Types of SEO Compared and Explained

types of seo

Table of Contents

If you are exploring the world of Search Engine Optimization, you will come across a variety of strange sounding terms that have something to do with hat colors. To clear the confusion, we offer you this article that will break down everything you need to know about different types of SEO.

3 Types of Search Engine Optimization

SEO types and tactics usually fit into one of the two categories/hats – Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO. Both of these types of SEO have the same goal – displaying pages and content high in the search results.

But the methods they use in order to get to the target make them totally different – thus the contrast between black and white. There are 4 types of SEO in total explained below.

How Do Search Engines Work?

(And no, it’s not only about Google, other search engines still matter, especially regionally. )

The point of search engines is to help users get to the information they are looking for, fast. They accomplish that by putting the most relevant and accurate results first.

Many different factors influence who is positioned wherein the search results – domain authority, user interactions, and sharing, how much time people spend on the page, do they come back to it, do other sites link to the page, etc.

Nobody knows for sure how exactly the search engines work, apart from people who design them. And that’s a good thing because people would work around those rules if they did know them for certain. You will see later that people still (try) to do this.

So the goal of search engines is to put the best quality content that provides the right kind of information the user needed when entering the keyword high in the search results.

Getting into the position high in the organic search results is something that will push a tremendous amount of traffic to any site, boosting potential sales and skyrocketing the brand popularity. Because of that, everyone wants to be first, or at least on the first page.

There is a popular SEO joke: Where is the best place to hide a dead body? On the second page of search results, nobody ever goes there!

Every good joke has a lot of truth in it – most people will adjust their keyword rather than looking through the second page of results. For that reason, the first page in the (Google) search results is a place where literally everyone wants to be, often by any means necessary.

Now back to the hats.

What is White Hat SEO?

White hat SEO is a term used to describe various legitimate tactics marketers use to promote their pages, getting a higher position in the search results. They achieve that without trying to take advantage or bend the rules.

One of the best ways of White Hat SEO is providing quality content to your visitors, most of the time through articles on the blog, but also videos, images, podcasts… By having top quality content you will buy the trust of your visitors, and they will come back to your site, which won’t go unnoticed by Google.

Also, you can make sure users have a great experience on the site, and that it runs fast and smooth. You do that by optimizing the images, making sure the code is clean, and updating the outdated content.

Researching keywords and writing targeted content for keywords that don’t have competition is another viable way of climbing the search ladder.

Link acquisition campaigns and outreach are also ways of promoting your site that which are not penalized by Google, as long as you don’t exploit them.

And lastly, having an established presence on social media will also help your SEO, as it will spark user activity, which is one of the factors Google considers when positioning search results.

What is Black hat SEO?

Black hat SEO aims to exploit the weaknesses in search engine algorithms trying to find holes and boost the position in the search results.

These practices are against the rules, as they go directly against what search engines try to do, and that is to give the best and the most accurate search results.

However, although illegitimate, black hat SEO tactics do work, and they often result in achieving high ranking positions, very fast. The problem with them is that they are short-lived.

Once Google realizes that the top ranking position was obtained using illegitimate methods, it will penalize the site. After that happens, it is next to impossible to restore the reputation and get back anywhere near the first page.

Common Black Hat SEO tactics include stuffing keywords, link spamming, hidden text, hidden links and similar. In short, any tactics aimed to mislead search engines to display poor quality content high in the search results is black hat SEO.

How is Deceiving Google Possible?

There are billions of websites online, with new ones being added every minute. Also, existing sites change and add content non-stop. Google, Bing and other search engine companies need first to index all those pages and then categorize them as search results.

That would be impossible to do manually, so they use bots that work by following algorithm rules. People are there to establish the system, and for control, but the system operates automatically. It is not perfect, but it works reasonably well, we all use it dozens of times per day.

The biggest weakness of White Hat SEO is that it requires a lot of time. SEO campaigns sometimes last more than a year, but usually never shorter than three months. They require patience, and they require investments. And patience is something that most modern business owners lack.

Black Hat SEO offers quick, high-risk results, and it is much like gambling. Yes, with high stakes, the potential earnings are massive, but you will have to continue playing, and the house (Google) will, in the end, take away everything.

Black hat marketers look to deceive search engines by exploiting loopholes and bending the rules through tactics that are effective, but short-lived. Using these is almost never recommended, as it will 100% result in a Google penalty, sooner rather than later.

What Is The Key Difference Between The White Hat And Black Hat SEO?

The critical difference is this: White hat SEO is all about helping Google place great content where it belongs, faster. Black hat, on the other hand, is about tricking Google to put inadequate content high in the search results, where it doesn’t belong.

Both work, no questions about that. But, although faster, black hat SEO is doomed to fail – Google will figure it out eventually, and the site will take a huge hit.

White hat SEO takes more time, but through it, you guarantee long-term results. Even if Google algorithm changes, it will always try to put the best quality content high in the search results, to help users.

If you aim for that, through proper white hat SEO techniques, you will do good, and you won’t have to fear any Google penalties in the future.

Gray Hat – The Third Type Of SEO

It’s not all white or black; there is also Gray. The Gray Hat SEO stands between Black and White, offering bits of both worlds. It is often used by SEO companies that are forced to promise faster results than what White Hat can bring, pressured by fierce competition in the ever-changing SEO world.

Gray Hat doesn’t blatantly break the search engine rules, but it does bend them quite a bit. Gray Hat campaigns are a compromise between expensive and slower White Hat and the cheap and risky Black Hat SEO.

Many (if not most) SEO companies operate in the gray area, forced to take more aggressive (black) actions in order to get clients what they want to see.

It’s Not Only About Hats!

Colored hats are a neat way of visually describing different approaches to SEO. But, there are also other terms that you can often hear mentioned as types of SEO, which are on-page and off-page SEO. These are not exactly types, but rather SEO techniques, but we will briefly explain them to you here anyway:

On-page SEO

On-page SEO consists of several specific techniques that you place inside and around your page content, which include:

  • External Linking – by putting links to authority sites in your content, you will boost its ranking position, kind of like borrowing the authority site reputation.
  • Internal linking – you should link your articles and pages between each other, creating a net. This will help users stay on your site longer, which positively affects SEO.
  • Keyword density – by optimizing keyword density you make sure your primary and secondary keywords show in the content the right amount of times.
  • Meta tags, descriptions, attributes – by writing accurate and catchy meta description you will increase the number of clicks. Meta tags and alt, on the other hand, will help your content rank for specific keywords.
  • Editing URL structure – by having URLs that include keywords, you are much more likely to rank higher in the results. And if your domain name has your primary keyword related to your business, even better.
  • SEO Yoast plugin – this is a must-have plugin if you run a WordPress website, that will help your on-page SEO tremendously.
  • Image SEO – by editing image text, optimizing it for keywords, you will make sure it shows in the Google and other search engine image results, which will increase traffic to your site.

Off-page SEO

These are techniques and moves you make outside your own website and pages and include:

  • Social media presence – you should have lively social media pages. Every time you write a new article, share it on social media, to engage user interactions. Also, make sure to respond to user comments, as it will build trust, and make other users want to write more. You should also offer ways for your users to Like or put Stars on your articles.
  • Guest posting – guest posting is a way of interacting with the audience outside of your site. You should offer to write a free guest post on sites similar to yours. Or you should be a guest in a popular podcast related to your industry. Just make sure it is high-quality content, as you need to promote both yourself and your business in the best way possible. Guest posts often include links back to your site and are a great way of expanding your business horizons.
  • Spend time where your users spend time – places like Reddit, Quora and other popular forums in your industry are likely places where the visitors of your site like to spend time. By going there and helping them, you will build trust, and promote your brand. What’s great about this is that it is entirely free, and an excellent way to build rapport with your potential customers.

Isn’t All SEO Against Google Rules?

That is a good question. When you look at it, all SEO tactics will change the position in the search results, placing pages higher than Google itself would do. So that must be illegal? Well, it actually isn’t.

Google and other search engines are not perfect, and even they know that. There are many factors that will put quality content below other, poorer content.

That is something that Google wants to avoid – their goal is to present you the best possible information where you want to see it – in the first few search results. To do that, they need people to optimize their sites for SEO.

Even Google themselves frequently release updates about their algorithms and give people advice on how to optimize their websites.

Google SEO Starter Guide is one such example, a goldmine of information that is useful to any site owner, and used daily by SEO agencies across the industry. It is an excellent proof that quality (white hat) SEO isn’t illegal, but encouraged by Google.


In this article, we tried to help you better understand the different types of SEO and also some favorite techniques used to achieve the results.

It is essential to realize that in the SEO world there is no right and wrong. You just pick a way that you think goes in line with your site’s and business goals, and that’s it.

SEO does help, as long as you know how to do it right. And if you don’t, you can always hire pros to help.