While there are many different types of affiliate marketers, all affiliates that rely on organic search to produce a majority of their traffic can be classified as either white hat, black hat, or somewhere in between (grey hat).
In this post I’ll talk about why you should keep your site clearly in the white hat zone.
What Are Hat Colors, Anyway?
Firstly, let me briefly outline the difference between white hat and black hat marketers.
Black hat marketers are individuals or companies who attempt to rank their pages highly by manipulating the search engine algorithms, finding loopholes that allow them to better promote their site. They do so knowing they are going against Google’s policy guidelines and are usually explicitly trying to game the system.
White hat marketers, on the other hand, are marketers that only use the techniques outlined by Google and the other search engines as acceptable actions, and try to comply as much as possible with the best practices provided, trying to rank their sites based on quality, user-oriented content.
Grey hat marketers, by extension, are marketers that use a combination of these techniques, mostly following the guidelines but trying to “help out” their sites with a few black hat techniques. Manual link building, for example, might be considered a grey hat technique.
Why You Should Stay White Hat
In case you couldn’t tell by the bias inherent in the above descriptions, I am a firm believer in white hat marketing…and only white hat marketing.
The reason is that I believe in building businesses for the long haul. As search algorithms get smarter, Black and grey hat techniques are extremely vulnerable to being caught and penalized for not “playing by the rules.” One famous example was JC Penney, which one Christmas “magically” appeared in the #1 slot for many popular gift item searches. Google soon noticed they had employed black hat techniques, and punished the site by ranking it below page 5 for several months.
While this is just one prominent example, the same penalties occur frequently among smaller black and grey hat sites. Personally, I don’t want to have to worry about my site getting “caught” and destroying my business in a single day.
Another problem inherent in black and grey hat techniques is that the search algorithms tend to weed out offenders with new updates. For example, many sites heavily dependent on article marketing (a grey hat technique) saw significant ranking drops after the Penguin update.
If you stick to the white hat side of the table, the chance of your site being overtly punished is low. It may take longer to get to that first page when you’re starting out (especially for competitive terms), but in the end it’s the only way to build a sustainable internet marketing business. Read more on SEO basics, or on how to get started with affiliate marketing.