SEO: Black, White & Grey

With the advent of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), various techniques and methods for improving the visibility of a website or webpage evolved. Industry experts have tried various processes to improve the ranking of a particular webpage so it appears earlier on the search results page. By optimizing search engine results, the aim revolves around the basic marketing gimmick – attract more visitors and improve frequency of visits.

SEO strategies have far surpassed the basic techniques: using appropriate keywords, editing HTML, removing barriers to indexing activities, increasing the number of backlinks, cross-linking, meta tags and much more. Over time, SEO techniques gained prominence, and now SEO is broadly distinguished into two broad categories: White Hat and Black Hat. I’ll shed some light on these two genres and also discuss how to test a site by combining White Hat and Black Hat.

Artwork: Search Engine Optimization

Black Hat SEO

Well the name itself explains a lot. Black Hat SEO serves the same purpose of improving the search engine results for a webpage. Yet the search engine optimization community has deemed Black Hat to be unethical.

However this wasn’t always the case. Black Hat used to be legitimate once. But a few folks crossed the tacit boundaries and as a result Black Hat is now shunned completely by the SEO community.

In essence Black hat SEO practices resort to short term gains. You run the risk of getting penalized (either temporarily or permanently) by search engines, if they discover the spam-advertising techniques on your website.

Black Hat is quite cheaper because it is usually done through automated software. I am going to present two basic examples so to give you a proper idea about what Black Hat really is.

Example 1:

The SEO community has regarded Black Hat techniques to be deceptive. One such practice uses text that is hidden, either in text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen.

Example 2:

Another trick might involve generating different versions of a same web page to different users: human or search engine. A human user is presented with different content, while the same content is optimized using subliminal and tacit gimmicks for search engines.

 

White Hat SEO

White Hat SEO practices are employed to improve the ranking of the website with a permanent and long-term prospective. White hat is generally slower – takes time to produce the desired results, but conforms to the search engine’s guidelines. White Hat practices costs much more than Black Hat techniques, as they are usually accomplished by humans. Time and money consumption are both high for White Hat.

An example of White hat SEO practices is to create content for users, and not search engines. Even though the content is optimized but with the intention of ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and ranks is the same content that is presented to the users.

 

Grey Hat SEO

I believe the most important factor to note are the tacit guidelines agreed-upon by the SEO community. Because these SEO rules are not a written commandment or document; therefore the distinguishing boundaries between Black, White and Gray Hats are quite opaque and often misunderstood.

Gray Hat SEO practices lie between the continuum, with White Hat on one extreme and Black Hat on the other. Gray Hat SEO techniques carry more risk than White Hat processes, but without the risk of getting penalized by search engines. They are questionable but not as controversial as Black Hat SEO techniques.

But with the evolving nature of the tech world (especially introduction of new algorithms by search engines), you never know if Gray Hat techniques are considered as Black Hat in the foreseeable future.

 

Black Hat Techniques

I am going to talk about a few well-known Black Hat techniques, that may or may not work in current algorithms used by search engines. Therefore these are not recommended at all

Keyword stuffing

This technique involves using a long list of keywords to increase the keyword count, variety and density. However such fluffed keywords are usually not part of your website content. Using out-of-context keywords can only make the web page relevant for the search engine, but not for the end-user.

Doorway/Gateway pages

This technique employs redirecting the search engine to another website. You might have often seen banners and ads on the side or bottom of a webpage with “click here to enter” tags. Doorways or gateway pages are low-quality web pages, stuffed with keywords and little or no content. This technique as usual is only relevant for the search engines and has no use for the visitor.

Cloaking

Cloaking is the technique of making the website search engine friendly by hiding animations and showing text only. Additionally Cloaking also refers to displaying different versions of the same content to users and search engines. “Server side scripting” is utilized to display a different content (or redirecting to different URLs) when a user visits the webpage and displaying different content for search engine spiders and Googlebots.

Linking

When different websites refer or hyperlink other web pages, this technique is named Linking. Linking improves the ranking of web-pages by fooling search engines.

Spamming forums, blogs and social media sites

Spamming comprises of placing links or keywords on forums, blogs and social media sites. Certain spam blogs are also created solely for commercial purposes. Links are placed into genuine sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, etc., but which leads to illegitimate websites featuring bogus content or poorly written web content.

 

Grey Hat Techniques

If you are thinking about exploring Grey Hat SEO, you have to decide between time, money and the pertaining risks. Before moving on how to obtain the best of both worlds in the SEO universe, you need to reiterate what I’ve mentioned earlier.

In the case of White Hat, it is the “honest” approach. But playing good with search engines (Google) requires time and money. Whereas the Black Hat is concerned, it is getting blazing fast results through automated scripts but with the disadvantage of getting penalized (a.k.a. Sandboxed).

Here, I am going to talk about some techniques that are considered “safe” by some: combining black and white hats to avail benefits quickly, but for a longer period of time.

Social Bookmarking: Blog/ Forum links

Social Bookmarking may be a worthwhile experience for getting your website indexed and obtaining high-grade quality links. Websites such as “Diggs” and “Stumble Upon” will greatly enhance traffic to your website and yield durable results.

But how does Social Bookmarking works in favor for SEO? Commenting and posting on blogs and forums might earn you credible links, but it’s not possible through automated scripts or through genuine posting. Why can’t you post on blogs or forums? Because it’s very time consuming. But outsourcing is the key! I know it will add to your budget, but you can outsource posting or commenting on blogs or forums.

Some marketers use bookmarking tools alongside manual ones. According to some, 30%-40% automation is a safe mix.

Scraping & Spinning

You can grab the same content on different websites for spinning and publishing. Additionally, you can install scripts on your server which automatically pulls content from web and create content on your web pages after spinning with the help of synonyms.

You can grab content from RSS feed or other sites by mapping divs then rewrite them manually, through offline software or API calls and insert into the sites. WordPress based blog sites would come in handy to achieve this objective as the plugins are easy to get. You can literally generate a 10,000 page website only with a single click or you can schedule a fixed or random number of blog posts per day and leave on auto-pilot.

Some companies are even offering hosted solution with API capabilities.Some Grey Hatters outsource re-writing job for perfect human readability. Some of them, simply grab content, escape more than 60% of the content and insert into blog post by moving lines and paragraphs around.

Linking

Since reciprocal linking are not bringing too much value these days in most cases, Grey Hatters tend to engage more into Link Wheels, Link Pyramids and/or 3-way linking. This can be done manually or through software. According to some, mix of manual and automatic is the ideal method.

There are Australian, Canadian and Russian software vendors who are currently dominating the Grey Hat market with their software that serve this purpose.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

With Google incorporating LSI in its algorithms, LSI has become a popular technique for SEO experts. With the LSI in effect, algorithms can now think and act more like humans. Thus Google is trying to make its search experience more enhanced by pulling up the most relevant and informative pages. I’ve written a post previously on LSI that can be found here.

But what’s in it for Black or Grey Hatters? There are few LSI keyword generators floating around the web, which can optimize your content for LSI. But it’s not that simple. Because you will have to make sure that there is congruency and relevance between keywords and the content of a webpage – words, sentences and phrases. Moreover using a single keyword will adversely affect your website’s ranking. You’ll have to use multiple keywords.

Whatever I’ve mentioned so far are the basics in Black and Grey Hat SEO domain. I’ve seen webmasters and marketers using and abusing PR channels, Directories, YouTube, Craigslist, Kijiji, Yelp, BackPage, etc. to achieve their objectives. Some expert marketers suggest usage of these techniques in moderation. However, finding the magic combination takes months of experiments.

We now have new niches that accommodate Black and Grey Hatters. If you google properly or visit certain well-known forums, you will be able to buy Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Google+, YouTube views, Email accounts, Facebook & Twitter accounts, Captcha breakers and almost anything that could be used to run Black Hat and Grey Hat experiments. A lot of Black Hatters are more lenient to Silk Road (only available in the onion router network) whereas the Grey Hatters are pretty much sticking to forums and related portals. More and more webmasters and e-marketers are now getting involved in either Black Hat or Grey Hat marketing, which caused increase in sales of proxies, virtual credit cards, adwords accounts, SEO hosting, offshore VPS and so on.

All information on Black Hat and Grey Hat in this article is for educational and experimental purposes only and is not intended to promote them.

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