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Last week, Matt Cutts made reference to not being a "craphat" on Twitter, which opened up a can of worms about whether blackhat means craphat, blackhat means illegal and why he made up that term at all. He didn’t – it’s my term, which I used as part of my SMX West keynote last month. I promised to start a new discussion about what I meant from the term, and that’s what this thread is for.
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from dannysullivan 2065 Days ago #
Votes: 9

In some ways, I don’t have much more to say on what I consider crap beyond what I covered earlier in this story, Crappy MP3 Sites, Comment Spamming & Enough Already (and discussed on Sphinn here). I think my lead summarized it well: In covering search marketing for the past 13 years, I’ve tried not to be judgmental about certain marketing tactics some people might undertake. Search engines have “rules” that they themselves knowingly allow others to break. Arguments erupt over the idea that any type of marketing is “manipulation.” But at some point, enough is enough with some tactics. And today, I’m done. I’m calling bullshit on anyone who is link spamming or creating crappy nonsensical content sites. The story went on to list a variety of examples where people are effectively crapping all over the web to gain search traffic or traffic in general. I also referenced some past stories and discussions I’ve been involved with, such as this Search Engine Watch Forums thread from 2005, where I noted:I’ve talked with a few people privately of various hat colors that seemed to think it might be a good idea. Hence me wanting to put it out there for discussion. Some other things to ponder:Dealing with Arsewipe Trackback Spammers is Nick over at Threadwatch frustrated last July with this type of attack on his servers. If Nick, who fair to say generally will not see the world in pure black-and-white when it comes to SEO is finding those doing this to be "idiots," just who exactly is going to step up to defend such software and tactics?Blog Spammers is our own DaveN who wears a black hat on occasion frustrated with blog spammers. "I guess the last thing that the Blog Spammers would like to see is a poacher turn game keeper…your choice," he writes. Well, if he’s annoyed, again, who wants to defend this? Clearly crap annoys lots of people regardless of whatever hat they wear. So for SMX West, I coined “craphat” as a standalone term from the usual “blackhat” and “whitehat” divisions. In fact, I specifically did NOT say craphat was in either camp exclusively. I just asked that people consider whether they are doing something that was crap and ask themselves if they should continue doing it. Now we could get into a big philosophical argument over whether some blackhat tactics like cloaking are crap. That always reminds me of something Mikkel deMib Svensen (I think) said about making “beautiful spam.” Whether it was Mikkel (or maybe it was Barry Lloyd) who said it or someone else, the point was that the cloaked page that gained a ranking, however it happened, still delivered people to a relevant web page. So is that crap? Some will want to argue yes, some will argue no. My plea is why don’t we start in the less gray areas? Or why don’t we start with the real crap that few if any will debate. Real crap? Automated link drops. Anyone who runs a blog, look at the shit that your comment filter catches automatically. It’s a crap harvest. Manual off-topic link drops, like we delete routinely here. Gibberish pages that say nothing and serve no purpose either than to get a rank and shove some Google AdSense ads at the top of them. Or one of my favorite examples, or not so favorite because it’s so sad, how a memorial site that Mike Grehan did for a friend got covered in link spam, adding to the further stress his widow was already under. That’s crap. It really is the type of thing that I think as an industry, we should try to stamp out. It won’t get stamped out, of course. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. In particular, one of the things I said in my keynote is that it’s common that we’ll joke about certain tactics, laugh and so on – and maybe we’re at the point now where we should treat these almost as racial jokes. Where they aren’t funny, they just make you uncomfortable – and you wish someone you know who may have told you one just wouldn’t. I think it is important that we have open discussions about all types of tactics. I’ve long written that if you want to be a good search marketer, you should be a well educated marketer – versed on all types of things that might go on, even if you don’t do them. That’s why I’ve never had much time for those who have sometime lobbied that anyone “blackhat” shouldn’t speak, shouldn’t write and so on. I do think there’s a place and context for tactics to be explained. And understanding the crap is important. I just don’t want it perpetuated. Related to this, Jonah Stein and Jonathan Hochman have been leading an effort against “Virtual Blight” since last year. Some references to that:Virtual BlightVirtual Blight & The Ten Commandments For Online MarketersVideo of my "Preventing Virtual Blight" talk I think it’s a good thing. I’m tired of stepping in crap on the web, much less having to clean it up at places like Sphinn. I know it’s inevitable, but I’d like to think if more people were speaking out against it, there might be less of it. I’d also like to think people pondering crappy tactics might ask themselves if they’d be proud explaining to their mother, a family member or someone they respect what exactly it is they do. Finally, my MP3 article had this part in it: I don’t care if everyone else is doing it. I don’t care if “Google hit you first.” We’re not in kindergarten. We’re not children that need some type of internet parents to tell us what’s right or wrong. I think we inherently know much of this stuff. Again, not much more I can add to that. Various excuses I’ve seen to justify pure crap over the years are pretty much summarized with that.

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from steveplunkett 2065 Days ago #
Votes: -1

Thanks for venting Danny =)

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from Jonah 2065 Days ago #
Votes: 6

DannyThanks for the rant and the mention.  I coined the term "Virtual Blight" because I wanted some way to convey to site publishers that beyond the nusance created by this crap, it actually destroyed the value of their property the same way urban blight destroys property values.I can’t help notice the irony that so much of the auto-generated Crap is on Google owned sites.  My personal favorite is three variations of the same auto-generated page on Blogspot that manage to promote me to "Jonah Stein, President of Google".  My son really got pretty excited when he read that!  Only the last of these three is still in the Google cache, but all three remain on blogspot.http://best8macintosh.blogspot.com/2009/02/cloud-storage-part-1-business-data.html, http://automotiv3j.blogspot.com/2009/02/cloud-storage-part-1-business-data.html and http://addons5notes.blogspot.com/2009/02/cloud-storage-part-1-business-data.html  I wasalso pleased that with this LiveJournal page that elevates me to "Jonah Stein, CEO of Google", but I had to convince my wife she couldn’t quit her job when she read it. http://libraryofmoder.livejournal.com/967.htmlIt does make me wonder, howevery how many billions of these junk pages need to exist for me to know about 4 that include my name?  How many pages containing "Danny Sullivan" are just randomly generated crap?

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from shaynorulz 2065 Days ago #
Votes: -1

Geat post!<div>The theorists are gonna have a day with that "I can’t help notice the irony that so much of the auto-generated Crap is on Google owned sites."</div>

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from Jonah 2065 Days ago #
Votes: -1

"The theorists", such a lovely, subtle term.  Its not like I delved into the question of how many billions of spam pages are monetized with adsense.... but as president and CEO, I can’t talk about that. :)

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from TCotton 2064 Days ago #
Votes: 7

You just seem to writing that spam is wrong - well tell us something we don’t already know.It really is the type of thing that I think as an industry, we should try to stamp out. It won’t get stamped out, of course. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.One question, how?

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from fantomaster 2064 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Ok, venting about spam is all very well - not that many people who’d disagree, and neither would I. Crappy porn links pushed onto school/kids sites: fail. Period.But:a) There’s nothing anyone can reasonably hope to do about it - it’s the search engines’ job to get it done and they’re patently out of their depth when having to cope with it all. (Yes, improvements will crop up, but so will even better, more efficient spam techniques...)b) If the search engines make money off other people’s content without offering them anything in return by way of remuneration, it’s naive to assume that people won’t simply try to turn the tables in their own favor. (Not accusing anyone here of being naive, to make that perfectly clear, merely pointing out that such debates don’t ever lead anywhere.) Stopping this will only ever work if it stops being effective - which returns us to a) above.It’s not difficult to envisage a time in the not-too-distant future when crawler and linkage based all-purpose search as we know it will be dead dead dead. Better come to terms with it now and develop some viable alternatives.

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from Mert 2064 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Given the limited number of creative internet marketing minds in the general population given the overwhelming demand, I am sorry to say Denny; crapheads are here to stay. The economy is bad. The clients dont pay enough to the small seo agency. Agency has limited hours. So they simply do what they have to; to show results. As the old sayage goes; the agency mentality is if it is not broke; why fix it. They will do it, no matter if you call them crap, etc. I am not talking about porn links on school sites. Just like Fantomaster’s comment above, I draw the line there too. At the end of the day Danny, Google is an algorithm. It can be tweaked. That is it. SEO is marketing and it is not marketing. The SEOs that have the marketing training (including myself) look at it from that angle. The ones that are technical simply see it as a numbers game. Because codes are simply numbers. The more number of links the better. End of discussion for the technical guys (most of the time (there are exceptions)). Your issue should not be with crapheads. It should be with Google. I don’t know if your home is foreclosed yet but right now people are desperate and they will wear a hat made of crap, to make that extra buck. And honestly none of the older SEOs can blame them for it.

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from dannysullivan 2064 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Yep, the economy is tough. So you know, who’s going to blame someone for tripping over that old lady coming out of a store and grabbing some money out of her purse?I do want a line drawn, Mert. Fantomaster says injecting porn links on school sites crosses his line. Good. Like he says, I think many people will agree.We just don’t have that many lines. That’s the point of this post. Not to whine that there’s spam or say wow, spam is wrong as @tcotten seems to have interpreted me saying. It’s to say that there are some tactics that are simply crap. Not even saying spam. Just crappy things to be doing. That we shouldn’t do, and that we shouldn’t joke about others doing and that more in the industry simply stand up against.It is reasonable that we could do this. It is reasonable that we could turn away from tools that generate garbage pages or inject off-topic links into web sites via trackbacks. Why is hacking porn links into a school site off-limits but dicking with someone’s blog with off-topic trackback spam fair game?I cannot stress enough that I know people will continue to game the search engines, continue to push right up to the line of what’s acceptable by the search engine rules and some will go even beyond that, rationalizing why they do so in various ways. And sometimes, it can even be difficult to disagree with those rationalizations, especially when they point at search results that are cruddy and spam filled for particular terms.I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about tactics that waste time not for search engines for for real people. Off-topic trackbacks and comment links are a huge time suck for content owners. Gibberish pages that rank and suck me or others into an irrelevant off-topic page are annoying. That’s the type of crap I’m talking about.

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from Mert 2064 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Thank you for clarifying that. Of course automated spam/or hiring an offshore resource to do spamming is where most of the client based SEOs draw the line at. This argument will go on till the rest of time. As long as there is money to be made, some one will build it, so why not me? Is not that what the gun manufacturers say all the time about gun violence.

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from Jehochman 2064 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Thanks for the post, Danny.  To me, the biggest problem is that time spent building crap is time not spent building value.  Like it or not, the Internet is a shared resource and those who make it suck hurt all of us. 

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from mwiegand77 2064 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Envisioning a top hat full of crap, I find, adds a lot to this argument. Helps visualize how truly awful spammers and bad SEO/Social Media/Paid Search Marketers are.

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from DVOLA 2063 Days ago #
Votes: 0

On  a side note, I would just like to point out that the term "crap hat"  is also a Uk milatary term used by the parashute regiments to describe all the other "non jump out of plane" type soliders..so when I read that term it kinda makes me smile.

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from g1smd 2063 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Some people have been speaking out against this stuff since the turn of the century.Nice to see it get a wider airing at long last.Something has to give. I’d guess that Google now has tens of billions of URLs stored in their database for junk content that they would never show in their public indexes for just these sorts of reasons.

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