Let us first say, you need to get over the whole Whitehat and Blackhat SEO preconceptions thing. The goal is the same, it’s only the approach that differs. We’ve heard it put eloquently: Black hat – work today, eat tomorrow. White hat – work. Eat. Soon. Sometime. Well maybe eat. Both are directions – we won’t call them methods, but they’re directions that search engine optimization companies go. There actually are some extraordinarily good white hats out there that do things in Matt Cutts and SEOMoz approved ways. Here’s a good example of white hat…
White Hat Link Building
Ever gotten one of those cheesy award emails? “Your website/company has been chosen to be one of the greatest blah, blah, blahs of this year! Just insert this code and let all your visitors know!!!” Yup, you as a website owner, put that code in your website and boom – that code pulls an image off their website and displays on YOUR website. BTW, it also goes TO their website when you click it… You’ve now backlinked to their site. Now they get about 100 website owners or more to do that and they’ve got some backlink action building to their website. The goal of almost ALL SEO is to get backlinks – and this one works like a champ. Seriously, how can you resist putting that cool graphic ON your website?? Who even KNEW there was someone out there rating the best mortuary sites??? And YOURS apparently is the cream of the crop! It takes a while to pull off something like this and a lot of effort. If you’re hiring someone to do this kind of thing, it’s not fast and it can be expensive.
Of course with an average of maybe .1% of the recipients at best doing this, you’ll need to send somewhere around 100K emails, but… Probably need to buy an email list – and violate someone ELSE’S TOS by sending a crapload of spam emails.
The straightforward way of doing Whitehat is by having great content (always a great idea regardless of the approach), making friends with high PR blog owners and getting a backlink from them, maybe doing some guest posts, do some commenting with some regularity on their blogs or other high PR blogs, etc. That approach works well too and also does have a ramp time. If you follow that method, your search engine rankings should be pretty safe, and you can feel good about not doing…
Black Hat Link Building
Break out a copy of Scrapebox, XRumer, SEnukeXcr or some other mass link building software, get about 100 proxies, set the phasers to “kill” and start blasting. Everything. These things will go crazy posting helpful sentences, “Thanks for sharing dude!”, “I find this topic fascinating, keep up the good work.” or something equally uplifting and insightful. And poorly spun content that reads horrendously. W00t.
And this DOES work in certain cases. I see this kind of stuff try to weasel through on a lot of my own websites – thank you Akismet for all your efforts on our behalf. The exact effect of black hat search engine optimization is always a semi-unknown. You never know when Google will decide to discount all this or that type of link, not like the site that it was posted on, have an issue with the anchor text patterns, or some other issue. And worse, you really can’t go back and CHANGE or easily remove those links if one of the mentioned situations develop. There is a “disavow” option in the Google Webmaster tools if you want to tell Google that you don’t know anything about that link, how it got there, etc, but there needs to be a REAL good reason to go through all that.
For that reason, this kind of link building is inherently fraught with peril. You better know your sh*t when you start playing with methods like this one. Serious mass link building – like tapping in 20K+ links a month for no particularly good reason – is affectionately known as the “Slash and Burn” method of SEO. Eventually, Google WILL delist you. It’s just a matter of when. Additionally, when you get those kind of link numbers going, it’s real hard (read “impossible”) to adjust your keyword percentages, or anchor text ratios when Google changes algorithms.
Watched an HVAC company in Raleigh do this last year and rank like big dogs all summer – and probably made a killing through the summer air conditioning season. By fall, they were delisted. They’re probably starting on their new site for THIS summer now. “Slash and Burn” IS a viable strategy if you’re not attached to your company name or interested in a long term domain name presence. Not one that we want to follow, but it is viable.
Which way is Best?
They’re both just different. White hat is considered safer, but usually is going to take far more effort to do right. Black hat gets a lot of “Oh we would never do that..” from some SEOs, all the while nuking the crap out of their sites. In our opinion? They both have their time and place. We want to use what works with minimal risk. As pointed out in the Google TOS, pretty much anything you do to manipulate your SERP is against their policy. So even giving out an award and getting people to link to you – sounds like a manipulation to us. We’ll just call most anything you do to improve your lot in the SERPs “grayhat” for now, shan’t we?