If you have spent very much time at all researching SEO, you have quite likely come across the terms “black hat” and “white hat”. However, what exactly does it mean?
Well, if you have imagined the good cowboy in the white hat and the bad one in the black, you can be forgiven – that is certainly the impression people try to give off about the whole deal. Still, what is black hat SEO anyway? Is it legal? Does it work?
The line between black and white hat SEO is sometime a little blurry, in no small part because techniques once considered white hat may not be any longer. Some people will tell you that white hat SEO is ethical while black hat SEO is not. And while there certainly are unethical practices used by some who wear the darker hats, this is a bit of an over simplification.
A general rule of thumb is whether Google likes the practice or not. In its constant effort to return search results it says are relevant, the search company continually updates its search algorithms. Characteristically, anything that works, but that Google will penalize or ban you for, if found out, is considered black hat.
Why would anyone use black hat SEO techniques then? For one thing, these techniques can give a page an unduly high ranking, often in a short amount of time. Sure, Google will eventually come down on the page or site, but in the meantime, its owner is making quite some money. At least, that is the theory.
So if the big bucks are in black hat, why use white hat? “White hat” SEO techniques tend to last longer, for one thing. They may require more work on the front-end and usually require a little bit of upkeep, but in the long term they bring in traffic, and if you are selling/pre-selling right, this means money. Not only will you have more consistent sales with that one site, but you will also have time, once you are done setting it up, to build another site that could give you long-term, relatively passive income.
With black hat techniques, you are likely to be making new site after new site after new site.
Another reason to go white hat is for branding purposes. You really don’t want to build your site’s popularity and rankings high using black hat techniques, only to get your site banned for life by Google when it finds out what you are doing – which it will, eventually. Being known as a black-hatter is also likely to brand you as a pretty shady fellow, not something you really want in the Internet marketing world.
The line between black and white hat SEO is sometimes a little unclear and often moves around when search engines update their algorithms. If you are in Internet marketing for the long-haul though, it is definitely worth keeping up with what is considered white hat and sticking to it.
Filed under: SEO
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