If you are just getting started in online business, you already know that there are conflicting opinions on what works and what doesn't. But how can you tell who's right? Who you choose for your mentor can decide the future of your site and your business, so you need to know the difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO techniques to ensure the future profitability of your business.
Anything that tries to trick, or “game” search engines can be considered black hat. Search engines use algorithms to decide who ranks for what. When you try to take advantage of these algorithms by exploiting loopholes or mistakes in the system to boost the rank of your site, you're black hat.
One famous black hat technique is comment spam. Do you own a blog and get tons of spam comments? Have you ever looked in your spam filter and see all those junk comments containing links or received a comment from a guy that calls himself “fake louis vuitton bags online” that doesn't really make sense?
These are people trying to gain links to their site. These are blackhatters that have software to send out mass comments to blogs. They send thousands and thousands of repeat comments hoping to catch people off guard or find blogs without spam guards.
Some people believe that more links to your site = better rank, so they use this method to get links to sites that no one would normally link to.
Another black hat technique would be to steal articles and replace their links with your own. Again, this is an attempt to gain more backlinks to their website that no one cares about. Normally, it's OK to take part of an article as a quotation for your own site, but you are expected to link back to the source.
Some people take the WHOLE article, publish it somewhere else, and link back to their own site. It's just plain stealing, but blackhatters don't really care.
Even article spinning, where you take one article and rewrite it several times can be considered black hat (if done badly enough so that it's unreadable). A well spun article is grey hat at best.
White hat techniques are methods to boost your site's authority with methods that are within search engine guidelines. People usually look to Google's Webmaster's Official Blog for accepted rules and policies.
There are many white hat techniques that work well, so I don't really understand why anyone would do black hat. I think it takes just as much work either way.
One example is to create a YouTube video and link back to your own site. Another one could be to do keyword research, and use the keyword in the title of blog post. (the alternative would be to keyword stuff, ie overusing keywords in a blog post, which would be black hat).
Tweeting your blog post, or sharing it on social media is another white hat method that can help you gain authority in search engines. Social media is a great way to get noticed and get *natural* links back to your site.
In fact, “natural” is a great way to think about white hat SEO. If you are creating high quality content that people want to read and share, you naturally build authority in search engines. Blogging daily and creating a variety of media for your visitors to consume is also a natural way to gain authority. Commenting on related websites would be under the same umbrella.
Some techniques used to be white hat but have now become “grey hat”. These are ranking methods that are in a bit of a grey area.
Things that are good for your site but can damage it if overdone is one example. Article marketing is a grey hat technique. Writing articles and publishing them to article directories can get a new website noticed and help build an audience.
But producing too many “self votes” via article directories can look spammy, and will provide you with very few benefits long-term.
Content curation is also grey hat. This means you take content from other websites and publish it on your blog, WITH proper credit in place (including a link back to the authors original work).
This can expose your readers to new authors, and help you become part of a community of people in the same niche as you.
But without your own commentary on the original piece, or some kind of addition of your own, you are just copying. Even with proper credit where credit is due, long term, there's little value to your readers as well. Why would they follow your blog when they could just follow the blog where you took the content from?
How To Tell The Difference?
In general, if it's useful to your readers and is 100% unique content, it's white hat. You should always think about the benefit to visitors of your blog. Keep them in mind, and you'll be fine.
If it seems like you are trying to gain artificial rank within search engines, it's probably at least grey hat.
If you are annoying people with advertising, using automation software, or leaving your link in places where people don't want it, it's black hat.
The Future Of Your Business
While black hat SEO can boost the rank of your website temporarily, long term, it can destroy your business. I know this from experience.
You can read from the story of my online business, that I did some grey hat techniques that turned out to be more black hat than I planned. I boosted my sites that were making me $5,000 per month to over $10,000 per month back in 2012. But shortly thereafter, my earnings dropped by more than 50%, reducing my income to just $4,000!
What did I do? The main thing I was doing was unnatural backlinking This is why I'm so against backlinking services that claim awesome results. Even if they draw up a crazy link scheme that claims to trick search engines effectively, are you sure you want to build your business on a trick?
Luckily I was living in China at the time and didn't have a mortgage (or rent), and my work paid for things like health insurance. I also didn't own a car, and had a regular job teaching English, so I didn't NEED the extra income.
What would happen to me now that I have two mortgages, motorcycle insurance, health insurance, a cell phone bill, internet connection, utilities, gas, and other junk I have to pay for every month?
I would be screwed. That's what.
So I learned my lesson the hard way, but in a way that I can help you learn from my mistakes.
I will never again try anything even grey hat, because I depend on my business to live (I'm 100% self employed now).
The Long Road Of White Hat
Not going out and grabbing links to boost your sites rank takes strong will, especially when you are being outranked by folks you know are doing it. Having to write article after article of unique content takes patience, content research, and keyword research.
Very often you will sit at the bottom of the ranks for several months while your site is starting out. And you may go through bouts of large traffic fluctuations while Google is figuring out what you're all about.
Shouldn't it be easier? No.
You are in competition with the entire world when you build a website and get it indexed in Google. It takes time to gain authority. Imagine if every newbie that joined the scene could rank #1 for any term he wanted to. It would be madness!
Your day will come. It always does. And 2 -3 years down the road when you have hundreds of blog posts on your website and are making thousands of dollars per month from it, you'll be thankful that Google makes new websites EARN their authority.
Have you burned a site with Black Hat? Are you struggling to rank and wish it was easier? Let me know you thoughts in the comments.