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Marketing Monday – SEO Part 3 – Ethics and Hats

Marketing Monday is our weekly-ish feature on how to become a marketing ninja warrior. Sword not included.

Welcome back to the exciting and fast-paced world of Search Engine Optimization strategies! We have arrived at part three of our four-part series on SEO (it’s almost over, I promise!), and if you need to play catch up, you can see Part 1 on keywords here, and Part 2 on search engines over here.

If you’ve done any SEO research on your own, you’ve probably noticed a weird amount of hat talk. And with the exception of olde-timey haberdashers, you probably have no idea why hats would play into SEO. Luckily for us (and unluckily for aforementioned haberdashers), it has less to do with headwear and more to do with ethics.

Fancy and well-dressed ethics, but ethics nonetheless.

There are two generally recognized approaches you can take to ethical search engine optimization: White Hat and Black Hat SEO.

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO is the softer, gentler, and almost downright cuddly angle to take when working on your content and SEO efforts.


The focus of white hat SEO is to provide real quality content for your readers, viewers and clients. This tactic focuses more on the people who are looking at your sites, and less on the algorithms that got them there. Some marks of white hat SEO are relevant backlinks (links that other sites use to direct to yours) and long-form, high-quality content. Good white hat SEO can also be spotted by a well-organized and cohesive site. But most importantly, it has relevant keywords and phrases that occur naturally and aren’t shoehorned into the content.

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO is the SEO equivalent of that one friend you had in college who liked to argue about rules to the professor in order to get a higher grade on the midterm. The focus of black hat SEO is to bump itself to the top of search results by any means necessary. Instead of focusing on the end user, black hat SEO focuses on the “machine” side of search engines to drive page clicks. It relies heavily on spam, tons of automated and low-quality backlinks, and “scraping,” or stealing, content from other sites, some of which may not be relevant to the site in question. Black hat SEO can also use dirty tricks like posting hidden text that the reader can’t see but search engines can, spamming comment sections with backlinks, or “parasite hosting,” which is when a spammer hosts their website on someone else’s server without permission.

There are consequences for black hat SEO-ers, naturally. Search engines don’t like to be played like that, so they’ve developed tools to track down and ban sites that abuse their algorithms and break their rules.

How can I be sure that I’m not accidentally doing anything that a search engine would ban?

It can be easy to accidentally break the rules sometimes, and no one wants to be caught and penalized for something they didn’t know they were doing wrong. Which is why there are lots of tools and tips out there that will help you be sure that you’re abiding by rules and optimizing your searches as thoroughly as possible. We’ll be covering some of the most popular tools next week in SEO Part 4: Wait, You Mean I Could Have Had Help This Whole Time?!

Still kind of confused about SEO? Want some tips and tricks? Check out our SEO board on Pinterest!

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PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.