If there’s one debate that never gets old in the SEO world, it probably has to be the white hat SEO Vs black hat SEO one. It’s difficult to talk about SEO without favoring one over the other.
However, in this article that is exactly what we will try doing. We won’t get into why you should stick to one and hate the other, but just try to explain them as simply as we can. We will also walk you through some general advantages and disadvantages associated with both of them that will allow you to make your own call, which is what we intend to achieve through this post.
White Hat Links
First things first, some people in the SEO community are of the opinion that there’s no such thing as white hat SEO. Their argument is that Google clearly states in their guidelines that webmasters are not allowed to build ANY links to a site to manipulate its natural rankings in the search engine. If you were to follow every word of their guidelines, you wouldn’t be able to build any links to your site.
So what are you allowed to do (according to Google’s guidelines)? Simple; when going “purely” white hat, you’re just supposed to focus on content and content alone. You need to write for the readers and make sure your content is as useful, as detailed, and as informative as it possibly can be.
Similarly, you may also want to design your site in a way that it makes it very easy for the visitors to browse the content on your site and navigate to the pages they may be looking for without having to do a lot of searching. In other words, focusing on great all-round user experience is what white hat SEO is all about.
This concept is based on the idea that quality content will naturally attract great links. So for example, if you have written a great post about an important topic in your niche, the other bloggers in your niche or even the journalists looking for a useful source to include in their upcoming report on a relevant topic in your niche may link to your post. This is what a purely white hat link is.
That all said, the white hat SEO community doesn’t buy the argument that they aren’t supposed to build any kind of links. They say that high-quality, reasonably natural links that don’t involve any kind of shady techniques should be absolutely fine, and this is pretty much what they term as white hat SEO today.
Now, without getting into how valid their theory is (it’s a never-ending debate, remember?), let us discuss a bit about some of the most popular white hat SEO techniques out there so that you can get a better idea of what white hat SEO is generally believed to be.
Apart from what we mentioned above, some other basic but useful SEO techniques include on-page SEO optimization methods such as limited, effective use of the right keywords (no keyword stuffing!), internal links, well-optimized title and meta description. However, when it comes to white hat links, some of the SEO techniques are way more popular than the others.
Guest posting has to be right at the top, though. Since a time longer than we can remember, guest posting has been used by the white hat SEO community as a crucial part of their SEO campaigns. It simply refers to the process of writing a quality post for another site in your niche and including a link to your own site in the article. The other site gets quality content, while you get a great link.
Then there’s something known as “link baiting.” It basically means writing on a topic in your niche that you’re sure the other bloggers or journalists may be looking to learn more about. Sometimes, it also involves writing on a controversial, popular topic as these type of posts tend to go viral which often results in your site naturally gaining a lot of links.
We have lately also been witnessing several new types of white hat link building practices emerge. Let us take a quick look at two of the more popular, widely-followed techniques below.
HARO: Helping a Journalist Out. As the name suggests, this technique involves reaching out to journalists in your niche and asking them whether they need a good source to include in their next report or article on a topic. You then need to write a quality, informative post on that topic, publish it and send the URL to them. If it’s what they are looking for, they will link out to it from their article which would often be published on a very well-established website.
Resource page links: In many major niches, there are resource pages that link out to important resources in a particular niche. If there are some in your niche, you can get in touch with the webmasters that manage them and request them to include a link to one or more of your posts that are very informative and useful.
Black Hat SEO
Needless to say, it’s probably one of the most hated things under the sun. The search engines don’t like it. People with little to no SEO knowledge don’t like it (because they are easily outranked by people using black hat SEO techniques). People following white hat SEO techniques don’t like it too, as the black hat folks have a clear advantage over them.
However, the black hat SEO community still exists, albeit in a different “form” now than several years back due to Google’s constant “attacks” on them.
The black hat link building techniques have changed dramatically over the past few years. In the past, the webmasters relying on black hat links would just use an SEO software to blast thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of links at their site and get it ranked for the keywords they wanted within a month or two.
Those days are now long gone, though. Doing anything like that would mean getting your site kicked out of Google’s search engine forever (the other search engines haven’t really caught on as much).
With that said, here’s a quick look at some of the most popular black hat link-building practices out there.
- Keyword stuffing: This simply means putting the keywords the site is targeting at places in the content where they don’t fit, just to get an advantage with respect to the site’s search engine rankings
- Link farms: Getting links from blogs and sites solely made for the purpose of boosting other sites’ rankings
- Automated links: Using software to automatically post comments on sites that allow a link in the comments, as well as making forum posts just to get links, and getting tens or hundreds of links this way
- Link exchanges: Exchanging links with other bloggers or webmasters so that it benefits both the sites’ rankings
- PBNs: One of the most popular types of black hat links, Private Blog Networks are expired or auctioned domains with a powerful link profile that are rebuilt with the sole intention of getting links from them
Well, we sure don’t want to pick a side here and get flooded with messages arguing about why we are wrong. As we said, it’s a never-ending debate and our opinion hardly matters.
However, what probably matters is the advantages and disadvantages both these types of links bring to the table. While white hat links may mean seeing little to no traction in terms of organic traffic for months, or, in some cases, even years, it also promises long-term, stable results.
On the other hands, black hat links are generally believed to help boost a site into the first page of Google for the keywords it’s targeting way faster. There’s also a lot more certainty as you control your site’s rankings to a considerable extent.
However, with these advantages comes the risk of losing your traffic and, hence, your online business overnight as when Google finds out what you’re up to it would likely penalize and de-index your site from its search engine.
The other search engines are far less stringent and may never bother with the type of links you’re building, but then they also hardly have much traffic to offer to your site.