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3 Shades of SEO: White, Grey and Black #semrushchat

Elena Terenteva
3 Shades of SEO: White, Grey and Black #semrushchat

In all the hoopla around the SEO, most site owners understand that it's beneficial to be at the top of the SERPs. But when they are trying to manipulate search engines a strange thing happens: instead of being super convertible, the site is penalized by Google. Why is that? Looks like some of them can’t distinguish black hat tactics from proper optimization.

In today’s Twitter chat we’re going to put an end to the ignorance and discuss back/white sides of SEO and grey methods as a “happy” medium with Ed Leake — Managing Director and Sam Hurley — Head of Search Marketing at Midas Media digital marketing agency and other participants.

The sneakiest black hat SEO technique

A trip down memory lane for our guests. About ten years from now, tactics shown below were popular. It would be definitely hard for them to pick the best from a bunch of funny black-hat tricks. However, Ed's answer did not take long.

Ah, yes, links that are hidden behind website design elements are a part of the most hilarious tactic ever and are very bad for reputation nowadays.

Those are indeed the best; thanks, Ed. Looks like there are more crazy black hat strategies from Sam are on the way.

Cloaking is when the website delivers different content to the end user and search engine. In this case, the text for humans is usually consists of symbols and gibberish phrases, but the robot's version is well-served relevant content.

Looks like the cloaking is on top of the worst black hat SEO tactics and we could do nothing but agree — duplicating content will never ever help your site, so just throw it out of your mind. Let’s summarize opinions.Recap for black hat SEO techniques

The forbidden fruit is the most desired one, so maybe some of black hat or grey tricks still be beneficial and worth risk. Let’s find it out from the second question.

Can grey or black hat SEO be worth the risk

Link building is the tactic, that acquired wider usage around the web. But if we ask Google, it points us to guidelines, which say: all links must be earned. despite warnings, some site owners are still paying for new links.

Moreover, if someone will know you are practicing black hat or grey methods your reputation as a SEO professional will be compromised. It is time to decide whether you want to have reliable and trustworthy clients or trade on the black market. Once you’ve chosen the path there will be no other way.

It seems to be the end of discussion. Black hat and grey approaches are never worth the risk to be penalized or lose reputation. Let’s recap and move to the question number three.

Recap for grey and black hat SEOIf all grey methods are harmful for the website, why do some of them look like a rational idea rather than search engine manipulation? Let’s find out what a SEO could obtain from the “grey zone.”

Grey hat SEO techniquesBuying links is no good, but what if you’re buying links from the relevant and authoritative source? A nice example comes from Ed Leake.

Some of the SEO professionals just stay away from the “grey zone” and deal with natural growth. remember, if you aren’t sure this tactic will help you boost web marketing and you have no trusted SEO guru nearby to ask, just avoid any grey hat advice.

We are here to know what exactly we can or cannot do, so more controversial examples are on the way. Recently Instagram launched an advertising platform, but this isn’t really a beginning of advertising there. A lot of companies and individuals are paying influencers for the content that includes their brand. Is it white or black?

Alongside goes a reputation management as a way to control negative replies and deal with competitors. Sometimes it looks more like a deal with conscience, but has to be done to improve conversions and quickly gain leads.

Grey hat SEO

Well, let’s jump to the worst case scenario right on – “Negative SEO can result in a penalty which can take a lot of time/resources to address” - Liz Da Ponte ‏@lizdaponte.

Negative SEO that can hurt a website

Google penalty is not something you can ignore. When you’ve got your a penalty it’s not just the alarm call saying that you made a couple of mistakes, it’s a signal indicating that you strongly violate all the SEO principles. For Google, it doesn’t matter either you did it on purpose or unknowingly. So, the one thing you have to do for sure – constantly monitor your SEO results and stay up to date.

Remember, that negative SEO can call into question your reputation, not just your rankings. “Anything that makes the consumer question whether the site is trustworthy hurts reputation, sales, and SEO” - Reva Minkoff ‏@revaminkoff.

Backlinks play a huge role in establishing your SEO reputation. For preventing any problems, monitor your backlink profile, “create strong positive publicity, i.e. a strong backlink profile. You can use disavow” - Martin Kůra ‏@HermanTinkura.

What else can you do to prevent Google penalty? “Don't hide content, check for operational site errors. Stay abreast of algorithm changes” - Ryan Johnson ‏@rsj8000.

If you’ve got penalized – first of all, conduct quality audits and strictly follow Google’s recommendations.

As I said before, for Google it doesn’t matter either you did it on purpose or unknowingly, so if you’ve got penalty the main thing for you would be to change your idea of SEO! No site audit or backlink monitoring will save you in the future if you continue to make the same mistakes.Recap for negative SEOWe also would like to talk about black hat SEO guys who can apply for a job in your company and constitute a threat to your business.

How to identify black hat SEO guy during a job interview

Okay, this is really important question. A lot of businesspeople have a vague idea about SEO; if you are one of them, you definitely need to be aware of different kind of frauds which can bring your website more harm than benefits.

Remember that SEO is not just a science, but also an art – yes, there are certain techniques to apply, but all websites are different, so there is no one secret recipe for success for all of them. “There's no 'guarantees' in SEO. If this word is ever mentioned, steer them out of the door ;-) “ - Sam Hurley ‏@Sam___Hurley.

Also. do your homework! Read at least couple articles about SEO hiring, check out some white/black hat techniques, got enough information to get a clear picture of what you want.

Sometimes search engines can be a real help. For example, you can Google “black hat SEO guys’ answers during a job interview” and then ask your job applicants the same questions and check the matches.

Generally, lack of fresh approach is a sign that a job candidate doesn’t understand the topic well. No doubt, you want to get some new ideas instead of listening about widely-known tools and obvious things again and again.

Still, lack of new thoughts and ideas is not the only one thing you should be worry about. Don’t forget to ask an applicant about her previous experience and achievements.

Finally, one of the issues is a salary. If a job candidate wants too much money even before proving his or her ability to do the job, this person doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile employee for you.

As we can see, there are several things we can do during a job interview to prevent ourselves from a black hat SEO person. Let’s sum up the questions that will help you identify them.

How to identify a black hat SEO job candidate

It’s really interesting how fast it is possible to make a website rank in Google’s TOP 20. So, we decided to ask our chat participants to share their experience and records.

The fastest time in which you got a website ranked in Google's top 20

As Rachel Howe notes, it can happen quickly. Still, SEO isn’t just ranking tracking. Also, it depends on several factors.

Yes, there are different things that impact your website’s rankings. Our participants marked keyword competition and specific locations.

Nathan Brown shared his own formula that makes a website rank in Google’s top 20 within a week for. Let’s see what he advises.

It also depends on the type of content. For example, the speed for video results and regular sites can differ a lot.

SEO is a broad topic that isn’t limited by tracking your website’s position in SERPs. There is a range of ranking factors you should pay attention to. Obviously, the time in which you can get your website ranked in Google’s top 20 depends on several important things.Recap the fastest time in which you can get a website ranked in Google's top 20That’s it for today; we hope you were having fun — we certainly did! Thanks to all participants from SEMrush chat team!

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Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies.
Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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To Ed Leake, A3: all link building is a gray hat tactic - all people know it's forbidden, but every well ranked site do it - yourself or hire external person or (seo) company . And the most of all self made links are in public free sites like directories and social bookmarking sites. Paid links are different and are for most link builders black hat. But there is a quite difference between just to post somewhere paid link in some unrelevant page or to buy place to post good quality article with link inside. The last is more useful for people and also Google count it as gray, not black hat - if Google spam team find such "paid" articles, penalty is not so much hard.
Ed Leake
Eduard Dimitrov
This is the problem with Twitter - 140 character limit. How could I possibly sum up an entire strategy is such a small space! :)

The reality is MANY mid to high authority websites will accept paid links, many will demand payment and some will only accept content (with or without link) if there's a monetary transaction involved. That's the reality of today's linkbuilding climate.

So is it black, white or grey? All I know is it, it's happening all day long!

Yes, you can earn links (editorial and citations) and yes you can outreach for them of course. Fact is, many people cut the corners and go straight to pay.