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White Hat SEO vs Black Hat

SEOs normally have to wear many hats- they are responsible for creating great content, identifying missing components, conducting audits, and even doing some competitor research- and maintaining the ranking of a client’s website is always an ongoing process, too.

In this game of many hats, there are often two different colors to choose from. Whitehat vs Blackhat SEO is a tale as old as time(SEO time, at least). On the one side you have Dr. Jekyll, a smooth, successful, well-dressed man of character, on the other there is My. Hyde, the evil that lurks within him.

The truth is that becoming Mr. Hyde and using black hat tactics might pay small dividends in the short run; after all, being cruel and remorseless in terms of Google’s algorithm might increase rankings in comparison to those taking the longer, more-rewarding route. But in the end, the former always trumps the latter, and here’s why.

Why black hat doesn’t work out

Think of black hat like taking a shortcut home across a busy highway: sure, you could get to your goal faster, but chances are a gigantic bus is going to cut that journey short. If you had just taken the longer, legitimate path around, you’d have made it with a little extra work.

Being good at black hat tactics means being able to manipulate a third-party algorithm, and tricking it into thinking you are something you are not. The problem here is that who knows how long this algorithm will last in its current state, how long Google will dominate the industry, or whether or not this industry will be usurped by something better. You never know. Being able to manipulate Google is NOT an evergreen skill.

Why white hat works: evergreen skills

SEO has gone through an era of upheaval in recent years. What used to be science is now mostly art. What makes great SEO work is a mixture of different skills:

  • Great content writing skills
  • Great networking skills
  • Sales pitching
  • Email marketing and
  • General promotion

Notice something about these skills? They are all useful in business in general, not just in SEO. They are green all year round. Where black hat tactics are leafless and barren aside from their season, evergreen skills are luscious and green no matter the time of year.

The lessons here

So what should you have gleaned from all of this? The fact of the matter is that being great at SEO is really taking a set of core evergreen skills that matter across all disciplines and tweaking them to fit into the world of search engines.

You shouldn’t be focusing on learning how to manipulate a third-party mishmash of rules and regulations, you should be learning core skills for business success and focusing on:

  • Creating killer value for your clients
  • Crafting great copy
  • Working on how to sell yourself
  • Fostering valuable business relationships
  • Creating a better user experience
  • Learning how to reach out to the right people to grow your network and audience

You shouldn’t be trying to get to the top of the SERP, you should be trying to become a well-rounded marketer and businessman in general. The result of that will be higher rankings, better relationships, and skills that can help you thrive no matter what Google does tomorrow.

In the end, white hat vs black hat simply comes down to the difference between manipulating an algorithm that you have no control over, and building real skills that help you succeed as a marketer. If you are ever tempted to turn into Mr. Hyde and go that route, just remember that minor successes will be fleeting and you won’t have any control over your future. Oh yeah, and Google might crack the whip on you!


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