White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO & Link Building, Explained

SEO - Black Hat vs White Hat

If you’ve been looking for help optimizing a website for search engines, or have started link building or seeking a company to help you build links, you’ve most likely come across the term “white hat” and maybe even “black hat.” But what do these terms really mean, and how can they affect your business and web presence?

Google and Its Rules

Google and search engines like it have complex algorithms that determine how relevant a given page is to a search that a user types in. Since the beginnings of the internet as we know it today, individuals and businesses have been trying to figure out how those algorithms work. Since they’re kept secret and are constantly being changed, no one knows exactly how they work, but people have some ideas.

For example, we know that a site with more links to it from other sites usually ranks higher for more searches, because that is one way Google can tell a site is widely used and legitimate. Link builders create links to bring people to websites and make those sites rank higher in search engines—but Google has some strict rules about links and other aspects of SEO.

White Hat vs. Black Hat

A white hat SEO marketer is one who follows Google’s rules, while a black hat SEO marketer breaks the rules—doing things that aren’t illegal, but are grounds for being kicked off Google’s results pages.

For example, if you’ve ever been in a web forum, you’ve probably seen posters answering questions with links to irrelevant websites. This used to be more popular than it is today, and was used to get those websites to the top page of Google—but Google has since changed the rules, and designed programs specifically to catch these kind of links and render them useless.

Doing this kind of linking now would be considered black hat, while foregoing this in favor of more relevant, helpful types of links would be considered white hat.

White Hat or Black Hat—Which One Is for Me?

If you’re a small business owner looking to bring customers to your site, you likely want to move up the Google ranks as quickly as possible. Black hat SEO marketers offer amazing speed, but don’t forget that what looks too good to be true probably is—because these SEO marketers are breaking the rules, they’re also a huge risk. They could get your site removed from Google’s results entirely!

White hat SEO is by its nature a little slower, but there is also almost no risk involved. Also, as more and more white hat SEO marketers perfect their methods, they can offer huge results in three or four months—not much slower than the black hat marketers, and with a great deal less risk.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t just want to get to the top of Google—you want to stay there.