It’s not Spy vs. Spy. It’s different.
I’ve only been to one SEO Event, as it’s much easier (faster,
cheaper…) to do my research online. Recently there’s been a lot of
chatter about one of Danny Sullivan’s events that some felt went too
far into Black Hat Territory. I found a response that said “Guess what suckas! There is no White Hat!” of course I paraphrase.
For n00bs (new people, to you n00bs), most believe there are two ways to do better in search engine results: White
Hat – being “honest” and not doing Black Hat – making changes to your
site, or getting links that have nothing to do with the user experience, and are done solely to score higher in the engines.
Jason Calacanis deployed some astonishing Ju-Jitsu a little more than a year ago, stating that SEO was all BS.
He issued a challenge made a lot of important points and said that SEO
is “pissing in the community’s well”, based on his image of what the
future would be (and I think he’s on the mark). The beauty of it all
though is that it both validates the business model and drives traffic
for his new venture Mahalo. A beautiful example of participating in
social media and leveraging community. It’s not possible to buy or fake
that kind of hype – but kids, don’t try this at home, you’re watching a
professional stuntman here.
Ok, so all that said… What to do? From what I’ve seen I think the
wild west days are over. The web has become a community and the search
engines are the law enforcement professionals. Black Hat has become
like any other life of crime – it can provide benefit, but the downside
is that you are always at risk of being found out and crushed. The
truth is that you have your business on the line and the law
enforcement people have no emotional involvement whatsoever. The guys
that tweak the search algorithms come to work every day and think about
how to tighten it up.
This will continue for years, people going to work and the corporate
bureaucracy, patching holes at a slow pace, but crushing everything in
their path. And it’s just like these cold case shows on TV, you may get
away with it today, but 3 years from now they come up with a new way to
examine the evidence and you get the cuffs.
Don’t take on the risk of Black Hat until you’ve exhausted everything possible from White Hat.
Building an easy to navigate site with lots of great resources that the
rest of the world can’t help but link to is a great way to build
traffic that you can work on and never have to worry about waking up
one morning and finding your site banished and traffic wiped out. This
is becoming less and less of a technical function (making sure your
html tags are properly formatted) and more of a copywriting one.
Wear the black hat if you have no long term plans for the domain.
There’s a reason why PPC (Pills, Porn, Casinos) excel at black hat – if
they have to close down spankme.blackjack.bluepill.com that’s not a big
deal, if you have a legitmate URL with your company name the stakes are
There are many people who can make money off of exploiting
weaknesses in the search engines, but like most neighborhoods where the
exploitation gets the attention of law enforcement, you probably don’t
want to hang out there.
(Note: This article originally appeared at Ronin Marketeer.)