The first things you learn when you start doing search engine optimization for Google is that there are two main techniques when it comes to promoting and ranking content.
White hat SEO and Black hat SEO.
White hat is often regarded as a “legit” or “ethical” way of doing SEO for your blog in accordance to Google’s guidelines such as:
- Acquiring quality, natural links
- Creating content that helps users and solves their problems
Black hat SEO practices are focused on methods such as:
- Using Private Blog Networks (PBNs) for link building
- Keyword stuffing
- Doorway pages and many more
Now, the main question is: “Which SEO techniques should you use for your business?”
There are pros and cons to both of them so let’s go through them.
Question of ethics
Most SEOs and website owners perceive whitehat and blackhat as a question of ethics.
Does it mean that if you work with whitehat SEO company you are ethical and vice versa?
Well, it’s not so simple.
For quite some time, the best way of achieving top rankings was by performing blackhat SEO.
Today this is frowned upon as something that can endanger your sites and have a negative long term effect on your traffic even leading to a Google penalty (like Panda or Penguin penalty).
So you see, Google is responsible in terms of what technique will be relevant. If black hat techniques are easier to pursue, people will do them and other way around.
Due to the increasingly sophisticated algorithms, white hat SEO is slowly becoming a more popular way of doing web marketing. Still, that doesn’t mean that black hat SEO has completely died out.
No, it’s still alive but let’s just say that it’s just much harder to create value while avoiding repercussions.
To sum it up, when choosing between them, you need to focus on profitability and whether you have long term or short term plans.
Ethics, although a great concept, is something that lots of companies disregard while ranking their websites. After all, it’s just business.
If you don’t follow the other competitors on the market and don’t adapt to their strategy, you will quickly die out.
Without further ado, let’s see what white and black is all about.
Whitehat SEO techniques
Here are some of the most popular whitehat methods:
Creating high quality content
Content is the basis of SEO.
Back in the day it was possible to rank numerous keywords among top 10 results by using shady strategies and crappy content.
This is not the case nowadays as people shy away from any text automation (text rewriting tools), keyword stuffing or cloaking.
The reason? It’s not working anymore.
Diversified anchor texts
Again, anchor texts were something that was heavily manipulated back in the day. Exact match domains and domains spammed to death with the same exact match anchors were occupying the SERPs.
This unnatural link building technique became obsolete as Google got better but there are still those who are trying to manipulate anchors regardless of these new circumstances.
Those who have natural anchor texts will have highly diversified link profile with anchors which were created the natural way.
Natural link building
Even today, with all the changes that have been made over time, link building still remains the most exploited aspect of SEO.
This doesn’t come as a surprise as backlinks are one of the best tools for increasing your visibility on the Internet.
Whitehat link building focuses on your ability to acquire links through building meaningful relationships and by creating high quality content.
Not by paying for them or getting them through your own PBNs.
Blackhat SEO techniques
Here are some of the most popular blackhat methods:
Misuse of keywords
If you create content normally, certain corpus of phrases is expected to be present within your text.
Black hat practitioners would find keywords that are currently popular and try to add them into text even though they are not connected in any way to your topic.
This way they will attempt to get high rankings based on using trending phrases. All they would care about is to cheat the search engines, not to provide value to end users.
Misuse of keywords can also relate to keyword stuffing although this technique has died out over time.
Private blog networks (PBNs)
Although most blackhat SEO techniques have faded away nowadays, the use of PBNs is still pretty much alive.
Why is this strategy so popular?
When you have a private blogging network, you have a free access to numerous websites which are entirely under your control. You can write whatever content you wish and place your links and anchors depending on your own wishes.
I gotta admit, it sounds tempting.
Private blog networks are usually built on expired domains bought on online auctions.
More often than not these sites will be of low quality with questionable domain history and a negative link velocity on their link profiles.
Google is becoming better and better at destroying PBNs but they still work fine if being created with more attention and bigger budget.
Buying links and link schemes
According to Google, links are still the most important ranking factor that this search engine analyzes when trying to rank a page.
This is why there are so many practices revolving around them.
Purchasing links is still pretty much alive in 2017. They are completely against Google’s terms of service, but webmasters and SEOs still do it because it’s an easy and straightforward method to getting backlinks.
Link schemes which involve exchanging links for SEO purposes or doing tier 2 and tier 3 link schemes are another forbidden method which falls under the umbrella of blackhat SEO techniques.
Blackhat SEO pros
Blackhat is great for certain industries
In certain industries (especially when there is a high profit margin) such as pharmacy, gambling and porn, blackhat rules supremely.
It’s also very efficient for niche affiliate sites where building authority and gaining links is next to impossible. in such niches getting links is very hard and no one is inclined to link to each other.
This is why it’s much easier to create your own PBN or even start paying for links.
Blackhat can get you there faster
Whitehat is usually used to create a brand.
To slowly make your way to the top through content marketing, building long term connections and from that – higher positions in SERPs.
This takes time and effort. Actually, A LOT of time and effort.
On the other hand, with private link networks, link exchanges and buying links, you can start rolling in no time.
Blackhat SEO cons
Blackhat brings high risk of penalty
One of the main reasons why blackhat has lost a lot of its steam is the fact that Google has become much smarter.
Furthermore, it will become even smarter in the future which is why less and less people are willing to invest into learning or doing blackhat.
Google can quickly recognize any malpractice and penalize you thus destroying all the work you have done until that point.
Blackhat is a short term solution
People who do blackhat SEO are aware of the fact that their website will get hit at some point (usually pretty soon).
Blackhat is performed in order to get a short term boost.
In highly profitable industries this makes sense because by being in top 3 for just a couple of weeks you can justify the costs of SEO and make a hefty profit.
Blackhat SEO summary
Blackhat is often refered to as “churn and burn”. This is the best description of it.
Webmaster is creating a site that which goal is to make a short term profit. After it is penalized they will make another one and repeat the process all over again.
It is something that can last forever and the only concern is whether or not Google will become quicker in recognizing these patterns and penalizing domains that have such practice before they can make their monthly or quarterly profit.
When this happens, this will be the end of many blackhat practices.
Great for building a brand
White hat SEO is not only about link building.
It is a valuable marketing strategy that helps you build your brand and see it flourish.
According to the greatest experts within the SEO niche, white hat SEO is primarily about three things:
- creating a positive experience for your visitors (doing everything with them in mind)
- improving the community and industry as a whole
- building meaningful, long lasting relationships
In that regard, white hat SEO can be seen more of a branding activity than anything else.
It is here to stay
While blackhat focuses on creating short term profits, whitehat is focused on long term sustainability of a company.
In fact, it is one of the marketing activities that require the most time but with the greatest return.
If you do everything properly, Google will start seeing you as an authority within your industry (even though your business performance may not be on pair) allowing you a much wider reach and potential for development.
Whitehat takes time
As you can presume all these processes take some time.
This makes whitehat methods much slower than its counterpart.
In terms of business, this can pose quite a burden on small and medium sized companies as it forces them to spend a lot without any indication of profit in the near future.
Whitehat can also backfire
If you don’t have the necessary experience or if you don’t know the industry quite well, there is a good chance that your results will be much worse than you expected them to be.
In case of blackhat everything is straightforward and you can more easily predict and measure results.
This isn’t the case with whitehat.
Whitehat SEO summary
Whitehat SEO requires time, expert knowledge in SEO and money.
However, its greatest advantage is the fact that you are building a brand.
In that regard, if you are good at SEO or have a trusted SEO company working for you, it can be much easier to create an online company than to create the same type of a company in the real world.
In comparison to all other internet marketing approaches, such as PPC and SMM, SEO can provide the best long term results due to the avalanche effect it leads to.
White Hat or Black Hat?
Based on everything that you’ve read so far, it is easy to understand that blackhat SEO is a much more risky method.
That being said, is it to be expected it yields higher profit if done properly and with a bit of luck?
Over the years blackhat techniques have lost a lot of their power but there are still some ways to use them.
If you’re an affiliate website in a peculiar niche, than a churn and burn strategy might help you win big money over a short period of time. Even if you’re penalized at some point, you can always start over and simply rinse and repeat.
If that’s you, then you should give black hat a try.
However, if you cherish your business and brand you would never risk of losing it due to some shady tactics, right?
If this is you, than white hat SEO methods are your future.
Although I am inclined to say that blackhat is dying and that it has lost most of its momentum, it is true that there are a lot of companies that are still using it successfully.
Choosing “white” or “black” depends on the industry, time frame and budget that is available to you. It is hard to tell which is better as it is mostly relative and situational.
Risk is another thing to be considered as blackhat will likely lose even more power in near future.
Considering things from such a perspective can get you into a position where you have knowledge that is no longer applicable on any level. Still, that doesn’t mean it cannot be profitable right now.
So the choice is all yours. I know I chose white hat SEO 🙂
What do you think about these two approaches? Have you tried them both? Let me know on Facebook or share your view in the comment section below!