As hard as it is to assess ANY job candidate’s knowledge, it’s even harder with SEO candidates because there’s so much gray area in the industry. This blog series presents questions you can pose to help you determine a candidate’s level of knowledge.
Where is the line between black hat and white hat SEO? Where do you fall on the spectrum?
Every SEO has different lines they will push and lines they won’t cross. You want to know where your candidate falls to ensure it’s a fit with your needs. More importantly, however, is to find out if the candidate can adhere to the lines you establish. You want to be sure they’ll be as aggressive as you need but not so aggressive that they cross lines you don’t want crossed.
Here’s how I would answer:
Many SEOs consider anything that is a violation of the search engine guidelines to be black hat. For me, personally, the line between so-called “black hat” and “white hat” is determined by whether or not you’re doing something deceptive. If you’re trying to “trick” the search engines, it’s black hat. If you’re doing something because it makes sense for your customers or audience, then it’s not black hat. It may not be white hat, but it’s definitely not black.
White hat would be following search engine guidelines to a T. But then that leaves the gray area in between. Maybe it’s considered a violation of the search guidelines, but you’re not doing anything illegal, unethical, or deceptive. Every business has to make a decision as to whether they will engage in purely white hat optimization practices or if they are okay venturing into gray or even black territory. I prefer to stay out of the black zone, but am not afraid of the gray areas if it makes sense for the visitor.