SEO Spammers vs the White Hat Army!

SMS Text

SEO has garnered a reputation outside of the industry as being somewhat responsible for web spam. A quick search online will throw up all manner of forums and blogs slating the practice of search engine optimisation.

I myself work in the industry and even I sympathise with the views of the anti-SEO contingency. But what is often overlooked by those attacking such practices is the fact that there are two types of SEO-ers. There are spammers and there are loyal White Hatters (well, three perhaps… let’s not forget the ‘inbetweeners’).  So here, I’ll attempt to profile the habits and behaviours of each of these species and yes, champion the cause of the white hat methods!

SEO Spammer

Habitat: Often found around forums, link farm sites and link brokering areas.

Feeding Habits: Scavenger. Will feed on rewrites of content that someone else did first and will rewrite it, paraphrase and juggle it about over and over and over….

Social Behaviours: A solitary type, alienates many.

The spammers are those trying to manipulate the search engines into showing their sites at the top of the pile. They do this through paid links, mass distribution of rewritten, unoriginal content and by spamming blogs and forums with meaningless comments and links. They stuff homepages stuffed full of keywords to a point that the content stops making any sense and stops having any real value.

White Hatter

Habitat: Often found participating in genuine blog networks, taking part in discussions (with meaningful contributions).

Feeding Habits: Predator. Will identify new and original opportunities and strike upon them.

Social Behaviours: A networker, giving and taking and becoming an active part of a community.

The White Hat SEO-ers are those trying to give the search engines exactly what they want! They want to show the most relevant and high quality content for the searches made by their users. As such, White Hat SEO starts on-page and by creating original, quality content that people will actually want to read. White HAT SEO will involve link building through natural means, such as taking part in discussion with valuable points and by contributing unique, well-written material to other people’s blogs.  Good content will accrue links naturally if you’re taking advantage of the social networking functions available.

So Who Wins?


No matter how much I complain about spam SEO practices, there’s no denying that, infuriatingly, some of them work – albeit often temporarily.  By ‘work,’ I mean that they increase rankings and pad links will often take effect more quickly than many white hat methods.

However, it’s really not sustainable. A ‘Payday loans’ link on a blog about weight loss products doesn’t look natural and if you have a large number of those going live in a short space of time, your site is at risk of raising eyebrows back at Google HQ. It wouldn’t take a genius to see that sort of link profile is incredibly unnatural and thus, a site ranking through spam-infested means is at risk of Google penalty if it comes under manual review.

Natural link building is far more sustainable. You could argue that it takes a little longer to get there, but natural links won’t be eating up your budget on a recurring monthly basis. Nor will they see you plummet into penalty-obscurity if you’re manually reviewed. Links placed on people’s sites for their editorial value (rather than a quick payment) offer value for the readers and the webmasters alike.

It seems really unfair to see people using paid methods actually ranking up there. I know… But Matt Cutts of Google’s web spam team continues to reiterate that paid link detection tools are getting better and better all the time. So eventually, if we keep the faith in the web spam team, we should be assured that natural link building will be king!


Now here’s an area where the white hatters win hands down! SEO isn’t all about rankings. After all, what’s the point in ranking for a keyword with no, or with low quality, search volume? None! When it comes to getting traffic that will convert into a sale, the white hat original content creation methods have the upper hand.

I know if I personally am unfortunate enough to end up on a spam site, I take one look at the keyword stuffed content and click away again, before virtually disinfecting myself through a visit to a decent site!

Consumers are savvy. If something looks spammy, it loses its trust element. If it loses its trust, it loses potential leads/sales.

So to sum up… I’m a White Hat fan. That’s not to say certain paid methods don’t work, of course. But I prefer a White Hat focus on campaigns. In fact, since the Mayday Update and Caffeine Indexing changes, I’m finding that campaigns with a core White Hat focus are enjoying more success than ever before….

Stacey Cavanagh
Stacey Cavanagh comes from from Manchester, UK. Stacey works in SEO for Manchester based agency, Tecmark.
Stacey Cavanagh

Latest posts by Stacey Cavanagh (see all)

Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Offshore Ally

    Hi Stacey! It's heartening to note Matt Cutts reiteration. At the same time all is not just black & white. Some payments are 'white' too.

  • Nitin_seo

    This is good one.

  • Mat Hay32

    i like it

  • Hans

    Nice post Stacey. Sure wish Google would take action on the spammers we've reported to them. Google seems to ignore these requests.

  • Stacey Cavanagh

    Hi all,

    Absolutely… paid directories such as Yahoo etc and other circumstances in which you might pay need not always be spammy, Ally.

    Yeh Hans.. agreed. The reporting functionis there but almost useless if everything sent through it is ignored.

  • Gigglez

    Hey Stacy, so you work for Tecmark? I looked at their site, noticed their client and what do you know? have a number of Paid Links LOL! Those are some Pro White Hat SkiLLz

  • Oximeters

    I'm fairly new to SEO, and have enjoyed good successes with my sites just following the basic SEO rules, 90% of people just don't do the basic things right, there's no need to go blackhat on a lot of the less competitive, local searches and such. I have a lot of number 1 rankings for businesses, without doing anything out of the ordinary. I feel that it's important to just make an honest website, as I'm sure detection will just get better and better. May aswell build things on a solid foundation, even if it takes a bit more time to see results!

  • Zen Cart Customization

    nice information about seo spammers vs the white hat army.

  • Michael

    I think that problem is that there are still many impatient people who wants quick results which makes demand for black hat SEO.

  • robin

    Sorry to sound liek a stickler, most of the points you raise are very valid and helpful but when you say: “SEO isn’t all about rankings” – surely it is! To get your self ranking highly in the search rankings is the ultimate goal, real world user click through to conversion ratios have very little (if any) bearing to your performance in the search engines.

  • David Iwanow

    But the problem is that the grey area is what clients often want, results at their competitors expense…

    The problem around the paraphrasing aspect is that it potentially applies to the entire media/blogsphere… but there is good examples where you take a basic article that is basically a PR release and expand it with case examples, images, graphs and how it is relevant to a particular industry/vertical. If that is done with seo in mind and it works good work, if not you have created some useful and unique content other people can read.

    I'm so sure the seo spammers category is too broad, obviously the cheap/nasty spammers causing pain but the good ones make it look natural and relevant… while still being spam its the type that slips by,

    Good final point about conversions, spammers will target terms that are easy to rank for or drive no traffic or lead to zero conversions, that is the difference between $5/hour drone workers and a real consultant

  • SEO

    Stacey, I really think seo spammers are those that search for quick results (make money formulas) BUT, isn't a great thing when you apply only white hat and you see that seo spammers do not stand a chance when facing you? 🙂