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  • Writer's pictureMark A Preston

White Hat SEO: Does it really exist? Let me explain!

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

As most of you are aware, I’m very open and honest about my views and opinions. A lot of people like my ‘say-it-how-it-is’ approach or the no bullshit approach if you prefer. I am the last person to state that the SEO industry is pure and clean. In fact, I don’t think there is an industry that is. Two years ago, I started a personal mission to try and do my bit in trying to clean the industry up a little.

white hat seo

The white hat SEO vs black hat SEO scenario

I would like to first explain what the industry thinks the various hats mean:

White Hat SEO

These are SEO techniques that conform to Google search engine guidelines and will not result in your website being de-ranked during a future Google update or if they perform a manual review of your website.

Grey Hat SEO

These are SEO techniques that go against Googles guidelines but still get websites ranked, even though they shouldn’t. For how long, who knows!

Black Hat SEO

These are SEO techniques that go against everything Google wants you to follow. Some of it works but is short lived. Some may say that all you are doing is spamming rankings.

The above is basically what the industry believes and I find that most SEO’s fall into the Grey Hat SEO category, even if they preach white hat SEO.

Over the past month, there has been a lot of chatter within the SEO community between various search engine optimisation professionals, who are calling each other out. There seems to be arguments brewing calling white hatters out.

SEO colours are just getting in the way

I truly believe, for SEO professionals to do a great job and deliver tangible results. They need to forget about SEO hats. I have always said that there are only two routes an SEO can go down.

“Manipulation or Business Development”

The fact is - If you do ANYTHING at all to ‘manipulate’ search engine rankings. It goes against Google’s guidelines. Now there are different levels of manipulation and a lot of manipulation does get websites ranked and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

I have been helping businesses of all sizes to increase new business through the power of SEO for the past sixteen years now. I can honestly say that the SEO techniques I use today are the very same techniques I have been using since I started out in the digital marketing industry. They still work because I approach everything with a ‘business development’ mind or as I keep banging on about a logical thinking mind.

There is just one single question I ask myself every time I do anything SEO related and this one question is the basis of my many achievements.

“By doing this – Does it have the potential to drive real business?”

I never think about Google and I never think about the various coloured hats. My No.1 priority is to help my clients to drive new business and retain existing business, plus making sure I do not destroy their future online brand awareness and visibility.

SEO is a marketing service and just like any other marketing service. It needs to provide a return. Obviously, tracking ROI is a totally different discussion altogether. If you are an SEO professional and have just secured a new client. Before you do anything – Ask yourself this question.

“If this was my business and it was my money being spent. What would I do?”

By having a business development mind, it has always helped me to secure great SEO results. Have I ever done anything at all that goes against Google’s guidelines? Sure, I have but I have done it as it was the best thing to do to push the new business forward for that company. Guess what? It also generated a nice large contract for the company and they are still doing very well. I truly believe that you would be hard pushed to find an SEO who has never gone against the guidelines.

Until Google get their act together, unethical and spammy SEO techniques (black hat SEO) will always exist

There are an awful lot of people making obscene amounts of money online, compared to traditional business owners by pushing unethical SEO techniques or black hat SEO if that’s what you prefer to call it. Why do they do it? Simply because it works and it is making them loads of money.

The only way unethical SEO techniques are ever going to be eradicated is when Google themselves get clever enough to work out how to tweak their algorithm to ensure these tactics no longer work. Don’t get me wrong. Google has come a long way during the past few years in stamping out unethical SEO spam but they are far from ensuring none of it works.

So, does true white hat SEO really exist?

Personally, I don’t care either way but I do believe that 100% pure white hat SEO is a lot easier if you are working with large brands who are household names but even then, SEO’s are basically PR people. Even if you write a great piece of content, share it, outreach to a target audience to secure ‘natural’ links. You are still manipulating rankings because you have written that piece of content to secure links and increase rankings. Now, does this make you grey hat?

Do get in touch with me and let’s start a conversation as I’d love to hear your own personal thoughts and opinions on this subject. I’m all about tackling the industry issues, other SEO’s think doesn’t exist or don’t want to talk about. Let’s get them all out in the open and have a real, no barriers conversation.


About the author

Mark A Preston

Mark A Preston: SEO trainer & speaker with over 2 decades (since 2001) experience in the SEO industry. Host of 'The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast'. Author of 'The Business Side of SEO' and 'The SEO Freelancer Survival Handbook', SEO Business Books.


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