Protection 4 is a Creative Commons image by Jasmin Cormier
The white hat vs black hat discussion in SEO often misses one point. It’s not always actually about what color your hat is or how “un/ethical” your practices are. It’s about how SEO is viewed by others.
Decision makers in search and social media rarely take a close look whether your SEO efforts are ethical, white hat, clean or in accordance with their TOS.
They don’t have the time and will to do so. They will single you out, ban you or cripple your accounts based on the assumption that you practice SEO at all. They will penalize you for the slightest misstep while others without the label SEO will get away with murder. That’s the way things work on the Web today. It’s a sad realization but it’s true.
2 years ago I went public hailing the new better, cleaner, more ethical SEO. I proposed a version of SEO that was even more ethical than the SEO Google proposes, a SEO that does not actually rely on SEO but is simple common sense use of the Web. The Web didn’t listen though.
I loved social media, but social media didn’t love me back.
I left Mixx of my own accord after a temporary ban and then I got silently banned on YCombinator Hacker News and probably on StumbleUpon as well. On all 3 sites I had to deal with prejudice and hate towards the SEO industry from the start and no one ever asked me if it’s me who is spamming. I was the perfect scape goat for all of them in spite of being twice as clean as normal users.
I haven’t done anything wrong neither on Mixx, nor Hacker News and StumbleUpon. I didn’t even really use them for SEO purposes that is to promote myself or my clients. My goal was to get a name there. I didn’t practice self submission or something. My SEO blog has been submitted by others I didn’t ask to do so beforehand.
Writing about SEO was enough of wrongdoing.
I didn’t even try to use Digg or Reddit where the SEO hate is so overwhelming that it didn’t make sense in the first place to educate them about real SEO. Nonetheless I have been treated like “sh*t” on all three sites where I have contributed countless of hours of my valuable time as well as provided a huge amount of “user generated content”. They earned money on my back and they I got my *ss kicked. Don’t try it yourself. Twitter is currently the only general interest social site that really works for me as an “SEO”.
Google has a different, more down to earth approach to SEO but still as Aaron Wall and Micheal Gray often have reported a double standard, see their articles below.
Why should you victimize yourself by calling yourself an SEO?
So my advice is: Keep it low key. Do whatever you do, but don’t call yourself an SEO unless you offer SEO services to clients. Otherwise earn your money and mind your business. People don’t want to know about the good clean SEO. Only a few will listen. Most people don’t care and prefer to hate you for mentioning the evil acronym. I have tried the righteous path for 2 years and learned it the hard way.
Now after the reality check I will change my strategy in 2010. Will I become a black hat? No, but I won’t try to educate the ignorant as much as I did in the past. I will take care of my business and earn the money instead of trying to teach others what they don’t want to know.
Not only should you mind your business, you should mind your own business.
Working for clients can be great, I have the greatest clients you can imagine right now, but still you are dependent on other people and you’re building businesses for others. Make sure to work on your own projects so that you have enough money and online real estate to be independent. This way clients are a nice to have and the risk is low. When working only for yourself you don’t even need to call yourself an SEO.
Read more about SEO going underground again elsewhere:
- SEO goes back Underground in 2009
- WhiteHat SEOs Going Underground
- Google Openly Profiles SEOs As Criminals
- SEOs are not Criminals
- There Is Definitely Something Devious Going on Over at Reddit!
- Are You Really “Ghost Banned” on StumbleUpon?
- Big Brands? Google Brand Promotion: New Search Engine Rankings Place Heavy Emphasis on Branding
- How Does the Algorithm View Your Website?
- The Only Real Hoax is that Google Treats Everyone The Same
- Google The Double Standard of Being an Authority Website