Why White Hat SEO Will Win And Black Hat SEO Will Lose

Today I want to make (and prove) a simple statement – that white hat SEO will beat black hat SEO.

I’m going to focus on two things: –

  • Why black hat SEO mustn’t work
  • Why black hat SEO doesn’t work

So, no big intros today… let’s dive straight in!


Black Hat SEO Doesn’t Care About How Good You Actually Are

The initial idea behind google had an innocence and (dare I say it) a beauty.

The problem with the way search engines worked prior to the introduction of pagerank and the citational model of link popularity, was that they had a fundamental flaw; they relied on using what people were saying about themselves to rank their web pages – he who shouts the loudest will rank the highest.

Ignoring total spam for a moment (I’ll come onto it in a minute), let’s say we have two hairdressers – Bob and Phil.

Bob is better than Phil. In fact he’s much better than Phil.

But Phil is not about to admit that on his website.

According to his website, he (Phil) is the best damn barber in town. He’s also learned a bit about on page SEO and has used lots of phrase variations in his content, correctly set up all his titles etc.

Bob on the other hand has spent his time learning to properly cut hair and knows nothing about SEO.

If on page factors are used to rank the page, Phil will win – he’ll get all the customers and everyone in town will be walking about with bad haircuts.


As Bob is actually the best, he gets lots of natural editorial links from other local businesses and so, with link popularity working as it should, he rises to the top. The townsfolk no longer look like members of Flock Of Seagulls.


Phil learns about black hat link building, pays $149 per month and blasts his link everywhere.

Once again, he’s up at number 1 and those frustrated townsfolk are back to being scalped.

Now, fortunately, Phil won’t stay there for long (as I will show).

A quick logic question before I continue…

If you are walking down a high street and there are two hairdressers (each with one stylist) next to each other, which one would you go into for a haircut?

They are: –

  • The only 2 hairdressers in town
  • Identically priced
  • Both claim to be the best
  • You have no access to reviews or third party opinions

If you don’t get it… the answer will be at the end of this article!

Disinformation Is Dangerous

So, in my example above (unless one of the barbers is Sweeney Todd) the worst thing that is going to happen is someone is going to leave with a bad haircut.

But how about if the site is giving medical advice?

I am sure that would be a lucrative niche to be in. Lots of possibilities for upsale there!

I am also sure I could make an authoritative looking site and write up some pretty convincing sounding content that would make me seem, to anyone visiting the site, an expert.

Of course I am not an expert and the advice could well be dangerous.

According to a lot of the (dis)information on black hat SEO you will read online, I could then pay $150-$200 per month, have some software blast out links for me and sit back as my site rose up the rankings; laughing my way to the bank as my visitors coughed and spluttered their way through my articles.

Granted this is an extreme example, but it shows why google cannot allow their rankings to be so easily manipulated.

It’s So Easy To Spot

I am currently sitting in starbucks.

Open Site Explorer tells me that starbucks.co.uk has a total of 53,456 links from 438 root domains.

For now we will say that the important figure there is the 438 different domains that are linking to the starbucks site.

Now starbucks is a huge, massive, worldwide company with over 600 branches in the UK and Ireland. Yet they only have links from 438 domains!

So, let’s say you use an automated tool to build 2,000 links to your 10 page affiliate site about red kettles from 1,000 domains over a 4 week period.

Don’t you think this sticks out a bit!

And let’s just recap what google says about link building (full article here).

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

It’s going to get flagged algorithmically (by Penguin), but if for some miraculous reason all those links slip through the net, you can bet your bottom dollar that if you are in a niche that is in any way competitive you will soon be getting a manual penalty slapped on your site.

And it will be very difficult to recover from that.

You Risk Losing Your Entire Business Overnight

If you are following a ‘burn and churn’ model of creating throwaway sites that is one thing, but if you have (or are creating) a business for the long term, then practicing black hat SEO is quite simply dicing with death.

Just go and search in google and you will read horror story after horror story about businesses who lost their search traffic literally overnight.

Believe me that google tap can turn off in an instant.

And remember, just because you might be getting away with something today, it doesn’t mean you will tomorrow. Google is getting better and better at detecting spam and manipulation and the loopholes are closing.

Can you afford to take that risk?

The Domino Effect

Tiered link building is one of the current big things in black hat SEO.

Create a 3/4 level pyramid with lots of lower quality links at the bottom tier, working up to (in theory) providing some strong links to your money site at the top. You’re basically building up your own authority.

Well, it ain’t going to work I’m afraid.

Google is looking more and more ‘up stream’ when detecting manipulative link building and once one domino falls…

All The Loopholes Get Closed Eventually

For the last few years there has been a major update in the Spring which has shaken things up in the SEO world and closed more and more loopholes (Panda, Penguin, Penguin 2.0 etc)

You can bet that this year will see another big change and lots of angry webmasters who lose their rankings, despite the fact that they have been well warned.

If I was a gambling man I would put my money on a clamp down on the abuse of guest posting (read how to do it right here). Matt Cutts has been talking about it a lot

You’re Leaving A Big Footprint (Guilt By Association)

A lot of link building programs use private blog networks. There are those who will tell you these ‘leave no footprints’ and cannot be detected.

This is a load of crap.

Let’s say you have been lucky enough to get away with things up until now. Well, how about when another site using the same network as you loses their rankings?

They do the only thing they can and disavow all those bad links.

What does this give google? That’s right, a big list of sites that have been used to manipulate rankings. A list which contains sites that are also linking to you.

Bye bye traffic.

You Just Don’t Need All Those Links

It’s still a common misconception that link building is a numbers game. It really isn’t.

What you need are high quality, topically related, authority building links.

You can rank a site with ten powerful links. If fact, you could probably rank some sites with one mega link.

Here’s how to do link building the white hat way.

You’re Annoying People

I wrote yesterday about how to be successful in internet marketing you have to be nice. Well, black hat SEO is really annoying.

I am fed up reading spam comments about how I have ‘a magnificent beat’ or am a ‘truly wonderful webmaster’ with ‘an amazing weblog on this topic’.

Spam is annoying. Don’t be annoying. It’s not cool.

What’s The Point In Traffic That Doesn’t Convert?

The majority of this article has focused on black hat link building, but what about the other side of things?

Let’s say that your black hat SEO is working (in the very) short term and is actually bringing in the traffic.

Well, if your site is low quality that traffic is unlikely to convert anyway. It’s like opening a pound shop in the middle of a high quality arcade.

And if your site is high quality….

Then you really don’t need to indulge in black hat SEO!

Why White Hat SEO Wins

So, why does white hat SEO win?

White hat SEO focuses on creating quality content, building real relationships and promoting your content in your niche.

Here are some of the many advantages:-

  • Users will be more likely to repeat visit/bookmark/refer your content to others
  • Users will be more likely to share your content on social networks
  • Recommendations/referrals from previous customers convert better than any other form of traffic
  • You will develop a reputation as a genuine authority
  • Your quality content will convert
  • You will attract natural, authority building, editorial links
  • You won’t have to worry about future google updates taking away your traffic
  • Traffic gains will be long term

SEO is not spam and white hat SEO will build long term, sustained traffic increases that will grow your traffic and business.

It’s not rocket science, it’s not black magic, it’s marketing and my tutorials will show you how it’s done (sign up below).

And in answer to my logic question…

You would go with the hairdresser who has the worst haircut. Why…? Because the hairdressers cut each others hair, so the one with the good haircut is the bad stylist! Did you get it?

About the Author

I'm a web developer, programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Glasgow, Scotland, with over 15 years experience in the industry. When I'm not writing about marketing and SEO you'll find me strumming the guitar in my band or listening to Revolver on repeat. Follow me on twitter, connect with me on google+ and add us on facebook to keep up with all the latest trends in SEO and online marketing.

Brandon Bear - December 19, 2013

You might find this funny — a few days ago a guy that goes by AgentBlackhat (not sure if you’ve seen his blog/site before), tweeted a link of his blackhat seo thoughts to matt cutts.

He was trying to see just how much info google really has on people. (because he thought he was secure/had all his blackhat info hidden).

Within a few days, cutts responded by tweeting the name of one of his old expired websites (or it might have been an affiliate site) to this guy’s real life twitter account that had been inactive for a very long time.

Then a few days later this guy had his entire network of sites penalized/dropped including anything connected to his webmasters account/analytics account.

Google definetely is more than one step ahead of the SEO crowd, but it looks like they just wait to put all of their cards on the table.

    David McSweeney - December 19, 2013

    There was a quote on searchengine land from Matt Cutts the other day where he said google wanted to ‘break the spirits of black hat SEOs’. It’s really not difficult to spot manipulation, so considering the power, money, brains and resource google has I’m pretty sure that they know all the schemes. Will check out the agentblackhat guy – maybe I can help him get his rankings back 😉

Ken Nguyen - December 20, 2013

Totally agreed to the point: “You Risk Losing Your Entire Business Overnight”. I have been there so i know it. So build the good contents, trust your site and be patience. Stay away from “Buying Backlink”. 🙂

    David McSweeney - December 22, 2013

    Patience is the key – rome wasn’t built in a day, but it sure was impressive once it was finished!

Anoop Sudhakaran - December 20, 2013

Actually, The only two things you have to care about is.

1. Creating quality content.
2. Getting it to the right people via legitimate method.

Then the links will follow and so will the rankings.

I guess that sums up White Hat SEO.Does it?

    David McSweeney - December 22, 2013

    it’s fundamentally, creating a valuable offering and marketing it… the way business has been done for thousands of years 🙂

Vicky - December 21, 2013


White hat seo consume some more time than black hat seo but in the end white hat wins. I’ve already experimented several campaigns of link building and the results of over to white hat seo.

Thanks for wonderful comparison.

    David McSweeney - December 22, 2013

    Thanks Vicky, white hat SEO delivers long term, sustained results

Ashish - December 22, 2013


Wonderful roundup of white hat and black hat seo. I agree with you about the winning of white hat over black hat seo. In simple we can also say white hat is done by good method and natural way so it always wins.

Creating quality content can results in getting quality backlinks and it’s white hat seo.


    David McSweeney - December 22, 2013

    Thanks Ashish, I believe that black hat will lose big time over the next year

Blogging Tips - December 22, 2013

Hi David,
I agree with you. I hope that White SEO will win, the quality of content is the best solution to get the top on Google.

    David McSweeney - December 22, 2013

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post

James - December 22, 2013

Hi David,

Black hat SEO method of building backlinks is dead, at least from my own opinion.

I recently started my new blog, less than two months and I also noticed another blog that started the same time with me, I’m amazed to see that the blog has about 800 backlinks. I mean this is outrageous, though he may have obtained the backlinks legitimately , however, this is manipulation.

Building good backlinks takes into account the effect of time, just my two cents in addition to what you said above.

Thanks for sharing this helpful post, do have a nice day

    David McSweeney - December 22, 2013

    Slow and steady wins the race. Lots of links built over a short period looks (and generally is) unnatural. Glad to hear you are doing things the right way.

James H. - December 23, 2013

I definitely agree with your thoughts about converting. If your traffic doesn’t convert, what’s the point? The only other conclusion that Google rightfully assumes is that you’re trying to spam your visitors with the advertisements you’re paid to put on your site. There’s really no other possibility.

I also don’t understand why some black hat SEO lovers still think the average person falls for such spam like they did in the mid-to-late 90s when the internet was practically an infant. Nowadays, people know a spammy site the second they land on it.

It’s definitely time for such black hat practitioners to get with the times, right?

    David McSweeney - December 24, 2013

    Totally right, your site has to look the part. One of the things that stagger me is the amount of those huge, long, one page affiliate landing pages which just go on and on that still exist. Surely no-one falls for them any more?

Itender Rawat - December 24, 2013

Well using to black hat seo system specially black hat link building will only leads to penalty of blog. I’ve already experimented on a new blog and it is just crap now. So for every strategies we perform should be white hat and we should consider that it’s long term but has good results.


    David McSweeney - December 24, 2013

    You’re doing the right thing!

Dilip Win - December 26, 2013

Great article, Every point is acceptable. White Hat always wins and Black Hat Looses

Andy Cockayne - December 30, 2013

I am sure everyone has ‘dabbled’ in Black Hat SEO over the years but as David correctly explains it is ‘no win’ gamble – I learned my lesson when BMR (Build My Rank) went under, I lost a lot of SEO clients through that and I vowed to always stick to White Hat methods from there on!


    David McSweeney - January 13, 2014

    Takes longer, but the results are long lasting and you are not gambling with your business!

Roger Paths - January 4, 2014

Hi David!
I have made a traslation of your article to my spanish readers on my web site (with a backlink to the original source, of course!). Hope you like it!
Please, read it: this is not a “spam comment” like those about you speak on your article 🙂

Well, i would like to traslate to spanish with your permission other articles… i love white hat too! 😀

Have a great day!
Roger Paths.

Cole Wiebe - January 6, 2014

Hi David,

Happy new year… I’m finding that clients are the hardest people to sell on the merits of authority. They hate waiting for authority to build through the development of quality content and real relationships.

I keep reminding them that churn and burn strategies did produce results in the past, but that they were none too happy when those ill-gotten rankings disappeared virtually overnight.


Bonin - January 7, 2014

Hello and big Thank you!

I build my first website before 3 months, one month later I found your blog and start reading, reading and reading and learning how the white SEO workis – everything that I read here it’s realy helps me in my first adventure. It’s very dificult when 15 years your job is offline, but is amazing when the results come.

P.S. sorry about my english!

Thank you very much!

Deepak - February 25, 2014

Hi David,
It’s true one should always practice genuine SEO strategies. One learned my lesson the hard way. When i started my blog i didn’t knew much about Black and White SEO strategies. I took help of link building softwares and my blog went places. But then the traffic suffered and i learned it was because of easy way i have chosen. There is no such easy way like paid links. Quality content and building genuine links is the only way. Thanks for sharing the post.

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