Sorry this site requires JavaScript to be enabled in your browser. See the following guide on How to enable JavaScript in Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox and Safari. Alternatively you may be blocking JavaScript with an advert-related or developer plugin. Please check your browser plugins.

While I think Search Engine Watch knew this was link-baitish in running it, writer Gary-Adam Shannon seems pretty serious that it's all over for white hats and black hat is the way to go. OK, what do you all think. Is he right?
Comments7 Comments  


Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 3157 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Personally, I think Shannon glosses over the risks much too much, and here's what I commented over there:

Search Engine Watch is fairly white hat, I think. Are you recommending that they should establish a black hat site as well? That pretty much seems to be what you're saying.

Well, why not -- there's no risk, right? Actually, I'm pretty sure a substantial part of the traffic to this site comes from Google. If they employed a secondary black hat site, that's pretty easy to spot, despite what you think. Plenty of people would notice. I sure would.

Gary, I think you need to qualify this much more. It sounds like you're playing in a space where a lead is a lead, and you have no brand that can be identified at the end of the chain. Doesn't matter if you run two, three or more sites. Yep, you'll jump people through hoops to something that converts that isn't easily traced back.

That's a far different thing that anyone with an actual business of their own. I'm not talking big brands. I'm saying anyone with a business they directly operate. If they start running multiple sites, and employing whatever magical black hat tactics that you don't itemize, they stand an excellent chance of being spotted. The big brands will skate on through with a wrist slap. Google can't dump them. The smaller players, they can ask for reconsideration all they want. Google's not going to care.

If those smaller players had been doing well, then doing what you suggest is indeed full of risk.If they're not doing that well already, they might totally buy into the idea that what the hell, they might as well.

I agree, Google ignores plenty of spam and generates a lot of FUD out there. But I also disagree. Plenty of people do just fine with white hat sites, as well -- some have beaten black hat attempts over the years, too. Ironically, in black hat versus white hat, it's nowhere near as black and white as you're making it out to be :)

But I also wonder if there's a trend going on with people feeling like Google's just not keeping up. I'm pondering a piece about this, but my next comment will expand on this more.

from moreproseo 3157 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Danny, I think you hit it spot-on w/ this comment:

"But I also wonder if there's a trend going on with people feeling like Google's just not keeping up."

The risk/reward model is just too skewed right now in the black hat's favor.

Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 3157 Days ago #
Votes: 4

I'm Getting More Worried about the Effectiveness of Webspam is from Rand Fishkin earlier this year. I didn't agree with all of it, especially some of the reasons that Rand suggests behind his perception that things are worse. But I did agree in general that it feels like quality is down, that you can find crappy content doing well by doing the things Google says you shouldn't do, that will get you penalized.

How The “Focus On First” Helps Hide Google’s Relevancy Problems is my post from September, where I talk about how I'd presenting some of these concerns to Google's search quality team earlier this year. Nine months later, I still had the same concerns -- and could still see stupid techniques still working.

Dear Google...Stop Making Me Look Like a Fool! is from Jill Whalen, one of the most verteran white hatter out there -- and feeling frustrated. Feeling foolish, really, telling people that they should stay white hat in the face of black hat working.

Now all of us -- me, Rand, Jill -- we still think white hat is the way to go. If you're looking for long-term success, a focus on content should carry you through. The bicycle metaphor I once employed years ago should still hold up.

If you think of SEO as a bicycle race, it can be easy for a black hatter to sprint past the white hatter riding a steady pace. But it's hard to maintain that sprint, and you'll fall back and be overtaken.

If you're going the black hat route, you can expect to have to constantly be working to game the algorithm. If you're focused on content, you should do well in the long term, plus you're less likely to be hurt by the speed bumps that Google throws up.

All this is especially so based on the type of site you oversee. Someone with a real business probably is ill advised to follow the tactics of an affiliate marker -- and vice versa.

But still -- having said all this -- I'm kind of with Jill. Google sure doesn't make it easy to preach the white that that you believe in, not when it's easy to find black hat doing well.

Final caveat -- it's not all black hat doing well. These types of arguments that black hat wins have gone on and on and on. What they rarely do is flip things around and talk about how yes, white hat sites win too.

from jc1000000 3157 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I absolutely think there is a trend going on that Google is not keeping up. Results seem much worse these days than ever before. I actively find myself not being able to find things on Google nowadays - which was never previously the case. For instance, great and funny memes from years ago such as 'helpdesk haiku' or 'haiku for sysadmins' surfaces nothing of any value - as if the meme never existed. Same with videos on youtube - try and find one decent christopher walken impression - they do exist, but the results are flooded with terrible ones. Yet, there are plenty of signals Google could be using to surface the genuinely popular, high quality stuff.

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 3157 Days ago #
Votes: 1

That's what's so frustrating. There's so much blatant "spam" that works in Google, it's hard to believe that they don't know about it or can't fix it.

Especially when it's pointed out to them. I don't report spam (I might start) but others do, and I typically hear from those who have that nothing has happened. Same blatant multiple sites, all with the same phone numbers are seen years later. Same crappy links still counting. Same anchor text trumping pretty much anything else.

I'm giving a talk tomorrow in Bend on "Responsible Search Marketing" but it's hard to keeping preaching responsibility when Google doesn't seem to care.

from IncrediBILL 3157 Days ago #
Votes: 1

re: "it can be easy for a black hatter to sprint past the white hatter riding a steady pace"

Smart white hats can do some serious sprinting as well.

You just have to know how to push the right SEO buttons and you can do some cool tricks without stepping into black hat poo.

Problem is most white hats are kind of stuck in a rut and don't explore all the possibilities available to them and then anyone that can easily exceed their capabilities is obviously a black hat.

Watched a big competitor of mine step over the line and sprint so hard he got delisted a while back and sure enough he pointed at my site, which is definitely white hat, as an example of "why did Google ban my site but not that site?"

Excuuuuuuuuuuuse me!

I didn't do the stupid thing he did.

Kind of reminds me of Salem and people screaming "WITCH!" at anything they don't understand.

from lifeinlightspeed 3148 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Incredibill: "Problem is most white hats are kind of stuck in a rut and don't explore all the possibilities available to them and then anyone that can easily exceed their capabilities is obviously a black hat."

Agreed.  Most white hats never even attempt to test the limits in fear of triggering some sort of penalty, or for ego concerns with playing ball in a potentially "grey" area.  Black hats simply don't care about these kinds of restrictions.

I'm not a spammer, but many of the things I've tested for my own practices would be considered "grey", but trying these things have enabled me to see a broader scope of how Search is operating and makes you a far more confident SEO.  I'm testing limits, and some tests fail miserably but several of them have turned into legitimate techniques I use to promote my client's websites.

Advice: Once you start testing new things, or increasing your aggressiveness, you will be quite surprising how resilient Google rankings can be.

Upcoming Conferences

Search Marketing ExpoSearch Engine Land produces SMX, the Search Marketing Expo conference series. SMX events deliver the most comprehensive educational and networking experiences - whether you're just starting in search marketing or you're a seasoned expert.

Join us at an upcoming SMX event: