Do you need to rank for competitive terms without worrying regarding potential Google penalties? Then it’s time to go white-hat.

Do this, and you’re doubtful to ever wake up to a sight like this in your analytics:

google analytics drop off

“Unlikely” ≠ impossible. However, if you employ solely white-hat tactics, the opportunity of a receiving penalty is practically zero.

Although before you go full white-hat, you may be querying: can you compete with the black-hats without breaking the rules?

Yes, you can, at least in many industries. (But in some specific industries, you can’t.)

DISCLAIMER: “White-hat vs. black-hat” is an age-old debate and the best approach for you will almost always depend on your industry. If you’re an experienced black-hat SEO, don’t get mad at me for favoring white-hat over black-hat. Consider the context of Ahrefs Blog—we’re advising people who run businesses in legit industries. They can’t risk their livelihoods by using black-hat strategies.

In this article, I’ll introduce some practical alternatives to well-known black hat tactics. And describe why it’s beneficial to opt for these white-hat tactics over their black-hat matches.

But first, let’s determine both black-hat and white-hat SEO (and take a look at the distinctions between the two).

White-Hat vs. Black-Hat SEO

At its core, all SEO has the same aim: to increase a website’s standing in the search engines.

But SEOs, for the most significant part, are divided into two distinct camps: white-hats and black-hats.

Here’s a summary of the differences between the two:

What is White-Hat SEO?

White-hat SEO leads to the usage of Google-approved website optimization strategies, methods, and tactics. The focus hereabouts is on providing users with the soundest search engine outcomes. I.e., you prioritize the user over anything else.

Being a white-hat, you will generally:

  • Play by Google’s rules
  • Optimise for humans not search engines;
  • Produce quality content that people actively want to read and share;
  • Create a website that stands out from others in your niche

On the flipside, there is black-hat SEO. That is considered to be the ‘opposite’ of white-hat SEO.

What is Black-Hat SEO?

Black-hat SEO leads to the use of strategies, techniques, and tactics that do not significantly follow Google’s guidelines—in fact, they’re seldom even plain unethical. But they still give you the aspired result (i.e., rankings).

Black-hat reasoning focuses on finding and exploiting algorithmic loopholes.

As a black-hat, you may:

  • Break Google’s guidelines;
  • Focus on search engines over users;
  • Attempt to mislead users with things like cloaking and doorway pages;
  • Hack into peoples’ websites.

Here, we don’t need to take the moral high ground and talk about the ethical implications of making black-hat SEO. That would likely spark an unnecessary debate, which isn’t our purpose.

But, we do consider black-hat SEO to be very risky.

That’s why we’ve nevermore endorsed the use of any black-hat tactics on the Ahrefs blog. We support going the white-hat route, although a pinch of “grey-hat” probably won’t hurt.

So, this article aims to show you why white-hat SEO tactics are often an objectively better choice than their black-hat counterparts.

But first, you may be admiring, is the white-hat route best for you?

Is white-hat SEO ALWAYS the best option?

It depends on your goals.

If your goal is to create a long-term mark, then white-hat is the way to go.

But if you’re in a spammy niche like “payday loans,” white-hat apparently isn’t going to cut it.

Black/grey-hat SEO controls some niches (e.g., “payday loans”). And while we’re advocates of a white-hat procedure, the truth is that there’s little/no chance of succeeding when playing “by the rules” in such industries.

Sure; you can start out with the best of intentions in these kinds of niches. But as soon as you begin seeing success, rivals will likely drag you back into black-hat SEO section.

But if you’re running a legit project in a legit industry, you have an excellent chance of winning without using risky black-hat tactics.

There are tons of juicy keywords that we could rank for and grow our MRR by millions of dollars.

serp overview backlink checker

Furthermore, we could likely do that with just a few simple black-hat tactics.

But we can not manage to put our entire business on the line by using such tactics. It just isn’t deserving the risk.

So we choose only to use white-hat tactics. And it works.

Here’s the essential traffic for our blog for this January vs. last January:

ahrefs blog traffic january 2017 vs 2018

That’s nearly 50% growth in one year.

And we didn’t use any black-hat strategies to achieve this.

I don’t believe we’re the only ones going down the white-hat route, unless. I’ve started to notice quite some black-hat SEOs integrating more moreover more white-hat tactics into their SEO workflows.

Here’s why this may be occurring (in my opinion):

  • Black-hat SEO is more expensive than ever before: Google is much smarter than it used to be; blatantly spammy, low-cost tactics—e.g., keyword stuffing—are no longer useful. So as a black-hat, your only option is to turn to more expensive tactics, not as building a PBN. Furthermore, when you take into account the costs of doing this correctly (i.e., buying many expired domains, dedicated hosting, private whois, etc.), black-hat SEO can get real expensive real quick.
  • Black-hat SEO is VERY risky: Nobody wants a Google fine. But if you go down the black-hat road, there’s a decent venture you’ll get one. It, therefore, seems the obvious (and only) choice to many, personally included.
  • Black-hat SEO requires some level of “technical information”: If you go down the black-hat route, you won’t get too far unless you have profound and detailed knowledge of how the web works and whereby you can exploit that knowledge to your benefit. Most of this knowledge is not shared publicly, which means that many people don’t see black-hat SEO as a viable choice.

Beside that in mind, here are some simple white-hat tactics that, in our evaluation, are viable alternatives to their black-hat complements.

1. Creating one BEAUTIFUL website vs. dozens of UGLY sites

Black-hats often start dozens of websites in quick succession to see which take off (i.e., rank) and which flop.

People then focus their time/effort/resources only on the ones that give potential.

It’s pretty easy to automate/outsource this method, too.

  1. Teach VA to do keyword research;
  2. Hire a crew of cheap writers to churn out articles;
  3. Launch various WordPress installs with one button;
  4. Upload all that content to your network of sites with the different switch.

But, because the focus is on churning out as many websites as potential, it usually results in ugly, unreliable-looking sites. Like this:

treadmill pbn example

SIDENOTE.

Not all mechanical-outsourced websites look this bad. Some black-hats invest more sources than others.

Black-hats don’t prioritize UI/UX as most visitants won’t ever return to the site.

But still, there’s no doubting that this is a smart strategy.

It allows you to start multiple websites in a fraction of the period that it takes for most people to start just one. Your time and monetary expenditure, therefore, is minimal and each site will cost you next to nothing.

Nevertheless, it takes a lot of time and effort to understand how to do that at scale. So unless you’re a die-hard black-SEO, I’d say that reading this isn’t worthwhile, especially when you consider that going the white-hat route has numerous benefits of its own.

For example, there’s no uncertainty that people prefer good looking websites with quality learning.

If you want to start as many websites as potential with the least amount of effort and investment, well, it’s unlikely that they’ll look individually pretty.

That’s how 9 out of 10 auto-generated websites will flop. Moreover only one of them will start conferring signs of life.

In short, these “quick websites” will get overhauled by any sites that look even marginally better or feature higher quality knowledge.

Why? Because if users prefer these kinds of websites, it will display in the “engagement signals”  that Google almost certainly controls.

So, what’s the white-hat way?

Design ONE website, then spend time and effort perfecting the UI/UX.

Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on your brand: Colour. Typography. Method. All of these contribute towards a website/brand that people recognize. And if people remember your website, they’ll be likely to choose your site next time it appears in the SERPS—this boosts “engagement metrics.”
  • Make sure it’s beautiful on mobile devices, too: A lot of themes are responsive out of the box; this means that auto-generated websites CAN be sensitive and “work” on mobile devices. But, that doesn’t say the UX is good. Take some time to improve the way your website looks, feels and works on mobile. 50%+ of your guests will be glad you did.
  • Use white space efficiently: Nobody wants a cluttered design. White space is crucial for dividing up the various components of your site. It also helps to increase readability, promote communication, and more.

And if you needed any further-convincing, consider this:

It’s strange that a high-quality website won’t eventually take off. But in this particular case, we’re speaking about “blue ocean strategy,” where you start a brand new idea, rather than pushing an already saturated niche.

Black-hats may show that their methodology aligns with the of the minimum viable product (MVP)… but I don’t understand this is entirely true.

Yes, MVPs aim to confirm an idea or product in the least costly manner (and with the smallest amount of work possible), but black-hats take this to an extreme.

It, accordingly, becomes difficult to accurately gauge interest and decide whether or not an idea has merit.

Here’s the bottom line:

You can either start ten ugly websites and see what sticks (black-hat).

Or you can get an idea and press it to the wall until it sticks (white-hat).

However here’s the truth: there’s no way you can drive dozens of websites with the white-hat approach—at least not in a small space of time.

So, in all fairness, I think the ideal strategy lies in the middle ground.

I don’t suggest that you go full black-hat and start dozens of low-quality websites in quick sequence. But I also don’t recommend that you put all your eggs in one case.

So if you have a pair of good ideas that you’d like to judge out, you can launch multiple sites. But execute sure to put enough time/effort into each one.

Master, the less work you put into a website, the less chance it has of it succeeding.

It’s also worth seeing that generally, black-hat websites are pretty faceless. They can rarely grow something big.

But because the white-hat intellect places a lot of focus branding from day one, there’s a much higher uncertainty of a white-hat site taking off and becoming huge.

And ultimately, the emergence of competition is less of an issue with white-hat SEO.

Black-hats are usually worried about people finding their websites and replicating them. After all, it’s not extremely hard to do this once you discover their “money” keywords.

But among the white-hat mentality, there’s no need to fear your website becoming popular.

The longer you invest in white-hat SEO, the higher you raise the bar—this increases the difficulty to entry and discourages competition.

2. Creating unique and Precious content vs. stealing, or producing LOW-QUALITY content

Removing material from other sites and publishing it as your own is somewhat unethical.

Plus, Google doesn’t like duplicate content, as it isn’t useful for users.

That is what Panda was made to target.

SIDENOTE.

We can’t doubt that even with Panda, low-quality content will sometimes still rank. It can infrequently also outrank the original content. However, I would say this isn’t particularly common.

Black-hat content-stealing methods include:

  • Republishing existing posts (without attribution): Although republishing posts with attribution is perfectly fine, taking them from other sites without attribution and re-posting is not;
  • Rewritten/spun content: This might work to a degree for low-competition keywords, but it’s hardly offering any unique value. Chances are your revised content won’t read as well as the primary and visitors won’t trust it.

But keeping content isn’t the only lousy black-hat idea; using cheap hacks—like, $5/1K-words-level cheap—is a controversial tactic, too. These writers can barely write without logical errors.

What’s more, these representatives also have no idea how to craft engaging content that hooks in collections, or sells your products/services, or creates raving fans.

All they care concerning is cramming “relevant” stuff—often regurgitated from the popular top-ranking results for a given keyword—into a “single” piece of content.

That brings us back to “launch ten sites and see what sticks”comprehension.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Here’s an extract from an article I had written years ago—for $2.50 per 100 messages.bad article

Indeed, from my experience, this is pretty good for this price point.

More frequently than not, you’ll receive entirely unreadable content, the editing of which usually takes higher than writing the content yourself!

While before-mentioned content “does the job” in some corners, chances are visitors won’t stick around for long if they don’t trust your site. And they probably won’t return, either.

But let’s be impartial, black-hats often don’t care, as a lot of the time, they will merely re-sell this traffic elsewhere. If they want the truck to convert, they will probably rewrite it once it ranks.

But here’s the thing: poor quality content leads to reduced “engagement signals” such as a huge bounce rate, low dwell time, low time on page furthermore lower CTR when people see your “brand” in the SERPs. All of this has a beat on effect, making it more difficult to rank in the original place.

Here’s how to do something the white-hat way:

Write/create something different and original. (Or at least put a unique spin on things.)

That suggests no spun content. No copying. And no “rewriting” another search results.

Not only is that what searchers need, but it’s also what Google wants.

Then, once you’ve made that, you can make your piece shine by using these copywriting/formatting tricks:

  • Add a captivating headline—Write a title that will get your content published, but don’t clickbait. Google requires you to write descriptive page titles. It makes their job easier;
  • View readability & structure—Make your content accessible to read by using subheadings, bullet points, and short articles. No one likes watching at a wall of text;
  • Do not be a slave to keywords—If you all are focused on your topic, you’ll be inserting keywords anyway. Keep keywords in memory, but don’t sacrifice readability for them;
  • Join a compelling meta description—While not a direct ranking circumstance, this is one of the first things a user sees, so perform inevitably it entices their click in the SERPs.

But how do you build something “unique” and “original”?

The much we can do is offer an example of what we did to generate our list of free SEO tools.

If you google “SEO tools” or “free SEO tools,” most significant of the content falls into two camps:

  1. BIG file of all the SEO tools the author could find, with no real thought as to whether they deserve inclusion or not;
  2. Biased data that are written and compiled by a single author;

We didn’t need to publish another piece of content like this.

So we performed down the crowdsourcing route: we asked the SEO community to tell us their SEO tools.

 

We then cleaned and organized the suggestions.

The result: a trustworthy list of SEO tools crowdsourced from the characters that use them.

And when a lot of content is unique and relevant, you have something that genuinely deserves links.

All you should do is tell the right people about it.

Here’s the bottom line:

You can immediately fill your website by stealing, copying or playing low-end content.

But although this content may place, it doesn’t give your website any “strong foundation.”

What do I intend by that?

Well, it comes back to the point that black-hats are scared of anyone “outing” their niche and finding their “capital” keywords.

If someone was to obtain their “money” keywords—and noticed that they’re ranking with easily-replicable black-hat techniques—that man could easily just replicate their second content and start competing with them.

And because the quality of content doesn’t matter in this particular situation, they may even outrank them. That is why you should focus on crafting unique, high-quality content.

Such content will be much easier to build links to. It will also naturally acquire desirable “behavioral signals,” as it’s genuinely useful and interesting. That makes it challenging to outrank with second content and links from PBNs.

3. Link Building vs. Link Buying

Connections are super-important—at least if you want to rank for topics with real search volume.

In fact, they’re so important that you will rarely ever see a top ranking page for any relevant keywords that have zero backlinks.

Don’t believe me?

Go to Keyword Explorer and start any keyword with a decent search volume. Then check the SERP overview.

ahrefs serp overview

Nine periods out of ten, the top 10 ranking pages will all have a fair number of backlinks.

But making links is far from the most honest SEO task; that’s why several people turn to buying links.

But let’s be clear: getting links is a black-hat tactic, there are no couple ways about it.

Here’s what Google must to say on the regarding:

“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank can dilute the quality of search results. Participating in link schemes violates the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.”

So what’s the white-hat option? Build links; don’t buy them.

Here are a few steps to do this:

Go to Site Explorer and enter the domain of a BIG, favorite website in your niche.

Then go to Pages -> Best by Links. Add a filter. And then sort the list by # of transferring domains (RDs).

moz best by links report

From that list, it’s easy to discern topic ideas that are likely to draw a lot of links. It’s also useful for revealing what types (e.g., infographic, blog post, etc.) of content most resonate with somebody in your niche.

You can then use this knowledge to inform your content creation strategy.

BUT…if you need to go a step further, filter this list to show only 404 errors.

moz 404s

You presently have a list of potential broken link building opportunities

But also the most white-hat link building methods can enhance black-hat—it depends how far you scale them.

For example, if yourself post ten guest articles in a day, something unfinished is going on. But if you post 2–3 per week, well, you should be okay.

Hereabouts are a few other things to avoid if you want to keep things  white-hat:

  • Shoehorning mysterious links into guest posts (e.g., unusually placed homepage links, product pages that don’t do+ sense, etc.);
  • Leaving bizarre blog comments with things like “best SEO London” as the name;
  • PBN links ;

Here’s the bottom line:

There’s no doubting that buying links works; you hand over cash, plus you get a link.

But except you’re in a “shady” niche—or one where it’s hard to acquire backlinks in general, for whatever reason—building links is a better option.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. Buying links is risky—If Google somehow finds out that you’re buying links, well, expect a penalty.
  2. Buying links is expensive—We found that the average cost of purchasing a backlink is $350+. But building relationships is effectively free; you create something of value on your website, promote it, and the links will come “naturally.”
  3. Bought links aren’t always the best quality—Think about it; if a site is selling you a link, chances are they’re selling connections to others, too. And if they’re making this, you could end up with a link to a site that links to some pretty questionable stuff. There are many scammers in the link-selling space.

So what are the benefits of white-hat directly-acquired links?

Here are just a few:

  1. Lack of risk—Usually-acquired links don’t risk your Google rankings or business reputation.
  2. They’re a common byproduct (of other useful marketing activities)—White-hat links usually come as a result of some other buying activity such as PR, product launches, content promotion, etc. But with paid links, you only get a link. Extinction else.

It’s also worth remarking that when you’re buying links, you become to work hard to ensure that your link profile “looks natural,” which means diversifying anchor texts, buying links from a variety of sources, etc.

But among earnt, white-hat links, you get an entirely natural backlink profile by definition.

You’ll also have to control your rented links and make sure that they’re still live each month.

Link agents will often try to scam you by secretly removing links and assuming you never notice.

(Seriously, this is a BIG problem.)

I don’t understand about you, but I think all of this is very boring and a huge hassle.

4. ENTICING links via “link-worthy” content vs. FORCING people to link to you through hacking their websites

Link shot is where someone maliciously inserts code into your site and makes it seem like your website links to downright wrong sites.

Those links are injected into the code of a site without the site owner even knowing. Very shady.

And what’s more, it’s illegal.

Hacking a website and inserting a JS script that links to cool sites could get you arrested for violating the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

It appears a lot, too, as this report from Search Engine Land programs.

Need to see an example of a hacked website?Go to Google and search “buy viagra.”

Click Tools also then filter events for the past week.

past week results serps

You can usually know a hacked website as it will have genuine-looking domain/URL. But a spammy title also description tag.

hacked website url

Click the result furthermore note how it looks.

buy viagra example site

Hacked.

Now copy the URL plus paste it into the Wayback Machine. That will show you what the site looked like before the hack.

corn feeders before hack

Note: In that case, the JS injection isn’t just the addition of a backlink; it’s a JS redirect to a vague webpage.

And remember, this occurred within the last week.

It’s shady. It hurts inexperienced people. And many black-hats even stay clear of this tactic.

So what’s the white-hat alternative?

Simple found something useful and valuable that people will intentionally embed on their sites (along with a link).

Infographics likely spring to mind here, but don’t limit yourself to this format.

You can additionally create embeddable interactive tools, calculators, and even maps (map-o-graphics?)

Here’s a simple plan that picked up links from 162 referring domains:

Google search mapx1

SIDENOTE.

That goes to show that you don’t always have to build something elaborate or high-budget to attract links. It’s about making something embeddable that resonates with people in your niche. People should WANT to embed it.

Here’s the bottom line:

Hacking websites moreover inserting links is plain nasty. Not to consider unethical and illegal.

And even if you’re entirely devoid of morals, it still isn’t a real or sustainable link building tactic because there’s no longevity to it—people regularly clean up their hacked sites in a matter of days or weeks.

We, accordingly, are strictly against this tactic.

Instead, go the white-hat route:

Focus on crafting valuable embeddable media that people will WANT to link to.

Do this, and you’ll attract not only backlinks but also build your brand.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Want more proof that this is the best way to go?Take a look at the notoriously spammy ‘payday advances’ niche.

Big players are now beginning to move away from the short lifespan of black-hat SEO and towards further white-hat content marketing tactics.

Here’s an infographic designed by QuickQuid in 2017:

quid corner content marketing

It currently has 85+ links from nearly 70 referring domains.

quid corner backlinks

And amazing of these links aren’t half-bad either!

link entrepreneur quick quid

Yep, that’s a payday loans website with a link from Entrepreneur.com!

How did they get this link? They created a useful/ exciting infographic that was then picked up and set by Entrepreneur.com.

entrepeneur quickquid link

If that is the route the payday loan people are taking, it’s most certainly the best route for you, too!

5. Microsites vs. PBNs

A Private Blog Network (PBN) is blank more than a network of places that you own. You then link to each of these sites to a “money” website that you want to rank.

It’s 100% black-hat. And Google doesn’t take kindly to it.

Building PBNs is also generally very expensive and time-consuming.

And unless you know something you’re doing and know wherewith not to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, building a PBN is not working to be a long-term tactic.

That’s not to say PBNs don’t work. It is likely to get good results from them, but they come with an original risk. And if you’re running a legit company, it isn’t worth it.

So whatever is the white-hat alternative?

Microsites.

A microsite is an original web page (or collection of pages) that exists as a separate thing on its domain or subdomain.

Microsites can be done for specific campaigns or to target particular buyers. Some can be used as a stand to tell a story.

Check out that microsite: The Future of Car Sharing, a collaboration between Collaborative Fund and Hyperakt. It highlights growing behavior in commuting.

future of car sharing microsite

And here’s new super-awesome microsite that, in all honesty, we wish we’d considered at first!

It’s called The Higher Lower Game.

The takeaway hereabouts is that a microsite doesn’t have to be involved. Something hands-on and engaging like this is memorable enough.

Oh, and it also brought a lot of links:

futureofcarsharing com referring domains

But why not publish that under your primary domain and enjoy all that delicious link juice?

Well, a part of the time, when an idea is “framed” as separate standalone “project,” it will make a lot more attention.

More attention = more links.

Plus, a lot of bloggers are careful about linking to anything that looks even remotely popular.

For them, a microsite is a remarkably more natural “sell” than a piece of content on your main website.

Here’s the bottom line:

PBNs are several famous in “shady” industries, where it’s hard to get a link or everyone other is buying links.

In such industries, you’d be at damage by NOT owning a PBN.

Many people are also expected attracted to PBNs because it gives them full control. If they want to change a link—or even the anchor text of a relationship—it can be done in seconds.

The issue is that continually growing a PBN—and having it—is a very costly endeavor.

But microsites are expensive, too. So why is this a better solution?

Well, although microsites can take significantly more expensive up front, they usually pay for themselves in the long-term.

They can even transform into substantial full-time projects.

For example, Unsplash—the popular free stock picture website—started out as a microsite. But now it’s a fully-fledged standalone project. It also saved their core business from destruction.

And unlike PBNs, microsites will often continue to attract links naturally over time—this is something happens when you create something of real value.

So, any links to your microsite will get increasingly important as time goes on.

Plus, when done well, microsites get real traffic from your target readers, which can often convert into actual clients/customers. PBNs will likely nevermore result in this.

6. Outreach vs. Spam

Sorry to reveal it to you, but a lot of “outreach” is nothing more than spam in reality.

Here’s a conventional process for black-hat spam:

  • Scrape a bunch of sites (often tens of thousands);
  • Blast the corresponding template out to all of them with no personalization;
  • Sit back furthermore wait for people to get annoyed;
  • Spam them again.

People don’t like spam and do not Google. That’s why they recommend that you should “avoid Spamming link offers out to all sites related to your topic area” in their SEO starter guide.

If you’ve ever used email, chances are you have found a spam email like this:

spam outreach email

I’m leaving to go out on a limb and say you didn’t reply.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t reply to the email, don’t send it.

Instead, you need to craft outreach emails the white hat way:

  • Highly-targeted—Don’t email thousands of unrelated people and sites. Instead, target people who are expected to have an audience that will help with your offering;
  • Customise and personalise—Don’t add F_NAME to a template. Personalize each outreach email for each recipient;
  • Build relationships—Don’t email someone from out of the blue and ask for a link. Use the time to engage with them and build a relationship. Ongoing connections can have many benefits: networking, partnerships, etc.

Google knows that you want to promote your website. That’s why they encourage you to push new content to those interested in the subject. Don’t spam them.

Here’s the bottom line:

Building links using spammy outreach tactics is relatively easy—it’s a numbers game.

If you email 1000 people, you might get one link, but you will probably annoy 999 people in the process. That is not the strategy to use for building authority in your niche.

On the other hand, connection-building through personalized outreach requires much more effort, but the benefits are more important and longer lasting: relationships, affiliates, business partners, new opportunities, etc.

No matter what business you’re in, there will only ever be a limited number of relevant websites from which you wish want to acquire links. It’s true that new sites get launched all the moment, but there’s still only a finite amount of them.

So don’t burn by prospects.

If you annoy 99/100 people in your industry by sending them spammy emails, you’re going to hurt your bridges. Then, next time you launch a lot of content, you will struggle to hold anyone at all to reach out to at all.

What to do while white hat SEO “fails” (hint: don’t give up!)

You can never truly “fail” when it comes to white hat SEO, it takes a degree of effort, time and a readiness to play the long game.

How much experience? It depends on the keyword(s) you’re targeting and the level of debate.

Some keywords/topics are much more aggressive than others.

Go to Keywords Explorer and enter a keyword.In summary, you will see the KD score for that keyword.

ahrefs keyword explorer difficulty score

KD score is rated on a scale from 0–100—the higher the score, the more competitive that keyword is.

You all will also see the estimated number of leading domains you’ll need to rank in the top 10 for your chosen keyword.

Again, this is helpful for understanding how much time, effort and investment may be needed to rank.

For super-aggressive terms, you may even need to rewrite/refresh content 1–2 times before it finally starts to rank.

In fact, we recently refreshed both our “dwell time” and “SEO tips” posts.

Once over, this ties into the white-hat mentality; we’re trying to create content that rates to rank. And part of this process involves creating sure that the content never goes out-of-date or grows stale.

Final thoughts

White-hat SEO is all regarding having the right mindset: put users first, produce genuinely useful content, and don’t spam people.

You’re not merely out for yourself or want to make a quick buck. You want to care and view things in a long-term timeframe.

Sure black-hats may be able to get results in the short term, but a white-hat operation is essential for long-term success.

We cannot risk using black-hat tactics. As a legitimate business, there’s just too much on the table to put at risk. Anyone who wants to contest with us will also have to use white-hat SEO methods.

Remember, white-hat SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

It’s a long-term plan that pays off in the end.