Whitehat, Greyhat, and Blackhat are all terms anyone involved in SEO will need to be familiar with. The names themselves denote the different ways that a person can go about attempting to build their web presence. It is widely believed that the start of Whitehat and Blackhat terminology was a nod to old Western movies that often had the immoral bad guy wearing a black hat with the hero wearing a white hat. That is reflected in SEO by Whitehat techniques being permissible while Blackhat are considered to create an unfair advantage. Greyhat techniques toe the line of acceptability.
*A Means To An End
The kind of results generated from Blackhat and Greyhat techniques are counterintuitive to what one would consider to be common SEO goals. Deceptive linking, cloaking, link farming, and keyword stuffing will all produce fairly fast results. That is also the fundamental problem with them. SEO does not operate off of fast results. It is not meant to so that it is harder to game the system. Techniques that purposefully mislead the search engine crawlers or cause an explosion of activity will get noticed, but not in a positive way.
Whitehat SEO techniques simply work to enable the search engine to do their job better. They do not aim to manipulate the results in a dishonest way. They will take hold over time and help boost the target website. Common Whitehat methods involve on-page SEO, link-building, and providing quality content people want to link to.
*Morality In Approach
There is a prevailing sentiment in the community that morality is tied to these different techniques. Blackhat techniques are immoral, Whitehat are moral, and Greyhat are somewhere in between. The problem with the morality argument is to what degree people follow it. Morality has never been as simple as black, white, and grey. However, from a competitive standpoint it could be argued that it is immoral to practice Blackhat and Greyhat techniques since they provide an unfair advantage and deceit. Some Whitehat SEO specialists end up using Greyhat techniques to help generate a quicker result. Those methods aren’t banned or penalized yet, but Google is working against them on a constant basis.
*The Best Approach?
Ultimately, that will rest on you. From a purely functional and moral standpoint, it only makes sense to use Whitehat techniques. A website that has an explosion of 1000 links in the course of a day then drops to maybe 5 links the next day is going to get sniffed out pretty quick. While Greyhat are not technically against rules, it might still be better to take a pass on them. If those techniques do happen to get black-balled a year from now, now you have to go back and find out where you did what to try and get your page back into compliance. That could potentially turn into a lot of work depending on the circumstances.
Whitehat SEO techniques will give a website the lasting power to be a presence further down the road. Building a website that offers quality content and an efficient layout is a very sturdy cornerstone for the rest of the structure. There is no better technique than providing quality information people can actually use. They will link to it on their own volition to pass useful content along to others that may benefit from it.
SEO is clearly going to be a major part of an internet presence for a long time to come. There really is no better way to drive relevant traffic to a website. What are your thoughts? Is Google doing enough to ensure a level playing field for all of the participants? Why, or why not?