White Hat and Black Hat

Internet use has soared over the past few years and as a result, the web is an arena for businesses to compete in an increasingly competitive market. In the early days of internet search, simply having a website with some degree of keyword optimization was enough to give a business a good position in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Today, with the growing competition among marketers, the case is not at all the same.

Search Engine Optimization has evolved from the crudest techniques, such as keyword stuffing, into a complex discipline that incorporates many different approaches to the same problem. As search engine algorithms become more sophisticated, SEO has to keep pace.

These days, search engine optimization covers everything from search-engine-friendly web development to black hat techniques. There are many agencies across the web that make tempting offers of overnight ranking gains at unbelievable prices. These offers sound too good to be true because they often are.

While it is possible to make considerable ranking gains in a very short space of time using certain methods, these methods often contravene the webmaster guidelines laid out by search engine operators. Increasing the number of inbound links to a website usually results in elevated SERP ranking positions, so there is much to be gained by furiously building links.

Black hat link building businesses seek to manipulate search engines by manufacturing enormous quantities of low-quality links that can often raise a website quickly within the search engine results. These rapid ranking gains come at a price, however - as well as inbound link quantity, search engines are more interested in inbound link quality, and perhaps even the ratio of high:low quality inbound links to a given website.

Even if a website immediately soars within the SERP rankings after a promotional black hat link building campaign, search algorithms are changing all the time and it only takes one change for an unstable website to drop significantly.

The opposite of black hat is the white hat. White hat is sustainable, ethical, and approved by search engines. Black hat SEO seeks to exploit and take advantage of weaknesses and flaws in search engine algorithms. White hat SEO seeks to play by the rules ensuring a website is optimized within search engine guidelines. Websites that engage in unsanctioned, black hat SEO will always be vulnerable to algorithm changes and search engine penalties, while those that insist upon white hat promotion and quality content will always gain from the devaluation of other sites.

Search Engine Optimization should be accounted for within the digital marketing budget of any serious companies. With more websites springing up every day, the online space is only going to get more competitive.

And businesses that want the greatest chance to maximize their revenues should devote some resources to obtaining value, relevance and visibility within search engine results pages. Despite the obvious temptations to employ a black hat agency, businesses that want to ensure the continued effectiveness of their link building on the web should work together with the search engines, not violatiing their Terms of Service.