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The Myth of White Hat SEO and Why It Doesn’t Exist

You guys have all heard it, black hat, red hat, grey hat, and white hat SEO along with every other color of the rainbow and any other mixture of colors.

You also hear it all the time from people spreading “webmaster guidelines”, you hear it mentioned in black hat and white hat forums. Even though I mainly practice what most people consider to be “White hat SEO”, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t exist.

What Is White Hat SEO?

To put it simply, white hat SEO is more focused on users instead of search engines. It places more importance on on-page optimization than off page and pretty much adheres to what the Google Webmaster Guidelines state.

The reason I’m writing this, is because of a huge misconception I see, even with SEO experts from very trusted companies and media outlets.

I was asked to be a part of an expert round up, and I had to pass on it. I passed on the opportunity because the topic was white hat link building, and using white hat tactics to scale your link building efforts. I probably could have used the opportunity as a way to bring in more traffic, build more authority for myself and this blog, maybe get a few subscribers and other perks as well. That’s not me though. Don’t get me wrong… I am definitely an opportunist but I disagree with the entire notion that there is white hat link building, and that you can still call it white hat, when you’re scaling it up.

While I would like to be proud and flaunt a very clean, bleached, white hat on my head… I can’t. I can’t because in all honesty, with the true nature of SEO, you can’t say that you practice white hat tactics. There is no such thing.

I don’t really agree with any colored hat when it comes to SEO.

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Forget The Hat Color… It Doesn’t Matter

Google’s job is to give the most relevant search results they can. There’s a lot of signals they pick up on to determine what the most relevant results are. They make money from having such a huge market share, advertising, and many other products but we can honestly say that Google is a major advertising company.

That’s great for Google, they have grown exponentially, and are working on world domination.

My job, and your job, is not to make sure Google has the most relevant search results. Do you really care? Do I really care? Not really.

Your job is to bring in leads, sales, revenue, visibility for your clients… or if you have your own business and handle SEO on your own, your focus is on your own business, not Google’s business.

If you build a single link, if you do anything to try and “manipulate” the almighty Google machine, then you are breaking the rules.

White hat link building? It doesn’t exist.

Then What Defines The Difference In SEO Tactics?

One question I used to get asked a lot by potential clients, “Do you use white hat seo?” and it was always a difficult question. I had a couple different options to form my response. I could lie, and say yeah, it’s all white hat, and it would probably be true by their definition of white hat. I could also say yes and no, then explain… I can also say no, I use blackhat SEO. There was no right way to answer the question, without doing a ton of educating in the process which is usually not a good idea when they’re already that far into the sales cycle and it conflicting with everything they’ve ever heard along the way.

I will openly admit that I’ve used what people consider “White hat SEO”, mixed with some grey hat, and of course different levels of black hat SEO.

I have NEVER had a local business that did not get great results, and great rankings with my SEO. Everyone was ALWAYS happy, with a few exceptions on the web design side of things, but SEO was rock solid.

Did they care how I was ranking them? No.

Very very rarely was someone ever penalized or effected by an algorithm change. Just a handful of times, and I believe it was due to previous companies the clients have used, not due to my work.

Now, my approach is much different than the guys that are always talking about “black hat strategies”. There are some that talk about manipulating behavioral metrics, using PBNs, advanced tiered backlinking strategies, etc. but the problem with many of them is the fact that the SEO they do, isn’t going to provide long term results, only short term.

My approach, and the approach I recommend you to take, isn’t one that is associated with any colored hat. Google wants to stop all of us, regardless of the hat we claim. The approach I recommend is one that allows you to get results, without jeopardizing the future.

When you start hearing buzzwords about different “strategies” you should be using or implementing, it’s usually too late.

Sound practices, following most of the webmaster guidelines, while exploiting a few untapped areas in a diverse manner, is safe and will get you results. Exploiting the hell out of one method, is what leads to disaster, and penalties.


I don’t care about link building, and I usually recommend people to stop focusing on link building. Afterall, Google is taking steps to reduce the power of backlinks in general, they’ve already targeted anchor text. My recommendation is to forget backlinks, anchor text, black hat “SEO” tactics, etc. and focus on MARKETING your business.

When your SEO strategy and more specifically link building strategy, involves an approach that is focused on the branding and marketing of your business, you have a recipe for success.

Build however many backlinks as you want, but the focus of those backlinks should not be to manipulate the search results, the focus should be to generate traffic from those links.

REAL SEO, will provide you traffic faster than the time it takes to rank. Avoid the buzz when it comes to certain methods, usually you have a better strategy when you approach SEO like you would market your business.

Black hat, white hat… camouflage hats are much better.

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