White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO

Welcome to the second post in the series “X vs. Y”. Today, I will give some insights on the eternal debate: White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO.

What do White Hat and Black Hat SEO mean?

White Hat SEO
White Hat search engine optimization (SEO) implies that people/companies comply with the search engines guidelines when optimizing a website. They abide rules in place and work with the search engines to get websites ranked high.

Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO describes the process of violating rules and code of behavior of search engines by taking advantage of loopholes. They work around search engines to get websites ranked high.

White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO


If you had to choose between the 2 SEO methods, which one should you use?
In 99% of the case, White Hat SEO is the way to go. Here is why:

Black Hat SEO can bring traffic to your site faster than White Hat SEO, but this traffic won’t last. As the search engines find the Black Hat tricks used, they will remove the site from their index and ban the domain name. You are now back to square one and have to start all over again. Some Black Hat SEOer will tell you that it doesn’t matter if one site gets banned because they have another 200 or 300 sites using Black Hat techniques that haven’t been caught yet. As long as one can create sites faster than it gets caught, this business model seems viable. The only problem is that search engines get smarter and smarter so it gets harder and harder for spammers to create a website quickly that will rank well in the search engines. White Hat SEO is all about building long term sustainable websites. So if you are looking for a website that ranks in the search engines for the short term, you may belong to the remaining 1% for who Black Hat SEO will be better suited.

A few years back, it was very easy to cheat search engines like Google and they weren’t very good at enforcing rules. Nowadays, it’s a bit of a different story for spammers.

Here are some examples of popular Black Hat SEO tricks that don’t work anymore:

  • Doorway/gateway pages: This describes the process of creating a page, filling it with keywords to rank high and redirecting it to your home page via meta refresh, JavaScript or server side redirection.
  • Cloaking: The page displayed to users and to robots are different based on the IP address and/or user-agent.
  • Hidden content: Some code tricks like commenting out text or writing text in the same colour as the background colour allow your website to have more text on your pages than what users can see.
  • Keyword stuffing: The description and keyword tags used to be filled with keywords to rank higher in the search engines. As a result, Google now ignores the keyword tag and doesn’t use the description tag as an important ranking factor.
  • Content scrappers: Some websites used robots to crawl content on other sites and post it on their website automatically. This way, a website could have hundreds or thousands of pages built very fast. Google is taking this to heart and fighting really hard against duplicate content. The latest update in their algorithm was Google Panda and was implemented to address this issue. Duplicate content is still not completely resolved yet but well on its way.
  • Link Farms: People used to get lots of links from low quality sources to boost their rankings. Google’s algorithm is slowly evolving towards: quality is better than quantity.

Of course, spammers always find creative ways of cheating the search engines. The rel=canonical is a good example. Rel=canonical is used to redirect one page to another, mostly to avoid duplicate content issues.  It was only allowed within the same domain name at the beginning, then got extended to be supported across different domain names in December 2009. Some spammers can be tempted to use it to give more power to some pages as the page being viewed by visitors and the page getting the credit are different. However, Matt Cutts doesn’t believe that it is used for Black Hat SEO:

In summary, here are the pros and cons of White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO:

White Hat SEO
Pros:

  • Sustainable: White Hat SEO may take longer to drive traffic to your site but it will bring a lot more traffic in the long run. Moreover, being able to have the same domain name up for a long time will help gaining trust and authority from your readers and from Google. You can then get traffic from other sources than search engines such as bookmarks, links from other websites, type-ins, social media and so on…The longer you optimize a website, the harder it will be for a black hat site to outrank it.

Cons:

  • Slower to build up traffic: SEO can take a few weeks to start seeing some significant results. However, quick traffic can be acquired via different channels like CPC campaigns and creative social media campaigns.

Black Hat SEO
Pros:

  • Immediate Results: It’s fast and can work really well for the short time the website is up.

Cons:

  • Smarter Search Engines: With search engines getting smarter, chances are your website will get banned within a few weeks if you use black hat tricks. It also becomes more work to perform black hat tricks so the return on investment gets smaller and smaller. Getting your website banned from Google is a big loss for the small gain of driving traffic quickly to your site.
Black Hat vs White Hat SEO graph

This graph is not based on real numbers. It is just an illustration of the points above

 

Black Hat SEO will require less research and work to get started, and will produce better short term results than White Hat SEO. However, we can clearly see that it is not a sustainable long term strategy

Illustration of White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO with a metaphor:

White Hat SEO is like planting seeds, nurturing them and watching the trees grow, then selling the fruits years after years, until the day you might sell the orchard and retire.

Black Hat SEO would be selling the seeds for $50 and finding something else to sell.

The upfront cost and efforts are far greater with White Hat SEO but it is a lot more sustainable as a long term strategy.

Matt Cutts explains in this video how to compete against websites using Black Hat SEO techniques:

6S Marketing can help if you are looking to start a solid White Hat Search Engine Optimization campaign.

What do you think about White Hat and Black Hat SEO? Have you used either techniques? What results did you get?

*original image from: themoxiemomblog.com/wordpress/getting-white-hat-edu-and-gov-backlinks

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