White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO
The problem with holding a firm belief in either white or black hat SEO methods is that Google does not commit to your definitions of either. Recently Matt Cutts of Google declared that guest blogging is now going to be considered a penalty-worthy black hat technique. His exact quote was “stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done”. He followed that up with recent announcement that a large guest blogging network, one widely considered to be white hat, was hit with a manual penalty.
Why should you care about this?
You should care because when Google arbitrarily decides that a once widely recommended white hat technique is no longer white hat, everybody who has ever utilized that technique is at risk of a penalty themselves, ex post facto. This means site owners who were engaging in what were widely considered white hat techniques a few years ago are now being penalized for it, due to the retroactive nature of Googles new rules.
The same thing happened to us in adult. For many years it was considered perfectly acceptable to exchange links with similar sites as a means of cross-promotion, or to ask for a reciprocal link in exchange for traffic. Fast forward a few years and those same links have now resulted in massive penalties for many adult websites, even though these links were perfectly acceptable at the time they were created.
By doing this, Google is clearly telling us that “white hat” methods are acceptable, until they’re not. But rather than simply removing the value of those old links they punish site owners for them. So what then is the true value of maintaining white hat convictions?
What Exactly Is Black Hat?
Technically, black hat techniques are any technique that go against a search engines guidelines. These guidelines used to contain only the most obvious forms of black hat that were intended to prevent low-value pages from ranking well. Back then it made sense to abide by the guidelines. The guidelines now, however, are growing to include nearly every common method of site promotion including press releases, social bookmarks, directory listings, guest blogging, branded footer links, optimized landing pages, forum comments and followed advertising.
As you can see, these guidelines leave few other accepted methods of site promotion, especially for adult websites. And as Google has made quite clear, even methods considered acceptable today may not be acceptable tomorrow.
A Case For Diversification
The solution for ranking well despite all of Google’s growing restrictions is simple, diversify your link building methods. If all you do is trade links you’re risking getting hit with a penalty, or some form of devaluation that can hurt your rankings. If all you do is get blog links, or buy links, or get affiliate or reciprocal links you’re risking getting hit. Just like all those mainstreamers who over-prioritized guest blogging or infographics or article marketing or any other single source of links and got hit for it.
When you over-prioritize a single link source, over any period of time, you create a pattern that tells Google you played a role in getting your links. And Google gives less credit to links you give yourself since those links don’t represent real people who think your site is awesome enough to link to. Also, we all now know that Google works hard to penalize link builders. Your goal then is to make sure your links don’t look “built” and the way to do that is to spread your link building out among as many relevant sources as you can.
Work to get at least a few different kinds of links, steadily over time, and you’ll insulate your site against the potentially damaging effects of Googles many rule changes. And this is of paramount importance in adult because of the high level of competition in our industry. Google’s algorithm is designed to rank sites that have quality links from highly valued, highly trusted and highly relevant websites. In our industry we don’t just give these valuable links away, we sell them. For many adult sites it’s necessary to buy links in order to rank, but it can be risky without proper link diversification. If you actively work to get links from many different sources, steadily over time, than your paid links will look no different from the others and you can safely benefit from them.
There Is No Longer White Or Black Hat, Just Effective Or Ineffective
At Adult SEO Partners we invest the majority of our time and resources into developing very high quality link profiles for our clients. We take into account the many factors that go into creating a natural and high performing link base including link diversity, link velocity, link relevancy, link valuation and more. We essentially do whatever is required to produce results for our clients and we are proud of our track record of earning top ten rankings for every client.
Effective techniques that are executed in a way that assure long-term results should be what matters to every adult website operator. Not a static definition of a hat color to represent everchanging techniques designed to perform in a fluid marketplace.
Links Aren’t Everything
Links are without a doubt the backbone of every successful SEO campaign, but they’re not everything. A website also needs to be compelling to visitors. It needs to grab their attention and needs to encourage engagement in the form of clicks and conversions. Google considers over two hundred factors when determining how well a website should rank and engagement metrics, such as bounce rate and visit duration, are among them. The better your overall metrics are the better you will earn and maintain top rankings.
The three elements of a website that affect engagement metrics most are content relevancy, design and text.
“Good SEO depends more and more on user metrics like Bounce Rate, Time on Site and Page Views. Quality content needs to do more than just max out your keyword density, it needs to engage visitors and hold their interest because each moment that ticks by as they read your site is an improvement to the signals Google tracks” said Stewart Tongue of EngineFood.com.
“Add in the effect of the Panda and Hummingbird updates and you quickly start to understand that much of the evolution Google is pursuing for Search is focused on the text component of your sites.
“When is the last time Google did a picture or video format update to its algorithm? Their actions are all about quality text and quality links, which underscores the importance of the words used on your websites.”
Regarding design, Jey P from IDSAdult.com says “70-85 percent of visitors leave a website due to poor design, colors and user interface. Search engine optimization and web design go hand in hand. The quality of your content and how well it is displayed can determine the success of our online marketing campaign.”
How Does This Affect Traditional Adult SEO Campaigns?
Adult SEO campaigns, due to Google’s many changes over recent years, are now more complicated and require more technical savvy than ever before. The risks of not investing properly into your search marketing campaigns are higher than ever, however the rewards are also greater. The time needed to see lasting results have also been extended because of Google’s many changes. Gone are the days when you can change some meta tags or get a bunch of new links and see direct ranking improvement from it. By design, Google has slowed down the overall rate of initial ranking growth. These days it’s recommended to measure results as a means to determine campaign performance no sooner than six months.
For mainstream businesses of comparable size to many businesses in adult, it’s not uncommon to run campaigns spanning 12 to 24 months before determining the true viability of an SEO campaign. It is, however, well worth the investment to safely grow your adult brand and your long-term organic traffic.
Adrian “Yo Adrian” DeGus is a 12-year adult industry veteran and founder of AdultSEOPartners.com, a professional adult SEO agency catering to large established adult sites. DeGus, who has provided advanced consulting services to many leading sites in the adult industry, also operates Adult SEO Training, a popular service that helps webmasters, program operators and affiliate managers to learn in-house SEO.