Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO Part 1: Understanding the Difference
When it comes to marketing your MSP, there’s good SEO, and there’s bad SEO. Knowing the difference determines whether your search engine optimization strategy sets your company up for long-term ranking growth...or failure.
This blog series will examine the difference between ethical and unethical SEO strategies to help you make informed decisions about your SEO marketing strategy. This first part will compare these two strategy types, and explain why you should go with one over the other.
Black Hat vs. White Hat
Want to rank number one on Google? There are “cheats” out there that some so-called SEO experts will implement to websites they are working on. Often called Black Hat SEO (also referred to as Unethical SEO or by the names of common Black Hat techniques such as spamdexing), these techniques use very aggressive tactics that are focused on search engines rather than human audiences. The problem is that search engines, Google in particular, are interested in providing the best experience they can for human audiences. These techniques usually don’t obey search engine guidelines and can affect your long-term marketing goals.
It may be tempting to implement these tactics - they often result in quick high returns. However, this is a short-term solution. A lot of the tactics will negatively affect user experience and your attempts in marketing to them. The deceptive, manipulative nature of Black Hat SEO is also looked down upon by search engines - many of the techniques go against their terms of service. Continuously utilizing these tactics may result in your website being reduced in rank, worst case your site is banned from the results entirely. Imagine if Google banned your website from showing up in search results!
On the contrary, White Hat SEO or Ethical SEO techniques focus on the human audience that is being targeted by putting an emphasis on user experience. The strategies used under this category follow search engine policies and rules, and are better for long-term marketing success for your MSP.
We mentioned previously that quite a few people who claim to be experts in SEO will use Black Hat SEO tactics. If you’re in need of SEO help and are starting to research companies that can help you improve your website’s ranking, be sure to avoid anything related to the following:
- Claims of Quick Results: Improving your ranking takes a lot of time and effort. “Top Ranking in 48 Hours!”? Nope! You may see some immediate results right away depending on what your ‘starting point’ is. But, your results should increase gradually after the first month. And, they may even fluctuate a bit. That’s completely normal. Quick results that continuously jump up by a lot typically indicate the use of Black Hat SEO tactics.
- Guaranteed Ranking: There’s no way that a company can ‘guarantee’ that they can get you to a particular ranking for a keyword. Google itself even says to “beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings.”
- Lack of Monthly Reports: A reputable SEO company should be providing you with a monthly SEO report, not quarterly, biannually, or annually.Their reports should be relatively detailed. You don’t want just keyword performance statistics. They should also tell you what the data means without jargon, as well as provide a marketing strategy. SEO is a function of marketing and needs to be part of a marketing strategy and not a stand alone tactic.
- Just Blogs: Having blogs can definitely help you increase your search engine ranking, and are something that we recommend having on your website, but if you’re paying a company to help improve your SEO specifically, make sure you’re getting more than just blogs. The blogs need to be relevant to your audience, as well as provide valuable information.
- Just PPC: Running some paid advertisements is sure to get some extra clicks to your website. However, it’s not a feasible long-term solution for SMB’s - PPC costs can add up quickly! A firm using these inorganic methods are likely not even getting you qualified website visitors if you’re paying for SEO services rather than PPC services.
- Poor Website: A company claiming to be an SEO expert should have a decent website. Browse their website from multiple devices and get a feel for it. If it’s not that great, chances are they won’t be of much help to you.
- Lengthy Contracts: If the company is requiring you to sign on for a full year of services and doesn’t allow you to cancel, then you should run.
- Google Algorithm Experts/Partners: If a company is claiming to know EVERYTHING about how Google determines your ranking, they are lying. Google’s algorithm is very dynamic and complex - we doubt everyone at Google even understands it 100%! It also is constantly changing, so anyone who works in SEO is constantly learning and adapting their strategy. Google also does NOT have any partnerships with SEO companies.
This isn’t to say that everyone who works with SEO uses deception to get you to work with them. There are plenty of people out there that are very knowledgeable on what you can do to improve your ranking. This in turn will drive more traffic to your site, increase conversion opportunities and show benefit to your MSP Marketing strategies...and will use ethical White Hat SEO methods to get you there. These are just some initial red flags to look for BEFORE picking a company to work with. Other red flags might appear when examining the tactics that they use.
Now, for the question that’s probably on your mind: what are the tactics that should be avoided? Check back for the next part of our blog series, which will go into what some of those unethical, Black Hat SEO tactics are.