Like public relations, it often gets a bad-wrap for some practices within the industry but, for the most part, the fundamentals of sound SEO practice provide search engines with the data needed to generate quality search engine rankings for their users. Much like a PR pro provides quality data to a journalist to help them conceptualize a story or a report.
Often, in SEO practice, we use the term “White Hat” to define standards that can, and should be, deployed on a website. Typically, these standards create a conduit for search engines to better crawl, and index, a particular website so they can provide better-quality, organic search results for their users.
For example, you might provide a search engine with a sitemap to better show them what pages should be crawled and how often. Essentially, the search engine is then generating search results based on what you’re providing to them vs. what it thinks is relevant. This is a standard, white-hat practice.
On the flip-side, there’s what we call “Black Hat” practices that are typically deployed to “undermine” a search engine. These are practices that are not sound SEO strategy.
It’s often sometimes hard to draw the line between white and black hat practices but, ultimately, providing search engines with quality content in a timely manor will produce better search results for your website or client.
Matt Cutts, of Google, explains in this video if Google, the largest search provider, considers SEO to be a form of “spam”. Worth a watch.