BlackHat SEO: Is it really pure evil?

SMS Text

BlackHat SEO has a reputation, and it’s usually not a good one. Those who practice so-called “blackhat” SEO techniques are often branded as social outcasts, treated by holier-than-thou “whitehat” SEOs and Google much like Hester Prynne in the “The Scarlet Letter”. Case in point: the recent SMX Advanced conference in Seattle apparently had a lot of blackhat emphasis this year, much to the shock and horror of some. A few high profile blog posts later, even Danny Sullivan, the event’s organizer, was pandering to the complaints, even apologizing. But is it really as evil and bad as it is made out to be?

I’ve been branching out and spending some time lately amongst the blackhat crowd, and it’s been a pretty cool experience for the most part. I think if I want to truly understand SEO and competitive ranking it is important to learn everything that I can – whitehat, blackhat, grey hat, I want to know it all. Which is why I cannot for the life of me understand why some people made such a big deal about the blackhat-ish sessions at SMX Advanced. Not covering it is more dangerous than covering it, in my opinion. Wouldn’t you want to know everything that you’re up against? A so-called “advanced” crowd should be able to understand the benefits of at least being somewhat aware of some of the blackhat techniques because they’ll sure as hell be going up against some if they’re trying to rank anything even mildly competitive. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But, this post wasn’t supposed to be about just the whole SMX Advanced blackhat debacle. It’s about the perception of that corner of the industry. If you don’t play by the rules that Google has set out, does that make you a bad, evil person? Or is that simply thinking outside the box? Is buying a link blackhat because Google says its bad? If so, I’d be willing to bet that everyone of us here is thus evil and corrupt in their eyes – including me.

The other day I talked about bad SEO techniques that could hurt your Google rankings if you employ them. Some people would erroneously consider those blackhat SEO techniques. Most of them are not, although things like cloaking could be considering so. What they are mostly is stupid, and blackhat isn’t stupid. True blackhatters are incredibly clever, so clever that they are continually able to game the likes of Google.

Blackhatters understand better than many novice SEOs that simply optimizing your site and getting natural links isn’t going to cut it in the competitive corners of the market. If you want to compete, it means you have to think outside of the box, be creative, and find a way to get a leg up on your competition. That’s not to say that you actually even have to employ any blackhat techniques that you learn – simply knowing and understanding some of the techniques they use will help you understand how the engines work, and what works and what doesn’t. That itself makes blackhat experts worthy of a listen.

Sure, there are some of the less savory sides of blackhat SEO, but it’s not all bad and we could all stand to learn a thing or two from them if we can just take off the blinders and open our minds. Join a blackhat forum or read some blackhat blogs in addition to the more mainstream stuff.

Over the course of the next couple weeks, I’m going to begin sharing with you some of the things I have learned, and how you can use this knowledge to either simply be aware of some of the tricks that your competitors may be using, or to understand search engines and their algorithms better. Who knows, maybe I’ll even do an interview or two with some knowledgeable blackhatters. Until then, you’ll find me here, as well as out swimming with the other blackhat SEO fish in the sea.

Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!