What is black hat SEO? What is White hat SEO? What is ethical SEO?
When selecting an SEO agency it is important to review how they balance ethical SEO with the need to maximise search rankings, particularly for competitive keyphrases, through exploiting understanding of how the search engine ranks position. Some commentators talk about black-hat and white-hat SEO, but unfortunately it is nowhere near as a simple as that. This post looks at a great source to discuss and define Black-hat SEO.
Some affiliates and some search companies practice what is known as ‘black-hat’ search marketing, which means pushing the limits of the terms of service and guidelines of the search engines to gain the best result possible.
Black hat techniques are sometimes referred to as search engine spamming. One example is repeating an important keyphrase many times on the homepage. Another is using text that it is the same colour as the background of the page, so the keyphrase is visible to the search robots and algorithm, but not to the human reader. Engineering pages for robots is a practice known as ‘cloaking’. Other examples of spamming which are well known are doorway pages and link-farms.
So, you must choose a search optimizer who wears a white hat rather than a black hat – much easier said than done since there are no definitive definitions of which is which, and many of the best search optimizers wear grey hats…
This way of defining black hat SEO is useful to discussing where you draw the line. I think that the way it defines white hat SEO shows that if you adopt an approach which is too purist, then you won't get anywhere and that to be effective you need to define which degree of grey hat you are. I am probably around 5 to 6 on this scale and would advise clients to be 6 to 7.
Its really about the combination of how proactive and how ethical you aim to be with SEO. The problem is that design agencies are typically 8 or 9 - pearly white SEO - and this won't lead to as good results as companies that identify the keyphrases they want to target, make sure their content is indexed to the max AND create new themed content for SEO.