Few marketing niches have undergone as much evolution over the past 10 years as search engine optimization (SEO). Google is constantly iterating and making adjustments to its algorithm. In turn, this transforms SEO best practices and strategies. 

With as much change as occurs in the industry, it’s often hard for the average SEO “expert” to keep up. Yet they continue to offer their services to clients – misleading unsuspecting businesses and entrepreneurs into paying for SEO campaigns that are either ineffective or illegal (according to the search engines).

Strategies that worked 10 or 15 years ago no longer produce results. And those who continue to leverage these techniques are practicing what’s known as black hat SEO. If you want your money to be spent on legal tactics that actually move the needle, you need to find a white hat SEO service. And in this article, we’re going to help you identify one from the other. 

White Hat SEO Services

White hat SEO is the term used to describe search engine optimization efforts that are correct, legal, and ethical. More specifically, it’s embodied by three specific ideas:

  • White hat SEO follows all search engine guidelines and rules. This can encompass dozens of principles, but it ultimately comes down to this idea: Don’t be manipulative. 
  • White hat SEO emphasizes humans over search engine crawlers. The content and design is intended to delight human users first and algorithms second. In other words, user experience is the most important part.
  • Finally, white hat SEO is committed to the long-term. There are no 90-day quick fixes. It starts with forming a solid foundation and then building up from there.

A good white hat SEO service will develop a strategy that focuses on producing high quality content, natural and relevant backlinks, standards-compliant HTML, and properly optimized backend website development. 

Black Hat SEO Services

Black hat SEO is the term used to describe search engine optimization efforts that are unethical and illegal. You can sum it up in three major points:

  • Black hat SEO has no regard for the rules. Winning is more important than playing by the rules and search engine guidelines are viewed as little more than suggestions.
  • Black hat SEO is predicated on manipulative tactics. The goal is to make Google think that they’re providing value to users, when they’re really just putting on a front. 
  • Black hat SEO focuses on the short term at the exclusion of the long term. The goal is to nab a few quick wins, regardless of what the consequences may be down the road. And while a black hat SEO strategy can work for a few weeks or months, it always comes tumbling down.

The primary aim of black hat SEO is to game the system. Whether through blatant disregard for rules or questionable manipulation of loopholes, a black hat strategy is unsustainable. And if you find yourself in cahoots with a black hat SEO service, you could experience a wide range of costly consequences. 

The first risk is the dreaded algorithm update. Google’s team of engineers is constantly looking for ways to improve its search rankings. They have a collection of people who are responsible for uncovering black hat tactics and introducing changes that neutralize these strategies. Thus, whenever a new update comes out, you can bet that your site will be hit hard – possibly losing all of your rankings overnight. 

“Sites using black hat SEO are also at risk of a Manual Action from Google,” CrazyEgg explains. “These penalties are given by human reviewers from Google’s team and indicate that a site has been flagged for violating their guidelines. And unlike algorithm updates, manual actions can prevent sites from appearing in search results altogether.”

And that’s just the start. If you get too deep into black hat SEO, it could even cost your brand its reputation and trust. 

Do Your Due Diligence

Unfortunately, there’s no accreditation or badge that white hat SEOs can display to prove they’re above board. However, now that you have an understanding of what separates one group from the other, you can increase your chances of avoiding costly pitfalls and only working with honest professionals who know what they’re doing. Good luck!