Black Hat and White Hat – What You Need To Know About Offsite SEO

Black Hat and White Hat - What You Need To Know About Offsite SEO

This is Part 4 of a six part SEO series. A list of all the other posts can be found at the bottom of this article.

If you have been keeping up with the posts here at ManageWP, you will now have a good understanding of how your site is ranked, and the four fundamentals of onsite SEO. The next logical step in our series of SEO posts is to take a good look at offsite SEO – perhaps the most misunderstood part of all.

In general, SEO is made to seem extremely complicated. And yet the fundamentals can always be taught in a straightforward fashion. Once you have a sound understanding of the basics, understanding the more intricate details becomes far less taxing. That in itself is the problem – most people do not have a sound understanding of the basics, and are far too quick to try to jump to the “solution”. When it comes to SEO, understanding why you are doing what you are doing is arguably as important as knowing what to do.

In our introductory post on SEO, we said the following:

Let’s imagine for a moment that all of the web pages in the world were equally optimized for relevance. Under such circumstances, SERP placements would be determined by an analysis of the following factors:

  1. How many external pages are linking to the page, and how authoritative are those pages (and the domains upon which they reside)?
  2. How many external pages are linking to the site, and how authoritative are those pages (and the domains upon which they reside)?
  3. Is the anchor text of the link relevant to the target page?

In a nutshell, offsite SEO comes down to those three considerations. You have no doubt already read our post on onsite SEO, which means that each of the pages on your site is well-optimized. So in order to rank in Google, all there is left to do now is to get sites to link to those pages.

The Currency of the Internet

There has been a saying amongst internet marketers as long as offsite SEO has been in existence – links are the currency of the internet. To put it in very simple terms, the more external links you have pointing to your site, the more authoritative you are perceived to be by search engines.

Currency of the Internet
It's all about the money...

Out there in the real world, the cash-rich hold the power. On the internet, the link-rich hold the power. And without wanting to get too melodramatic, with power comes corruption. That brings us neatly onto the two broad categorizations of offsite SEO. Let’s take a look at them.

White Hat / Black Hat SEO

Put simply, white hat SEO is any means of attracting links that is both acceptable and openly encouraged in the eyes of search engines. Any form of white hat SEO complies with search engines’ Terms of Service (ToS).

Black hat SEO is any method of building links that would not be approved by search engines (were it to be discovered). Having said that, it is possible to achieve positive effects on your website’s rankings via black hat SEO tactics. There is of course a risk to reward ratio, as your site is likely to be dumped out of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) altogether if a search engine discovers that you are doing something that is against their ToS.

It is not within the scope of this article to go into the intricacies of white hat and black hat SEO, but we will take this opportunity to go over some basic examples of each (in addition to one “grey hat” tactic).

Organic Link Attraction (White Hat)

This one is simple, and isn’t so much of a strategy as a byproduct of producing a quality site – sites link to you by virtue of the fact that there is something worth linking to.

If you work hard to produce quality content and market it effectively, you can expect sites to link to yours. This is the most natural and organic form of offsite SEO, but it is also the least predictable.

Guest Posting (White Hat)

This is one of the best ways of getting a high-quality and relevant link back to your site. If you write a guest post for a blog, you can typically have a minimum of one link pointing back to your site, with whatever anchor text you choose. If you have read our previous posts on SEO (linked to at the top of this post), you will understand why this can be such an effective strategy for offsite SEO.

White Hat SEO
Are you a guest poster? Don't worry, you've got a white hat on.

Some people argue that guest posting lies in a grey area between white and black hat SEO. We disagree. If a website is happy to feature your content on their site, a link back to your own is the next logical step. We have never seen any evidence of search engines devaluing links from guest posts.

Blog Commenting (Grey Hat)

A “grey hat” SEO strategy, as you have probably guessed, is something that might be considered white hat or black hat, depending upon circumstance. Blog commenting is one such strategy.

In itself, blog commenting is harmless. You leave a comment on someone else’s blog, and more often than not, you have the opportunity to leave a link back to your own site. If you are leaving genuine comments, and the link back to your site is incidental (rather than being the reason for your comment), you can consider blog commenting white hat.

If however you are leaving low-quality comments with the specific aim of building links to you site, you can most definitely consider it a black hat strategy.

Private Blog Networks (Black Hat)

Meanwhile, there is no ambiguity about this method. You can subscribe to certain services (such as BuildMyRank) whereby posts you write (with links back to your site) will be published on 3rd party blogs. You provide the content, they provide the links.

Black Hat SEO
Does anyone else find mimes frightening?

You could vaguely associate this with guest posting, but there is a major difference – there is no real value placed upon the content published on the 3rd party blog. It exists purely to provide links to other sites.

Mass Article Marketing (Black Hat)

This is similar to building links via private blog networks. You submit an article to a service such as Unique Article Wizard, and that article is then published to a large number of 3rd party article sites, with links pointing back to your site. As with private blog networks, this strategy simply serves to increase the amount of low-quality information on the internet, and as such, is frowned upon by search engines.

A Clear Distinction

Having read our introductory post on SEO in addition to the above article, you should now have a well-formed understanding of how offsite SEO comes together. And as you can probably tell from the above examples, there is a clear distinction between white hat and black hat SEO practices.

We are not here to tell you that black hat SEO is “wrong”, or that white hat SEO is not worth your time. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which strategy is best employed for promoting your site. In future articles, we will be covering both white hat and black hat SEO practices in more detail, as well as explaining which strategies are likely to be most effective for your site.

But before we get onto that, there is something that you should know. When it comes to formulating an effective offsite SEO strategy, you are running blind without having first conducted keyword research. And because of that, we will be showing you how you can conduct effective keyword research in our next article on SEO.

Are You Black Hat or White Hat?

At ManageWP, we don’t like to judge. SEO is ultimately about results. So if you have been practicing offsite SEO, what have you found to be the most effective strategy for your own site? Let us know in the comments section!

Read the Whole Series

Creative Commons images courtesy of °FlorianLighthelperAMagill and britl

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer is the founder of He has been a huge fan of WordPress since he first laid eyes on it, and has been writing educational and informative content for WordPress users since 2011. When he's not working, you're likely to find him outdoors somewhere – as far away from a screen as possible!


  1. Greg Ichshenko

    I used to think that white and black hat SEO are the same thing, but as things have turned out, I guess I couldn’t be more wrong. There is so much difference between the two.

  2. Olia Frisk

    White hat techniques works but it will take some days. Many don’t understand that and they use blackhat and ruin their site/blog. i am confusing many big seo companies are still using black hat software and techniques, is it safe for those clients who wants quick results?

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