Are You A Black Hat SEO?

Thursday, April 17, 2008 by Mistlee

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Are You A Black Hat SEO?

By Aaron Wall

Google thinks so... Should You Trust Them?

Preemptive Spam Penalties

There is a great thread over on SEOmoz by Matthew Inman about how some Googlers consider any of his future attempted linkbaits and widgetbaits to be off topic spam, based on his aggressive misuse of widgets in the past.

With hundreds of comments many of them are noise, but some of them are spot on with Google's current trends, especially those from Jeremy Luebke and Jim Boykin. Jeremy wrote:

Google is determined to make any scalable link building process blackhat. It won't be long before all off topic linkbait, including articles, is considered linkspam.

And Jim wrote:

And the blackhat club gets bigger.... and the waters get murkier and murkier.... if you're an SEO, you're a black hat. Only those who don't know what SEO is are the white hats.... Don't try to rank high on purpose....if you do then you've broken a google guideline

Corporate Marketing vs Individual SEOs

This event clearly demonstrates how differently Google treats major corporations vs individual SEOs (especially if they are publicly known as SEOs). An individual SEO who is great at his job can expect to be preemptively penalized to be made an example of, even while the competition are doing exactly what he wants to do (ie: the same activity is brand building when the corporation does it and is spam when Mr. Inman does it).

A corporation typically is out of the index for a few days to a week at most, even if they are operating at an industrial spam scale for years! When the corporations are relisted they may need to do a bit of rebuilding, but millions in profits from years of spamming allow them to invest adequate capital into growth.

This is why some of Google's editorial judgement seems so arbitrary and lame. The small player innovates, gets crushed by Google for being creative and innovative, then the monolithic corporations uses the same techniques to an industrial scale and are somehow better for borrowing/stealing the techniques. How does that process foster web innovation?

I lost a lot of links when a Google engineer decided to penalize one of my sites, and in the process all the links from my aggressive promotion costing 10s of thousands of dollars disappeared, while the fortune 500 companies in my field got a head start and competitive advantage against me by recycling my idea. I can't express how thrilled I was. That was the past and I am over it, but I think Google needs to take a close look at their own behavior when judging others.

Does Google Use Off Topic Linkbait & Widgets?

An off topic transcription is a legitimate source of links, according to Matt Cutts - at least when you are syndicating Google's opinions.

• When you install AdSense for search on your site with the Google logo (aka paid link) it direct links back to Google (ie: not to their AdSense program).

Google barters PageRank to push their business objectives.

• How is what they are doing any better than what the average SEO does? Should they hold themselves to the standards they judge everyone else by? How can they be seen as objective if they do not?

Be Careful Who You Trust

What is worse about this game of passing arbitrary judgement is that many of the best known SEOs praise each other in public only to snitch on one another in private (talk about being ethically challenged). One member who recently joined my training program read the training module about how affiliate programs can pass PageRank and asked Matt Cutts if they could use 301 redirects on their affiliate program "like Aaron does" so that he too could "rank for everything". Within a week my affiliate program no longer passed link juice.

Pick a Smart Professional Label

Google can not keep growing their revenues at an acceptable rate without beating the value out of others. If you are new to the SEO field and want to excel online, call yourself something other than an SEO. Using the label SEO invites arbitrary monitoring and punishment, and there are too many plastic personalities in this field willing to dime out a friend in exchange for a wooden nickel.


About the Author:
Aaron Wall is the author of SEO Book, a dynamic website offering marketing tips and coverage of the search space, free SEO videos, and free SEO tools. He is a regular conference speaker, partner in Clientside SEM, and publishes dozens of independent websites.
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