When people hear the words “Black Hat” or “Gray Hat”, they often picture old 90’s movies about spy escapades or illegal hacker groups. When it comes to the world of online search however, most of these activities aren’t even illegal, just highly frowned upon. If you rely upon these techniques for day to day business however, your company could be destined for a world of hurt!
In our latest podcast, Nolen and Jason discuss the difference between black, gray, and white. Learn how to distinguish legitimate SEO experts from the fakes. If you’ve struggled in the past with ranking up your website, or if a shady marketing company is advertising some sketchy SEO tactics, be sure to listen in closely.
Key Points to Listen For
- White Hat techniques provide the best long-term results for your business.
- Gray Hat methods may actually work…for a time.
- Black Hat tactics could put your entire company as risk.
- Business owners are responsible for their SEO practices, even if they don’t manage them.
Black Hat, Gray Hat, and White Hat
“What the heck is going on with all these hats?!” That’s a question that many contractors instinctively blurt out whenever this topic pops up. Born out of western film terminology, these hats represent the various levels of legitimacy when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization). What does each one signify?
- White Hats – represent acceptable SEO business practices recommended by Google
- Gray Hat – techniques lying outside accepted practice, but not forbidden by Google
- Black Hat – tactics explicitly forbidden by Google, typically for their harmful nature against consumers
What’s Wrong With Black Hat SEO?
In Western filmology, black hats were typically reserved for American outlaws who fought against the accepted code of conduct. They lived the high and romanticized life on the run. Sometimes they hid from the public eye. Sometimes they strut flamboyantly about in defiance of the law.
Black hat SEO behaves in a similar way. Some who engage in these tactics carefully mask themselves as legitimate businesses and hide from the public eye. Others publicly advertise their practices because they know they can’t be punished (yet). This was the case in the late 2000s, when Google struggled to curtail the ludicrous practice of buying inbound links. Back then, sites were judged predominantly by the number of other sites linking to them. The issue spiraled so hilariously out of control, that your neighborhood roofing contractor would purchase hundreds of thousands of inbound links just to keep up with the competition.
If you search Google’s policy on link schemes now, it won’t take much imagination to predict what happened next.
Google explicitly condemned this behavior for years, and earnestly sought ways to prevent it. After years of warning businesses to stop these practices, the search engine had had enough. In 2012 and 2013, Google rolled out the Penguin algorithm update and all hell broke loose for companies that relied on these black hat SEO practices. Front page contenders dropped off the map overnight. Some went bankrupt, while others went through months of link disavowal projects and “Google, we’re sorry”‘s to find their way back to competing.
What Black Hat SEO Looks Like
No, we’re not going to give you a how-to on gaming SEO! But it does pay to understand what it looks (and feels) like. Marketing companies dabbling in black hat practices often do so to cut down their costs and provide quick results for their clients. Legitimate, organic search tactics almost always take months to cultivate. Anyone offering and providing overnight results (especially for cheap) is probably into some shady stuff which could end up harming your business.
Watch out for talk about “loopholes” or “exploits”, and steer clear of anyone offering immediate results for your roofing SEO. Even if you’re not the one perpetrating these tactics, your business could end up getting temporarily delisted from Google My Business and disappearing from local search results. That could mean months of lost online revenue and trying to restore your online presence. You’ll certainly wish you stuck with safer white hat SEO! If you’re concerned about a particular online practice your company currently engages in, consult Google’s Quality Guidelines.
Gray Hat SEO – Shaky Foundations
Just because you won’t get in trouble for engaging in certain behavior, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for your business. Gray hat SEO involves activities that fall outside Google’s recommended business practices, yet they aren’t explicitly condemned by the search engine. As with black hat SEO, gray hat tactics try to take advantage of blind spots in Google’s search algorithm.
So what’s the problem? Since the activity isn’t illegal or even denounced by Google, many businesses actively (and unashamedly) engage in gray hat SEO. These activities actually seem to work and provide enhanced rankings in local search. As our team at Roofing Webmasters (and any sensible online marketing company) will tell you, Google continually updates its algorithm to provide the best value for its user base. That includes consumers and businesses alike. The vast majority of gray hat exploits are discovered and neutralized.
The End Result of Gray Hat SEO
In the short term, these tactics offer temporary benefits for your business. Any company that primarily focuses on bypassing Google’s established search practices is going to pay the price. You may not suffer the crushing consequences of black hat SEO (like losing your business listing), but your rankings will almost inevitably plummet when the right algorithm update comes along. It could take months, even years to recover.
Focusing on flimsy search techniques also distracts you from activities that would actually produce stable, long-term results for your business. All the months you could have spent establishing your brand with white hat SEO simply fall by the wayside. That’s the true tragedy of gray hat search tactics!
White Hat SEO – Results You Can Trust
We finally come to the “good guy” in our western film metaphor. White hat SEO incorporates tried and true practices that fall safely within Google’s search principles. Unlike its black and gray hat counterparts, this category continually provides long-term benefits for roofing contractors.
So when it comes to SEO for roofers, what do white hat tactics look like? If you’ve listened to any of our previous podcasts, you’ll likely remember our short list of crucial SEO elements.
Basic White Hat SEO
- Custom Website Design and Coding
- Keyword Research and Page Optimization
- Quality Content Development
- Supporting Social Media Marketing
- Reviews from Multiple Sources
- and More!
When it comes to roofing SEO, it takes a wide range of activities to produce the type of traffic businesses crave. As contractors feed time, money, and effort into their search marketing, they’ll consistently see a return on their investment. Of course, that means doing the required research, planning ahead, and abiding by the established rules of white hat SEO!
SEO Tactics You Can Trust
While sleazy digital marketing companies are a dime a dozen, it can be hard to find that handful of dependable agencies you can trust. As you hunt for a marketing partner that specializes in white hat SEO, look for these traits: accountability, timely results, willingness to explain SEO in simple terms, experience, and well-roundedness. Any business that claims one facet of marketing will turn your business around probably isn’t worth your investment. A dependable company however, will never try to oversell their capabilities or make promises of guaranteed jaw-dropping results.
Hopefully, you’ll find this guide helpful in your search for long-term online marketing success. If your roofing business has struggled to get a foothold in local search, our team at Roofing Webmasters would love to partner with you! Our full-service online marketing team supports contractors all over the country. We’re proud to say our clients consistently earn higher rankings, more traffic, and better leads within their service area!
Call us today at (800) 353-5758 and get a free consultation from one of our seasoned roofing SEO professionals. We can’t wait to serve you!