best, it can go good or bad..

Situation 2

The same applies to someone who claims to do White hat or even Gray hat SEO without being competent in terms of SEO in a general sense. You can damage a site just as badly as with Black hat SEO by applying White hat / Gray hat SEO in a bad way.

If you are not good at SEO, whether it is black white or gray, but still doing it for the money And while ignoring the potential damage to the people on the other side of the site, plus careless handling of other people’s livelihoods, that is of course also ethically questionable, to say the least.

Even then you are simply a jerk!

Most SEO-ers nowadays are ……

Most people who work in the SEO sector are aware that they always inform people and how they will use SEO the way you want to be treated. This also applies to the black hats!

But most SEO people are actually gray hats. Pure white hatters are much less than you think. And much less if you are really going to view them. That is because people have an urge to see where they can make a profit.

If people like to color just outside the lines, it is that simple.

The problem is also if SEO professionals just did what guidelines dictate, nothing that they did would remain competitive for years. Because that’s how long it would take to have enough links to rank well and most companies don’t have time to wait for rankings and traffic.

The moment you do anything to attract or acquire links, you are actually no longer a white hat. Therefore, most people in SEO who say they are “white hat” really play in certain shades of gray.

Now that does not mean that the person is also a “black hat”.

Generally, a gray hat does not purchase links as a black hat would, but they will try to specifically strengthen their content to obtain links.

What does this all mean for you?

I have tried to give a clear perspective here of things that you can use to form an opinion for yourself of what kind of SEO person you want to look up and want to work with. Always seeing through things right away is perhaps a bit tricky, but keep asking because it can mean a lot for the course you are taking.

So take a good look at how your SEO person deals with you and your website. Be critical and then go for it together! I think I’m pretty open about how I deal with SEO. But for good order I also fall into the “gray” segment.

If you want to spar with me one day without any obligation to see if I can do something for you, then of course I would love to hear from you!

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