All About Hats

In this lesson, we want to talk about hats and what they mean in SEO. There are three camps in SEO – Black Hats, White Hats and Gray Hats. Each camp follows a different set of rules and tactics in their SEO.

Black Hats are SEO pros who simply refuse to play by the rule. They break or bend the rules set by Google wherever they can, they take every possible shortcut they can find to rise to the top of Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages). They basically take big chances hoping to hoodwink Google with the hope that their tactics would succeed and that Google would never find out.

White Hats are the good guys. They follow all the rules to perfection. They are focused on a long-term goal of adding value and at no point do they use any tactics or techniques that can be considered unethical in any manner. Regardless of how high the temptations, White Hats never do anything to violate Google’s rules.

Gray Hats are somewhere in the middle. They don’t violate Google’s rules like Black Hats do, by they operate on the gray side, bending and shaping SEO tactics for maximum traction on Google’s SERPs. They see nothing wrong in violating Google’s guidelines as long as they feel it to be safe to do so.

To understand a bit more about the Hats, we need to go back in search engine history and find out how Google developed the concept of “trust” through the years. Black Hats were guys who violated Google’s trust at every opportunity.

They instituted tactics that artificially drove up the rankings of some listing on the search engine results pages. They were playing with the system, and this had a direct impact on Google, reducing its effectiveness to find the most relevant results for a search query.

For a while, the Black Hats were dominant and they were winning the SEO game. The White Hats were nowhere in the race and many were turning to Black Hat tactics to survive. Poorly done content was rising to the top of Google’s SERPS, the World Wide Web was ridden with spam and Google’s credibility was at stake. The ultimate losers were the end users who could not get the relevant and accurate results that they were searching for with their queries.

Remember, Google’s entire business model is based on helping people find relevant results for the queries made on its search engine in the fastest time possible. By now the top listings on Google’s SERPs were no longer the most relevant results.

The Black Hats were very successful at making a mockery of Google’s system. The Black Hats were able to get an unlimited amount of traffic and sales because they knew the right buttons to hit and knew just how to manipulate Google and go around the safeguards that Google had built around its search engine.

It was then that Google said that enough was enough and decided to take on the Black Hats who were gaming the system. Google did something that they Black Hats did not expect or didn’t think it was capable of.

Google made adjustments to its algorithms with a series of updates – first came the Panda update, which was followed by the Penguin update. Soon after, we had the Penguin update. To further extend the misery of the Black Hats, came the Hummingbird update. Google’s attacks came in waves after waves and the Black Hats were completely dumbstruck by what was happening – like the proverbial deer in the headlights.

Essentially Google made user experience, relevance of the links and the quality of the content the key to getting a higher rank on its SERPs. We will discuss more on this in the lessons to follow, where we will talk about Google’s Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and Mobile-Friendly updates and what they mean for you.

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Read next article: Part 4 SEO 101 for Beachbody Coaches What You Should Know About Googles Penguin and Panda Updates →