White Hat or Black Hat SEO – Let’s Settle This

The views expressed in this article are those of my own and not necessarily those of  Niche Site Journal (compulsive creative) or its members.

Let me be clear on a couple of things before I begin. This is not going to be a black vs white hat debate regarding which is more efficient. I simply want to clarify the differences between the two sides, without telling you which is better or which you should use.

If you aren’t familiar with the terms, “white hat SEO” is referring to the process of organically optimizing your website for search engines, in the hopes of them ranking your website high in their search results in return. Of course “black hat SEO” would be any tactics that try to trick or deceive search engines into thinking your website is of worth and rank you favourably in return.

Did you see what I said there?

Any tactics that try to trick or deceive search engines into thinking your website is of worth.

I started taking SEO clients recently and the one thing I noticed people requesting- being SEO literate or not- was that the methods to be used should be “white-hat”. Everywhere I go I see this request time and time again. The kicker is they then ask for you to lay out your backlinking strategy and reiterate that they only want white-hat backlinking from non-spammy sources.

Here is what gets me. If you only want white hat SEO done to your site, why are you going out and building backlinks. In other words, if you are trying to avoid black hat SEO (see quote above), then why are you trying to deceive the search engines by building links to your site and essentially telling Google that your own site is worth something?!

If you are going out and posting articles (spun or original) on other web 2.0 sites that you created, on social profiles that you created, on forum posts that you posted, that is going against what you were trying to avoid. Google’s job is to try to return content that is appropriate to a user’s search by finding things that other people think is great quality. They do that by seeing how many other sites on the web are linking and talking about your website. If you are the one going out and building those links, then you are trying to trick and deceive Google.

I reiterate that I am not telling you that you or wrong or right by doing black-hat SEO. Google does not own your website and they cannot tell you what you can or cannot do around the web. If they happen to react to some work you’ve done on the internet, that’s their quality maintenance issue they have to deal with. I am simply telling you the distinction between the two tactics so that people will stop using white hat and backlinking strategy in the same sentence. It’s simply incorrect and not white-hat if you are hoping those backlinks will trick Google into thinking your site is really being linked to by other people.

So What is the Difference?

We already went over black hat tactics and what that entails, but what about white hat? What room is there left for that?

White hat SEO is a long term strategy that involves one thing: marketing. I didn’t say quality content or any of the usual jargon, because that should always be part of your content strategy. But for SEO purposes, it is marketing and marketing alone (anyone can create a sitemap in 30 seconds and take a couple hours to optimize each page with keywords- something they shouldn’t have to pay thousands of dollars a month for).

Let’s say I own a nightclub and I want to do some white hat SEO and potentially get more people to my venue. I want to be in this for the long run and have people see my nightclub as the best in town and an “authority”, if you will. I will do this through marketing to people in my related industry.

First, I will contact every hotel in the area and offer their guests free entrance to my nightclub. In the online world this will translate into them linking to my website from their own, where guests can see local things to do. Maybe I could sponsor an event for a local charity, and they so happen to put my logo on their website with a link back to mine. Maybe I will invite a journalist to the venue and he writes an article on his magazine’s website, again with a link back to mine. I could guest blog on a related website, or even produce a wacky viral commercial that gets shared around and has people linking back to my website.

Are you starting to catch my drift here? All of the above is marketing and long-term relationship building. All of those sources are very high-quality backlinks and trusted authorities in Google’s eyes. That is white hat SEO. How an SEO agency plans to do that, I have no idea.

You can either buy your way through a ton of high-quality backlinks, or slowly build a brand and reputation through marketing. One method Google will eventually catch up to, and the other method will be long-lasting and authoritative branding in their eyes.

The choice is yours.

Lior is a current member of the Niche Site Journal Podcast and blogs over at Muse vs. Muse, a site dedicated to showing others that it is possible to make money online, and exactly how to do it. 


Week 8 – We made $

We made some money in our Last Week of the Journal & I talk a little about “the best spinner”.

A crazy week as usual.  It was hard to find the time to put in my 14 hours this week.  My wife is due to give birth any day, we are spending a lot of time on creating our comic book (Madman of Magic), my laptop died, the family is planning to come to see the baby, I signed a new contract for putting on animation workshops for the local schools, and …. Well that is all I remember, but I did find 14 hours to work on the Niche Site.


Still in the Middle of my BackLinking Strategy

I have figured out that attempting a backlinking strategy for the first time is very time-consuming.

This tool makes it a little easier (it is free):

Some Notes on article directories:

These are links for my backlinking strategy.  If you don’t know what that is, please read my post from Week 5: Back links and Article Marketing

Sites that no longer work or cost money

  • Article Dashboard now charges money.
  • Article Blast said my account hasn’t been approved yet.  It has been a few weeks, and I still haven’t heard anything.  I did have to submit examples of work, which is cool, but you think they would have contacted me by now.
  • Article Alley said the email provider (gmail) was blocked.  This is weird to block Google email accounts, but I am not opening or using one of my websites accounts for a backlinking strategy.
  • Buzzle said external links were no longer allowed in Articles.  I signed up and was about to post when I read this.
  • The Free Library does not accept new articles at this time.
  • iSnare says you can post an article and have your website on the article, but if you want it to link back (be clickable), then it costs money.  I put one article on there just for the heck of it since I went through the trouble of opening an account, but I will not be posting anymore.

Sites I did use

The Best Spinner

The only spinning software I have ever used is “The Best Spinner”.  I am wondering if it was a bad choice.  I figure the best way to help you decide if you want to purchase the same one is to give positive and negative things about it.


  • I have a hard time doing some of the more complicated spinning features.  For example, if I want to highlight a word to spin, it has issues letting me highlight exactly what I want to highlight.  Sometimes it does half the word or takes away the space between words.
  • CRASHES I have had the software crash on me more than once.  After finishing everything, I try to do save and it says it can not do it because of an error.  Luckily it will usually allows me to try again later.
  • Mistakes with brackets.  After spinning an article, there was an error with a bracket and the article would not spin correctly.  I had to go through and find the mistake.  My guess is the original mistake was probably my fault, but I wonder why the program couldn’t tell me where the mistake was or give me an idea of where I should be looking for the missing bracket.
  • Have to pay yearly for the product (or as they call it, the service).

Cool Features:

  • There are a lot of cool features I have yet to try.  One of these features is the fact the software has more capabilities than just spinning.
  • You can see how similar spun articles are to each other (gives a percentage).
  • Able to access the software from different computers.
  • Not too complicated to use (I wouldn’t call it easy either).

Automate Article Synonyms Selection

I did try the function that automatically finds and chooses synonyms for article spinning.  It didn’t work for me.  When I published the articles I found mistake after mistake. I found so many errors that I ended up rewriting most of the article.
If you are writing a very basic article then this function might work.  If you can get it to work, it would save you at least 40 minutes or more on a 500-word article… That would be some great time savings!

Final thoughts on “the best spinner” software

I don’t plan to buy any other spinning software in the future since I don’t do enough article marketing to make it worth it.  I will stick with this program for awhile or at least until my year subscription is up.

Week # 8 Results

Still working on Back linking

We spent another week setting up backlinks as discussed in our backlinking strategy (read here).  We are putting up more articles than what is required, but I figure we would rather have too many than not enough.

Income: about $1.50 (Total to date $1.50)

We finally made our first dollar this month.  This is really cool but a little sad that it took 8 weeks to get there.  Maybe if I worked on more niche site I would be able to pull in money faster.  The cool thing is that traffic is low and I am not ranked yet, so when these things finally happen I hope it will mean a steady income.

Google Ranking: Not Ranked Yet

Number of page views: 37 in a week (from November 10 – November 16)

This sounds bad because it is lower than last week, but it is, in fact, good news.  I haven’t been on the site as much and, therefore, these are all legitimate views as opposed to me checking the website links.

Costs: $0 (Total to date $346.30)

We did not spend any money this week.  Always a good thing!

Time Breakdown: 16 Hours (Total to date: 111 hours)

I put in two extra hours because I know I missed a few in the past weeks.

Leah’s Time (0 hours):

  • 0 hours.  Leah has been working the entire week on our comic book, Madman of Magic and pregnancy stuff.

Jason’s Time (16 hours):

  • 1 hour going over how to use “The Best Spinner” and the ways other people use it.
  • 15 hours spinning and posting articles.
    I was unable to keep close track of my time because of logistics, but I do know I spent approximately six hours spinning 4 articles (3 around 500 words and 1 around 1200 words).  With the rest of the time spent publishing articles.  I posted at least one article and almost all of the sites listed above, but on a few of them I didn’t get time to post anything.


Since this was the last week of the Niche Site Journal I do not have any concrete plans set up for the Niche Site Journal.  I do realize I still need to finish the backlinking strategy, touch up the website, add the rest of the articles Leah wrote, and optimize the locations of the Google AdWord ads.  I will finish these tasks, but I will have to do it in between working on the comic book and taking care of a new baby.

Lesson:  The Niche Site Journal Lives on!

I will be completing those tasks mentioned in the “plan” section of this article, but instead of posting on a weekly basis, I will be posting monthly updates.  At the same time I expect to start the second site of the niche site journal (as mentioned in Week 0: Explaining Niche Site Journal).  I will be posting those updates on a weekly basis, but before that starts I will be taking a few weeks off to get my life back in order.

I want to say thanks for following my progress and remember that even though this is the last week of this Niche Site Journal, I will be continuing to work on the site and continue to update you on my progress.

My Niche Site Journal:

Week 7 – Still working on Back linking Strategy

We’re still puttering along with the niche site and the back linking strategy.

To be honest, I will be glad when it is all over.  I guess this is why everyone says choose something you love.  While I don’t mind doing articles on pregnancy and pregnant woman’s health, it is hard for me to get excited about it.

The only thing keeping me working on this niche site is:

  • I want to see if the strategies for niche sites work.
  • I enjoy learning about putting up niche sites.
  • I feel that my Niche Site Journal readers (you) hold me accountable to see this through to the end.

Find out “What’s my Ranking.”

I did a search on YouTube for “How to find Google keyword ranking” and who’s video should appear?  That’s right, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income (the dude really is everywhere).

I have Market Samurai, so I am using that software to figure it out.

Here is the video:

Week # 7 Results

Still working on Backlinking

We spent the week setting up back links as discussed in our back linking strategy (read here).

Income: $0 (Total to date $0)

No Income yet.

Google Ranking:

According to Market Samurai, I am not ranked in any of the search engines.

I do, however, have pages indexed by all the search engines.

Indexed Pages in Search Engines


What you see here is that my number of indexed pages has gone down.  This confused me as I have been adding pages, not taking them away.  I realized late that this had to do with my hosting and domain status.

I have purchased two domains for this niche site. One is a plural version that sounds more natural and the other is the single tense version that sounds less natural (but has higher search volume).  Originally I had the site set so if you went on either, they both showed the same site.  Later I realized this could be confusing, so I changed it so that if you put in the singular name (doesn’t have an “s” at the end) it redirects the person to the web address with the “s” at the end.

Google was indexing these websites as two separate sites.  Meaning instead of seeing 10 pages, it was seeing 20 pages.  I hope this doesn’t hurt my ability to rank in anyway, but I guess we will have to wait and find out.

Number of page views: 52 in a week (from October 28 – November 3)

This is higher than I expected to get, which I guess is a good sign.  The problem is that the 52 views came from 6 unique users.  My guess is 3 of those unique users are me (my desktop, laptop, and smartphone).  I did set the analytics plug-in not to include me in the data, but I am guessing it still counted me towards the page views.

Costs: $0 (Total to date $346.30)

We did not spend any money this week.

Time Breakdown: 14 Hours (Total to date 95 hours)

Leah’s Time (0 hours):

  • 0 hours.  Leah has been working the entire week on our comic book, Madman of Magic.

Jason’s Time (14 hours):

  • 2 hours editing, adjusting, and publishing articles on the niche site
  • 1 hour learning how to use the best spinner (I am still having problems)
  • 3 hours spinning my first article.  I did it by sentence and by individual words.  Next time I will just being doing it word by word because when I added alternatives for every sentence, it doubled the number of words I had to go through.
  • 4.5 hours setting up and publishing articles on article directories.  I got two up on most of them.  WARNING: some of the article directories I tried no longer work.  Try to get an updated list if possible.  Another issue I had was that on two separate occasions I made about 30 minutes of changes on an article in an article directory site, hit a button without saving it on my computer and lost all that work.
  • 1.5 hours setting up the free blog site
  • 2 hours Setting up Web 2.0 sites


Only one week left and a lot to do.

  • Week 8: Set up all “anchor layer” accounts, spin articles, and place the spun articles on those accounts.  If I still have time, I will build mass back links to anchor sites (I still need to research the best way to do this).

Lesson:  Backlinking takes a long time

It turns out back linking takes a long time from scratch.  The beauty and unfair advantage of my next niche site is that I already have accounts with all the sites needed for the back linking strategy.

Here are a few tips I have put together to help you in the process and allowing you to get through all this faster than me.

  • Make sure to edit an article on a word document and then paste it into the website you are posting on.  I lost about an hour and a half re-doing articles I had already edited and adjusted because the website didn’t save it.
  • Practice with your spinning software.  I use The Best Spinner and while it is user friends, it is easy to make mistakes.  If you misplace the location of just one “{” tag, you will find yourself going slowly insane as you try to fix it by hand.
  • Find an updated list of article directories (Here is where I posted mine).
  • Have a plan and don’t keep doing research every few days.  Pick a system and try it!
I hope this helps.  One more week left and then I am taking a short break before launching the next niche site… Leah (my wife) and I are working on a comic book (madman of magic) so we will be focusing more of our attention on that until the second week of December (2012).

Sharing time

I am wondering what everyone else is using to get higher in the Google Search Ranks.  If you want to join in the SEO discussion, leave your comments below.

Week 6 – Getting Indexed, Writing Content, and Waiting for Google

It has been another crazy week here at the Love Family Household.  Leah is Coming into her last month of pregnancy, and we should have little Everett to take care of sometime this month.  We are hoping that if we can crack the Online Marketing Business Code we will spend all our time at home or traveling with our child and possibly make some more children.

Even if we can get our niche site to make us a good part time income we would be happy. Leah can continue to work at UPS part time (which provides us with Insurance), and I can continue doing magic shows part time.

So, let us see where we are in this Niche Site Journal.

Week # 6 Results

Getting Indexed

We have finally confirmed that we are indexed with Google.  We launched the blog 3 weeks ago, but we waited till 2 weeks ago to use the WordPress SEO PlugIn to register with Google and other search engines.  With article spinning I have found that we already rank on the first page of, but I am not sure yet on Google or Yahoo.  I am still trying to figure out how to use Market Samurai‘s Rank Tranker tool, but I should have our rankings by next week’s post.

We did try a web tool at  It showed zero results, but limits search to the top 1000 positions of a particular keyword on Google.

Writing Content

We realize going into the pregnancy niche that we are going to have a high competition rate.  To overcome this, we are focusing on a less popular keyword, but we also need to take advantage of untapped long-tail, non-target keywords.  In other words, we need to write great content that people want to read.  If we create an informative site with lots of content we will get more people to our site.

To capture these long-tail keywords we will use market samurai, but more importantly, we are going to write articles on subjects that we are interested in for my wife’s pregnancy.  The more articles we write, the more keywords we will rank for, and the more we will increase our traffic.  This will give us the opportunity to help more pregnant woman and their loved ones while making a few dollars.

Our goal is to get a total of 20 articles on the website before the end of week 8.  We currently have 6 articles written right now with only 2 of them up on the site.  We should have the finished ones published by next week, but we also need to spin a few of those articles for our backlinking strategy.

Google takes it’s time

It has come to my attention we can’t force Google to rank us number one.  I can’t complain as I have only put in a few hours into marketing.  I am not sure how fast others have accomplished the #1 ranking, but my goal is that we get there in under 4 months (by the first of March).

Income: $0 (Total to date $0)

No Income yet.

Costs: $0 (Total to date $346.30)

We didn’t spend any money this week…. That always makes me happy.

Time Breakdown: 11 Hours (Total to date 81 hours)

We only worked 11 hours this week.  The week of Halloween is always busy for a magician, in case you didn’t know I am a magician, so I had limited availability and needed a lot of rest between events.

Leah’s Time (8 hours):

  • 8 hours writing articles.  It takes Leah about an hour to do research and outline her page, about 30 – 45 minutes to write, and 15 minutes to read back over several times for editing.

Jason’s Time (3 hours):


Here is an update list of our plans.

  • Week 7: Create articles, spin, and place on other sites with links back to my site. Sign up and plan to use mass article submitter/creator software and social bookmarking sites to point at web 2.0 sites, articles in directories, and articles in external blogs.
  • Week 8: Comment on other related sites with back links to mine, become active in forums, and build a basic social media presence.

Lesson:  Learning Curve

It has come to my attention that comparing my progress to other niche site creators is not a smart thing to do.  The fact that I am spending so much time learning is slowing down my progress tremendously.  Next time Leah and I create a niche site we will have a better understand of the process and will not need to reference or research niche selection, article marketing, how to use the tools we have purchased, etc, etc.  This is why I am trying to present this as a Niche Site Journal instead and hoping you can learn from my mistakes and not have to do the same amount of research.

For those of you who are also attempting a Niche Site, I recommend that you try to do most of your work in one sitting.  I have found that by spreading out my time to work on the niche site I have had to constantly go back and read over information I read the week before.  It becomes a circle of time waste having to read over everything for a few hours, work on what needs to get done, and then stop. The next week I have to go over the process to ensure I didn’t forget anything.

If at all possible do your work in burst broken down into smaller tasks, such as:

  1. Choose Niche, pick a domain, and buy web hosting.
  2. Install wordpress, choose themes, and add plugins
  3. Create content and publish
  4. Article Marketing

By working in bursts you can research the part you are on, implement what you learned, and the next week work on the next step.  Our plan is to use this productivity method for the next niche site.

My Niche Site Journal:

Your Turn

I realize I have not invited people to follow along in the last few posts and wish to do so now.
If you are interested, you should use what I have learned and attempt your own niche site journal.  It can be on a free site like or   If you have a personal blog like this one, that is another option.  No matter were you host your blog, I ask you to go ahead and post your URL in the comment section with a brief description of your strategy.

Week 5 – Back links and Article Marketing

Marketing Niche Sites is hard. There is a never ending amount of information with a lot of contradictory theories and techniques. I ended up spending a great deal of time looking around at other people’s thoughts on the subject.

There is a lot of content out there in a variety of forms. I spent more time watching videos, listening to podcasts and reading articles then I really should have.

My new philosophy is just to pick one person to follow on this and stick with that.

I have decided to stick with the system Pat Flynn talks about in his the backlinking strategy that works article, but with some adjustments.

My back linking strategy is to create original articles; spin those articles; and submit the spin versions to article directories, Web 2.0 properties, and free blog sites with links back to my niche site.  Then I have to connect to these spun articles through article submission software and to use social bookmarking.

From Jason and Jeremy’s video on Internet Business Mastery

I tried to diversify the “words” that contain my link to my site.

They suggest:

33% Exact Keyword, Partial Keyword, Related Keywords
33% Using sites URL and URLs to specific posts/pages
33% Miscellaneous (such as “click here” or “More Information”)

The articles I submitted had the following anchor tags for the backlinks:

  • 1 had my wife’s name as the author (Leah Love).
  • 1 link was “Click Here” and was in the context of, “for more information click here.”
  • 2 were URL links to the home page of the niche site.

Week #5 Results

Back links and Article Marketing

This week has been a rough one for a few reason.  The first being we had to buy more software to make the marketing strategy work (which Leah was not happy about since we had already spent$262.30), and we might need to buy more software.  The second being that I wasted too much time researching what strategy to use and then doing something different (I talk about this in the lesson learned section below).

Income: $0

No Income yet.

Costs: $84

For the best spinner, we spent $84.  This is the software that changes an article into multiple articles. It changes the articles enough to sneak past being flagged as duplicates.  These articles are used to put on other sites with links back to my niche site as mentioned in the strategy at the top of this post.

Time Breakdown: 14 Hours

Leah’s Time (4 hours):

  • 4 hours writing new content for the site. These will be “spun” for the back linking strategy.

Jason’s Time (7 hours):

  • 2.5 hour studying backlinking strategies and creating a plan
  • 2.5 hour signing up for article directories
  • 1 hour spinning articles
  • 4 hour posting articles on article directories (this took way longer than it should, and I talk about it in the Lessons section below)


Here is an update list of our strategy.

  • Week 6: Create articles, spin, and place on other sites with link backs. Sign up and plan to use mass article submitter/creator software and social bookmarking sites to point at web 2.0 sites, articles in directories, and articles in external blogs.
  • Week 7: Comment on other sites with back links to mine, become active in forums, and build a basic social media presence.
  • Week 8: Optimize the WordPress site, Google Adsense, and the marketing.

Lesson:  Don’t let paranoia get you off track!

It has been a weird lesson this week, and it sounds awkward saying it, but I let fear lose me about 4 hours of the 10 hours I put in this week.  That means I could have accomplished 40% more if I didn’t make this mistake.

Let me explain.

I have decided to use Pat Flynn’s niche site duel articles as my guiding star in creating this niche sites. I trust Pat because he is honest about his income, his strategies, and cares for his audience. All things that make me believe him, but while implementing his backlinking strategy, I started to question how it worked.

I started reading other websites on the subject, which was a good idea, but I spent 2.5 hours going over everything I could read or watch on the subject. In the end, I decided to go with Pat’s strategy. Reading what others said was not a waste of time, but I could have spent just 1 hour and I would know the same amount of information I do now.

The second thing and the biggest mistake I made was getting paranoid that I would be flagged for repeat content. So I took my spun articles and drastically changed them manually. This consisted of cutting out entire paragraphs from the article and switching the remaining ones around. The problem with this was that the article directories required 500 – 600 words minimum.  I had cut the article down to 300 words on two occasions. This required writing an extra 200 – 300 words to fill in the words I cut out.

This was a huge mistake for several reasons.

  1. When Google looks at my articles next to each other, it looks for a specific percentage of similar word use in sentences.  It doesn’t matter if the paper is in similar order because it looks at similar sentences not similarly structures of articles.  The spin software breaks up the similarity in sentences to get passed as none duplicate articles.
  2. Wasting my money.  I paid the money for using a program to spin articles and not using it correctly.
  3. Wasting my time.  The articles were already different because of being spun.  Me changing them by hand had no purpose other than an attempt to overcome the paranoia of being flagged and not getting ranked.
Another week has passed with a new one coming up.  I hope you learn from my lessons and enjoy following along with my niche site journal.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave the in the comment section.
Jason Love

My Niche Site Journal: