Black hat, white hat, grey hat – they might sound like terms straight out of a fashion magazine, but in reality they’re most often used to describe the type of web marketing services that a company provides. Basically, it’s shorthand to describe how well a particular technique adheres to the guidelines set down by Google, Bing, and other search engines. In short, black hat, white hat, or grey hat tells you how ethical the internet marketing company is.
White hat services are completely ethical. These techniques are entirely approved by Google and follow content guidelines explicitly and exactly. Some examples here include content marketing, which leverages the power of good text, pictures, or video to attract new visitors and bring in links. In addition, reaching out and becoming a member of the community, including guest blogging and other types of outreach, are other common examples of white hat. These techniques are rigorously ethical and follow guidelines very strictly. There is virtually zero risk of losing progress made through white hat techniques in the future because there is almost zero risk of search engines turning against or penalizing this ethical activity.
This is the opposite of white hat. All of these techniques are against Google guidelines and are quite likely to get sites using them punished and/or be rendered ineffective in future updates. The latest example of black hat used dummy blog networks to generate massive amounts of links to sites on demand. This type of service is clearly against Google’s terms of service, and (not surprisingly) was recently shut down when Google cracked down on it.
Black hat might get you gains in the short term, but it’s only a matter of time before Google erases those gains. But it’s not just a question of losing all that work: you could actively be penalized if your site was engaging in black hat techniques. And that penalty is likely to stand even if you hired a company to handle your web marketing and they utilized unethical techniques without your knowledge. It’s your website, so Google considers it your responsibility.
Grey hat blurs the line between white and black. It’s not starkly unethical like black hat, but it’s not completely in the clear like white hat. There is a very fine line between leveraging grey hat techniques in a way that is sustainable and won’t be punished by Google and simply tricking yourself into thinking that something black hat might be okay. Unless you’re a seasoned expert and know what you’re doing, consider grey hat to be roughly the same as black hat: a no-go.
What Kind Of Hat Should You Wear?
Always go with white hat. At Customer Magnetism, we believe in helping our clients achieve their goals in an ethical way. We started out white hat, and we’ve never deviated from that for a single day in our more than 10 years in business. When you’re white hat, you know you’re building value, and you’re doing it in a sustainable way with an eye to the long term. Isn’t that better than rolling the dice and risking a penalty from Google? We certainly think so.
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