Is All SEO Black Hat?
Posted: 29 July 2013
Think about that question for a moment. Your first answer is probably; “No, of course not, don’t be silly!”, but really think about it, detach yourself from reality for a couple of minutes and consider the following.
Black hat SEO is often thought of techniques that maliciously or unfairly inflate your search engine rankings. Granted this is usually through methods such as link farms, hacked sites, hidden content, keyword stuffing and all sorts of other frowned upon activities. However, when you think about it, isn’t White hat SEO just doing the same thing in a slightly more morally correct way?
Take link building for instance. Although the Penguin updates have put less emphasis on link building and more on organic links, it is still a big part of SEO and will continue to be for a long time. Some black hat versions of link building include ‘Link Farms’, hacked sites and more recently some might argue using blog comments to link back to your site. ‘Link Farms’ are huge sites dedicated to sharing hundreds of thousands of links to flow pagerank to your site. They are considered spammy & low quality by Google, and sites gain thousands of backlinks doing this. Yes, this is morally incorrect, but isn’t building links by linking back from your own sites and sites you design/affiliates the exact same thing (which pretty much all web design companies engage in)?
We have seen SEO companies that are hugely successful, and even though their methods are seen as ‘White Hat’, they are highly questionable from a moral standpoint. For example, one SEO company has a huge network of sites dedicated to topics of all sorts with thousands of pages, backlinks and visitors. When a customer who sells (for example) tractors wants SEO, they create a new page talking about tractors on these sites which have already built up a good reputation and trust with Google and then link back to the customer site. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that just a smaller scale link farm?
Keyword stuffing is another method that is considered ‘Black Hat’ in which hidden text is placed on the page, or hidden off of the page out of the visible area, filled with keywords and spammy content to get Google to see its relevance. I totally agree that it’s a black hat method, no question, but aren’t we all doing the same thing when we optimise our website content with SEO in mind? Nobody writes content the way they really want to write it anymore, they write it the way they need to write it to manipulate the search engines.
If content is optimised to fool the search engines that the website is more relevant than any other website, why is that not considered black hat? In a way it could be seen as false representation of content.
Googles’ aim is to give the best results based on site relevance and relevant content within said site. If they wanted to give the most accurate, precise results they can, wouldn’t they just rank a site purely based on how good or bad, and relevant, the content is rather than using keyword density and the number of inbound links to decide? Why is a site with 100 inbound links (probably generated by the site owner or their SEO company) placed higher than a site with no links - the content may be superior on the latter site. I understand Google's thinking that a site with more inbound links is likely to be the better site, however, with so many people link building and content optimising you might argue the non optimised sites might soon contain the better content.