The Three Shades of SEO


If you spend time reading about search engine optimization or search engine marketing, then you may have come across the terms White Hat SEO, Black Hat SEO, and Grey Hat SEO. If you do not know what these terms mean, then the context can be confusing. In this article we will discuss these three “shades” of SEO, giving you a better understanding of what they mean and how they relate to your online business.

White Hat SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the techniques used make a website more attractive to search engines like Google in order to rank in top places on search results pages. “White Hat” SEO refers to only using techniques that are considered positive and perfectly okay by search engines. White hat also means nothing illegal is done, such as spamming. White hatters make good use of meta tags and their web page content in order to organically rank in search engines. They also regularly update their websites with fresh and unique content. White hat does not usually condone using non-unique content.

The major benefit of white hat SEO is that you rank organically and you tend to gain authority with search engines, leading to even higher rankings. Another good benefit is that your rankings will be strong, ensuring that your website doesn’t drop out of sight after only a short amount of time. However, white hat SEO takes longer to implement and maintain, and it will also take longer for you to achieve higher rankings.

Black Hat SEO

Unlike white hat SEO, which doesn’t allow for the purchasing of links, spinning content, spamming, etcetera, black hat SEO is largely focused on these techniques. Some common strategies of black hatters are building large websites, filled with content scraped off other websites, then build large amounts of backlinks to their websites using methods not appreciated by search engines, namely Google.

A large amount of time is required to cover your “digital footprints” when using black hat SEO techniques, in order to avoid having a search engine uncover your techniques and penalize you in the result pages. Black hat sites tend to disappear from the search result pages regularly, and the life span of a black hat website is usually short. However, black hat sites are, by design, simple to replicate. One of the largest reasons people use black hat is because it can result in good rankings fast, allowing the black hatter to bring in lots of traffic to his website before it gets de-indexed.

Grey Hat SEO

Grey hat SEO is considered a middle-ground between white hat and black hat. Grey hat refers to SEO specialists who build websites with the hybrid goal of a website that can build a strong and long lasting ranking in search engines, but also getting that website ranked fast. Grey hatters usually use unique content for their websites, however they may also use spun content that is edited to be unique and still remain readable (not gibberish).

Grey hat is perhaps the most common shade of SEO among specialists, because it allows for a lot of benefits with little risk of a search engine penalizing you in the rankings when implemented correctly.

Our 2 cents

At Wayback Machine Downloader we don’t have a stance on which method is good or bad. All methods mentioned above are legal. A local small business might need black hat SEO to survive the startup phase and only a bad internet marketeer will deny such a customer this technique. While white hat SEO is probably the best method in the long-term, it can take years. Not every starting business can afford to wait so long.

When it comes to the ethical side: in the end it’s all marketing. Marketing by itself could be deemed unethical, but it’s a necessary evil to show off the health of a business. Marketing is much like a male peacock showing off his feathers. He’s telling the females (i.e. his “customers”) that he is a healthy peacock, which is an indication of good DNA. In the same way, only profitable businesses can afford marketing (in the long-term) so marketing is an indication of a healthy profitable business. And since profitable businesses are more likely to make satisfactory products, marketing is indirectly a sign of a good product. That goes up for any type of marketing – including black hat SEO.