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Black Hat or White Hat Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

With one of my business interests running a digital marketing agency, I am always seeking new ways to effective Search Engine Optimisation (commonly referred to as SEO).

However the approach is critical:

There are essentially two ways:

  1. Trying to beat Google’s system to gain competitive advantage, referred to by the industry as Black Hat SEO or,
  2. Playing within the rules, otherwise referred to as White Hat SEO.

What’s the difference between Black & White Hat?

In basic terms Black Hat SEO refers to approaches such as adding:

  • Irrelevant ‘Backlinks’
  • Automated content
  • Hidden text
  • ‘Gateway’ pages (stuffed full of keywords that act as a secret conduit that re-direct traffic to your site)

…… and much more.

Whereas White SEO refers to:

  • Good website architecture.
  • Quality content (such as blogs)
  • Relevant and optimised Backlinks.
  • Appropriate meta tags and associated descriptions.

Doesn’t Black Hat SEO deliver quicker results?

Yes it does, which is why many companies still approach SEO in this way. Particularly unscrupulous digital marketing agencies.

Before I started to run my own digital marketing agency, over the years my various companies spent tens of thousands of pounds via various self professed ‘SEO’ experts.

One in particular managed to get my website to Page one of Google for about 3 weeks!  Only for it to be ‘Sand-boxed’ for four months! (Basically means removed from searches by Google).

This cost me lots of money at the time and was entirely due to the firm operating unauthorised Black Hat SEO.  They were sacked by me immediately.

Essentially employing Black Hat SEO tactics is you taking on GOOGLE, and there will only be one winner. (For the avoidance of doubt, it won’t be you).

It really is the difference between right and wrong.

White Hat SEO

My advice is therefore simple. Do not be tempted by the promise of ‘quick’ gains in ranking.

Things you should expect from a credible digital marketing agency or SEO ‘specialist’ are:

  1. Full transparency and clarity over how they work.  Be wary of vague overviews or technical jargon.
  2. A comprehensive website audit. This should always be the starting point and will identify any weaknesses that need rectifying in terms of your website before any meaningful SEO begins. Think of it like the foundations must be solid before you build upon them.
  3. A structured plan.  This should be based around your aspirations.  Are you a local business that needs to feature in appropriate local directories, or are you seeking a national or international presence?
  4. References from long-standing  clients.  A lot of SEO specialists fail to hold on to their clients due to a lack of Return On Investment.  If not offered, request the details of three satisfied clients that have been working with them for more than 12 months.
  5. Compensation Clauses.  This will scare away those agencies that are not confident of their service provision. Couple this with appropriate rectification commitments in case things go wrong, and you have a ‘belt ‘n’ braces’ contract.


Now you have to be realistic. Expecting any specialist agency to deliver instant results via SEO is delusional.

Moreover, any firm promising that ‘silver bullet’ is one service provider to avoid.  They have to be operating Black Hat SEO.

My agency does not anticipate a Return On Investment until 7 (that’s right SEVEN) months have passed.

If you want instant results, avoid SEO and look at an alternative marketing strategy, such as Pay Per Click (PPC).

Nevertheless, once your:

  • Meta tags and descriptions are as good as they can be.
  • You are producing good and regular content, particularly blogs.
  • Backlinks are qualified and maintained as relevant.
  • Directory references are suitable

…….. there are more digital methods of driving additional quality traffic to your site.

A fully supportive Digital Marketing Strategy should be your end game.

Get in touch if you have any further queries or questions related to this or any other digital marketing conundrum.

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