If you spend much time reading about SEO, you are sure to run across people talking about a variety of tactics and organizing them into the categories of white, black, and grey hat SEO. If you take some time to think about what Google tells us, which is any link building intended to manipulate the SERPs is not an approved tactic, it won’t take long to realize that the only true white hat SEO is writing content and hoping for the best.
I don’t know about you, but writing and hoping does not seem like much of a strategy to me. I say it is about time we get past the labels of SEO and look at the tactics on a risk versus reward scale. I equate different SEO tactics to investments, some are safe and others are risky.
White Hat SEO – The Savings Bond of SEO
Let’s say you write a great post and share it on social media, you may get some natural links to your website, an approved white hat method.
We could also go a step further and email our contacts about our latest post and they may also link to your site, yet another opportunity to earn a link.
Broken link building is another popular method for getting links to your website. With this method, you simply contact the site owner, let them know about your great content that fits the criteria of the now broken link and ask them to link to your website.
The problem for many with white hat SEO is the cost. If you are spending hundreds of man hours promoting content, searching for broken links, and building relationships in your niche, you are going to pay dearly for it. That is why I call white hat SEO the savings bond of SEO; you need a decent initial investment to expect a reasonable return and you should expect to wait a while to see your return. The upside is, you have a very low risk of being penalized, unless Google changes their mind about what white hat entails as they have so many times in recent years.
Grey Hat SEO – Mutual Funds
When you invest in a mutual fund, you are reducing your risk by diversifying your money across a diverse group of companies while still risking a loss in order to gain more money quickly. If you spend $100 on a bond, you may get $125 in return, if you spend $100 on a mutual fund, you may get $200 in return, or you could suffer a loss.
Grey hat SEO leverages some tactics that are not favored by Google that are effective in expediting the ranking process for your website. The downside is that you could get penalized for using these methods. Here are some common grey hat SEO tactics:
Link Buying – Google expressly prohibits buying links to improve the rankings of your website. That being said, if you contact a relevant site and ask them to link to your site and they respond with “we would be happy to link to your site but we charge a $50 editorial fee”; are you buying a link? We all know that is what’s happening but how in the world will Google find out? If you buy links from sites offering them publicly, you are much more likely to get caught, so do not do it.
Buying Old Domains – This is currently one of the most effective and used grey hat SEO methods around. You can buy expired domains from auctions, build on a niche relevant website on them and link back to your main website. This allows you to get years of link building work for the price around $100. Most people using this tactic register the domain privately and add a great deal on low quality but original content, making this grey hat.
Buying Social Signals – This method has not been expressly forbidden by Google but is grey hat because the intent is to manipulate the SERPs. This method uses automated tools to auto follow others on social in hopes that they will follow you back. Another common way this is manipulated in through buying shares, re-tweets, or +1s on sites like Fiverr. There are also sites like Synnd that let you buy credits to get social signals of your choosing by other users.
Black Hat SEO – Penny Stocks
Black Hat SEO is when you pull out all the stops and go for broke. Just as a penny stock could have a 1400% increase overnight, a well-defined black hat approach can rank your site fast. In case you don’t know, many penny stocks lose all value; likewise, many black hat tactics can get your site completely de-indexed from search engines. If you have a site that you are willing to use, black hat SEO could be worth trying. For example, if I had a website selling an item that was only useful for the spring of 2014, I might use black hat tactics to rank since the site would be useless to me after the fact anyway. There are several black hat methods in use today and here are a few of them:
301 Redirect Method – This tactic is pretty effective in 2014, until you get penalized that is. The theory behind this is that you can create a money site using low quality content, monetize the site, and then rank it by pointing 20-30 aged domains to the site. If you have 30 domains, you would point 15 to the money site and point the other 15 domains to Google or Yahoo. When your money site gets hit, you build a new site on a new domain and rotate the 15 domains that were pointing at Google to the new site, while pointing the 15 domains that were pointing to the old money site to Google. Repeat the process until you can no longer rank a site and then buy some new aged domains.
Buying Public Blog Network Links– You may be wondering how buying links is grey and black hat, remember we are talking about the risk involved when classifying these tactics. If you buy links privately, you are much less likely to get caught. If you buy links from a public network such as the SAPE Network, you have left an easily traceable footprint to your site. You can rank quickly but do not be surprised when your site gets hammered.
Effective SEO- What is Your Goal?
Any SEO company with true experience in the field will have knowledge of several white, black, and grey hat tactics that can be used to rank a site depending upon the goals of a site owner. If you have a churn and burn affiliate site, tell your SEO what you are doing and ask if they can help with those tactics. Likewise, if your site is 15 years old and you are a big brand, make sure your SEO knows what your goals are and ask them to be transparent with you about how they intend to rank your website.
Just like investing, your time-frame, risk tolerance, and long term goals should be considered when building out your SEO plan. If you ever hire a company and are not sure if they are using grey hat tactics and telling you they are white hat, ask around until you find the truth.
Leave a comment or question below and I would be happy to tell you the risks of your SEO strategy.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia