What White Hat and Black Hat Mean to Me

When I first started out on my SEO journey all of the books and sites that I read said to stay away from anything black hat at all costs and I believed them. Why wouldn’t I, they were the experts. When I Googled topics I wanted to learn more about and saw results on black hat websites, I wouldn’t even click on those results for fear of a virus! In hindsight it was kind of hilarious but that’s how paranoid all of the “standard” SEO texts had made me.

One night while I was reading about SEO topics in a Las Vegas hotel room (I’m really that boring) I saw a result from a black hat website that was too tempting to pass up. I squinted my eyes in fear as I clicked on the link but the forum thread that it took me to was packed full of great info. I soon realized that black hat websites seemed to be far more open about their methods and far more willing to share their information and results.

Most of the negative things that I had read about the black hat community involved spam and mass link bombing of thousands of links at a time and there was indeed quite a bit of link bombing talk going on. After spending some time reading tons of the forum threads I realized that there were quite a few people doing things really close to the “white hat” way, they were just using automated tools to improve their efficiency.

I now believe that the main points that define black hat practitioners are quantity and automation. Most normal people have one or two websites. Maybe three or four if they’re active. Almost all of them ignore SEO and that small percentage that doesn’t is usually very modest with their link building activities for fear of doing damage to their site. I’m 100% in this group. My wife has two sites and I have this one. If I did anything that got one of her sites de-indexed in Google I would be sleeping on the couch until it got re-listed. That is a seriously powerful motivator to keep my online antics conservative. To people like us websites are little fragile entities to be protected.

Most black hatters look at things as a pure numbers game. They don’t build one site, they build ten. They’re hyper aggressive with their SEO activities beacuse if one or two of the sites get nailed and kicked out of Google the huge gains they made on the other 8 or 9 make up for it. Everything is by the numbers from keyword research before the domains are purchased to the targeting of their link building efforts. The part of me that spent years coding algorithms for data analysis and automating the process LOVES this aspect of the community, I just don’t have the inclination to go down this path myself.

Another thing I slowly learned was that software was neither white hat nor black hat, just software. There are some pieces of software that would have limited functionality to a white hat practitioner but a lot of software that is thought of as “black hat” has some serious use to even a white hatter.

Scrapebox is a program that a TON of people use to spam forum comments and blog comments all over the web. If the FBI had a black hat software most wanted list it would be at or near the top. Anyone who uses it must be a black hatter right??? Well the posting is just one part of scrapebox’s functionality. Scrapebox can do all sorts of stuff including…. wait for it… scrape. If you’re not familiar with scraping its the practice of looking for websites that fit certain sets of criteria that you’re looking for. If you write a blog about onion rings and you want links from blogs that talk about food then you can spend countless hours searching Google for good blogs which you can make a real post (not junk spam) on for a back link. I spent A LOT of time doing just that when I started.

With Scrapebox a smart user enters in the terms that they would expect to find on the types of pages they want to post on. They can then script it to look for additional factors that they’ve learned to target. Maybe goggling for “onion rings” gives 23,000,000 results that need to be sifted through, but any site that has “onion rings” and “post a comment” and doesn’t have “comments closed” is a certain type of blog that’s ready and willing to accept your comment. These types of key terms one would look for to indicate certain types of sites are called (footprints) and are some of the handiest things in the world. Instead of spending two hours searching Google and one hour posting you can have your computer search Google while you sleep and then spend all three of your available hours posting.

I don’t use 99% of the tools and techniques that I read about on the black hat forums but techniques like these are not taught in the white hat world and are definitely worth knowing if your time has any value at all to you.

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