Which Do You Prefer? White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO – The Great Debate


What Are They

If you’re starting to get your feet wet in the world of SEO you might come across the terms white hat SEO, and black hat SEO. Though simple terminology, they carry a lot of meaning behind them.

White hat SEO includes strategy and techniques that follow the rules and guidelines of search engines like Google. Black hat SEO is the exact opposite. Those who practice black hat SEO break the rules and try to “cheat the system.”

Their names are a reference to the old cowboy movies. The good guys used to wear white hats. The bad guys wore black hats.

But why do some people choose one or the other? And which method should you stick to?

Black Hat SEO

First, we will look at black hat SEO. Those who practice it believe they can get around the guidelines of the search engines. They think they can trick them into ranking their website and products higher.

Black top-hat on white background - isolated

And a lot of times, they are correct. There are many internet marketers who are successful with black hat SEO. In fact, there are scores of forums, information products, and online communities dedicated strictly to black hat SEO.

Black hat SEO methods include methods like private blog networks, keyword stuffing, spam blogs, bait and switch pages, cloaking, and duplicate content to name a few. The list is much larger.

Sometimes, black hat SEO allows for much quicker rankings. It can also be cheaper.

So if black hat SEO has all of these advantages, why doesn’t everyone do it?

The answer: because it is very risky. Search engines get smarter every day, and they catch on to black hat SEO little by little.

Your website could be at the top of the rankings using black hat techniques. But a new Google update meant to eliminate your tactics can penalize you and wipe out your business overnight.

It has happened before. Google updates like ‘Penguin’ and ‘Panda’ have destroyed multi-million dollar businesses in the blink of an eye.

In black hat SEO, what works today may not work tomorrow.

As a result, black hat SEO is almost always focused on the short term. It has a limited shelf life.

White Hat SEO

On the other hand, white hat SEO is a much longer term strategy.

With white hat SEO, you are focusing on great content. Content that is useful, and that readers get real value out of.

That means content that helps readers solve their problems. Content that informs them on what they need to know.

Another tenet of white hat SEO is strong, non-spammy backlinks. Backlinks generated through guest posts and social shares. These indicate to search engines that your content, and your website, is valuable.

There are many other factors that contribute to white hat SEO. Too many to list here. But there are some down sides.

White hat SEO requires time. Good rankings don’t come overnight. They are the result of consistency and quality in your content. It may take months for your website, or even individual pages on your website to rank.

Time is money, so white hat SEO can also be more expensive. It requires more content writers for your blog, more server time before you get any results.

It can also be frustrating to put in a lot of work without seeing any results for a while.

Which is Best

So which should you choose, white hat or black hat SEO?

You are free to make up your own mind, but I would highly recommend sticking to white hat SEO.


Because it is what professionals do. It is what works long term.

If you are consistent, create strong value, and don’t break the rules you are almost guaranteed good rankings and consistent traffic.

In fact, white hat SEO is one of the biggest trends in the industry.

Not just today, but tomorrow. By sticking with white hat SEO you can build an online business that can last for years!

You don’t have to worry about penalties or Google updates. You know your content is good, and that you provide value. It is in the best interest of the search engines to give you good rankings.

It’s a win-win relationship.

If you utilize black hat methods, you might have some short term success. But your business will always be in peril.

After all, Google is one of the largest and most innovative companies in the world. Their search engine gets smarter and smarter by the month!

Thinking that you can outsmart them forever is a poor gamble. It could result in you losing your entire business.

Learning and implementing white hat SEO methods is the best way to ensure success online. It might take time and effort, but anything worth doing takes time and effort. And the rewards far outweigh the costs.

Which do you prefer, white hat or black hat SEO?


  1. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing this important discussion post.

    Anyone who has ever done or thought of doing SEO has to ask and answer this question.

    In my opinion, white hat SEO is safer but doesn’t give as fast results as black hat SEO.

    I have read of many people who have made a lot of money with black hat SEO. Some even use a technique called churn and burn to rank as many pages as they can quickly and make money from them before they get de-ranked or even de-indexed by Google.

    You are right that white hat SEO gives longer term results but the cost of doing everything right might discourage people.

    To answer your question, I prefer white hat SEO, but if it’s not too expensive to get good results.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Yesterday I published an article on my blog which targets a fairly new emerging local keyword.

    For some reasons, I know the article will hit Google first page.

    Today, I Google the keyword to see if the page is on SERP and what position it occupy.

    To my greatest surprise, scrapers have scraped the entire content including my name as the author visible on the scrapers blog.

    You know what?

    This scrap blog rank #1 for the target keyword while my page (the original content source) nowhere near #10 SERP.

    This scrapers blog is getting all the traffic for the target keyword at least for the moment.

    Maybe blackhat SEO is the way to go or not I think is a thing of personal choice and whether you’re here to build a long-term business or looking for quick cash.

    Thanks for sharing, Jeff.
    Shamsudeen Adeshokan recently posted…How to Transfer Hosting From Whogohost to NameCheapMy Profile

    • Hi Shamsudeen,

      I’m sorry that happened to your blog. Hopefully, Google takes note that they copied your content and fixes it.

      However, there is a bright side. The fact that they copied your content is a sign that it is valuable.

      Keep producing great content and working on that SEO. There is a lot of potential in this industry.

      And I agree, choosing white hat or black hat in the end is a personal choice. People are succesful with both.
      Jeff Miller recently posted…7 SEO Trends for 2017My Profile

  3. Hi Jeff,

    You are right, it’s the great debate whether to go white hat or black hat.

    But I think most people go both ways, for different sites and for different reasons and at different times.

    I have done both white hat and black hat back in the day.

    Remember back in the days of everyone and their brothers trying to get rich with adsense sites? Black hat was the norm then, with a bit of white hat in between, lol.

    Right now, I’d say to go solely white hat on authority sites. It’s not worth getting into trouble with Google doing black hat on authority sites.

  4. Hey Jeff,

    For what its worth, White Hat SEO should be the obvious choice. Real online marketing needs to embrace sustaining actions and benefits.

    Black Hat SEO promises results for the now but White Hat is for the future.

    Your comparison of the two SEO types is clear and the best choice is White Hat SEO!

  5. Hey Jeff,

    If an SEO wants quick fix then black SEO tactics would be the obvious choice. However, if the objective is long-term rankings and results then white hat SEO would be adopted.

    Choosing black hat SEO may seem right and cheap for now but with time and updates in search engine algorithms it would prove highly costly and result in frustration.

    Thank you for explaining what black and white SEO entails, and also for recommending White SEO for very good reason!

  6. Hey Jeff,

    With all the warning signs and red flags about black hat SEO I wonder why many people would still go for it! The cost of Black hat SEO in long run could be overwhelming.

    In the past, many do get results from it but the search engine spiders are wiser and smarter!

    So, it is NO for black hat SEO and YES for white hat SEO!

  7. Hey Jeff,

    After reading this article, it becomes clear that online success is guaranteed with effective White Hat SEO.

    Your concluding paragraph says it all:

    Learning and implementing white hat SEO methods is the best way to ensure success online. It might take time and effort, but anything worth doing takes time and effort. And the rewards far outweigh the costs.

  8. All that you said about black hat SEO is true. I have been using this tactics for many years until Google’s Panda and Penguin were introduced to sanitize the web.

    I was highly affected because of the high number of bad links my sites were built on. Also, the use of PBN meant a disappointing experience. Since then I have learned my lesson , and White SEO is on for me today!

  9. Hey Jeff,

    Unless someone is not living in the present, we can excuse him of choosing black hat SEO over white hat SEO!

    It would be a big mistake sticking with black hat SEO when it is obvious that the disadvantages far out weigh the benefits.

    Everyone proactive online marketer must embrace and implement white hat SEO for good!

  10. Hi Jeff,

    Of course I would prefer white hat seo to black hat seo. The risks associated with the latter are very high! What white hat seo will cost me is only time, but I am willing to do the right thing and reap the reward of my effort peacefully.

    Long term success for content marketers yields the best of rewards, and implementing white hat seo is the beginning of this success!

  11. Hey Jeff,

    In the early days of the Internet, the search engines were not effective in detecting the best practices of SEO. Black Hat and Grey Hat SEO were almost ‘legal’ but quality suffered.

    For many who implemented White Hat SEO, it was almost like they don’t know what they are doing.

    Thankfully, the dynamic and ingenious introduction of Google’s ‘animals’- Panda and Penguin, in the last couple of years, has weeded out fluff from substance.

    White SEO is best even though the result would not be immediate!

  12. I had a site once which got penalized even with using only white hat seo. I didn’t do any black hat or anything illegal, so not sure if you are completely right that whitehat is safe.

    Sometimes it seems google just goes crazy and penalize at random.

    I read that sometimes google may be doing and randomly penalizing sites to scare everyone from doing seo at all.

  13. Hey Jeff,

    You are very right about this.

    Black hat is definitely for the short term. I have used it when I first started blogging, and it was definitely a waste of time.

    Slowly but surely I started using more white hat strategies and tools. It takes longer and it can get expensive, but knowing that I won’t be penalize as much as if I was using black hat strategies is a relief.

    Google suppose to be doing another update for the coming new year, so we all must prepared for that.

    Thanks for sharing Jeff! Have a great week ahead!
    Sherman Smith recently posted…9 Tips For Introverted Solopreneur Bloggers To Create Productive GoalsMy Profile

  14. Hey Jeff,

    Wonderful post, love it!

    White hat vs Black hat used to be endless debate. I see If you couldn’t afford losing everything overnight, black hat SEO shouldn’t be your choice.

    Most of these black hat techniques are useless now, and they don’t push the SERPs unless the competition is very low.

    People go for the black hat techniques mostly for the affordability.

    They look for shortcuts, and see it hard and time consuming to look for guest post opportunities, or even to outreach reputable experts to write roundup posts that proved success in gaining valuable links.

    Thanks for sharing the great post, Jeff!

    Keep posting!

    Hussain Omar recently posted…How to Write Outreach Emails That Don’t SuckMy Profile

  15. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the article. It is certainly an ongoing debate as to which one to choose and even what really counts as black hat or white hat.

    My take on the black and white hat SEO thing is that if a website owner or company fully stuck with the exact guidelines that Google issue regarding seo, they wouldn’t get very far in their rankings.

    Companies outsource their seo needs and in most cases those seo companies are buying links in some shape or form which G does not approve of. In fact the last time I took any notice I believe G says it’s against their terms to get links just to rank your site.

    I think most white hats will be getting links solely to rank their site and many will be buying them too. But I would still class that as white hat as opposed to using high powered bots to spam the web with thousands of links and other en mass approaches.

    I used to offer SEO services for local companies and I used paid for link networks and also distribution of content and links performed by my outsourcers. It worked. And when G slapped the use of blog networks, the fact that I had got a wide variety of link placements protected my clients from any major drops.

    Just another angle..

  16. Hi Jeff,

    I am too afraid of using black hat techniques especially for creating a long term business. I wouldn’t want to get my whole domain name blacklisted in Google.

    Sometimes people might not plan on being in business for a long time.

    Maybe they created a product and know it will be useful for a few months. Maybe then blackhat techniques might work but if you are planning on having your business for years, I would think white hat is the way to go.

    Thank you for sharing the benefits and disadvantages of both techniques.

    Have a good week Jeff! Take care,


  17. Hi Jeff,

    I personally prefer white hat over black hat. Although, I know of some people that have used black hat tactics, and have never suffered the consequences. However, many have, and I always feel its best to play along cleanly and not fear the repercussions later. Because then that can be quite devastating to your business or blog you have.

    So to me, it’s a no-brainer. Always go with the white hat methods. Google especially is smart, and usually catches up to these deceitful tactics.