Shock horror Ė Blackhat SEO discussed at SMX Advanced

Itís 6 oíclock in the morning, I got up especially early (whilst my daughter is still asleep) to write this post as I feel I canít just let what I read yesterday rest and not comment.

As you may know SMX Advanced in Seattle was on last week, I didnít go this year but attended last year. SMX Advanced is where funnily enough ADVANCED SEOs speak and attend to; learn more, broaden our horizon, share and network. Well at least thatís what I thought.

Yesterday I read this blogpost on Bruce Clay by Lisa Barone where she writes about “SMX Advanced going to the ďdarkĒ side.” The blogpost truly shocked me (and as Lisa Barone is prime blogger that might even been her intention) In fact it disturbed me to the point I even considered to put a no-follow on the link to the post, but decided to leave it, as rightly everyone should be able to voice their opinion, although I strongly disagree with Lisaís comments and the way she went about this blogpost.

But even more so I am really disappointed and a little disturbed of Danny Sullivans comments in this blogpost. Yes of course he has his SMX brand to protect but donít pooh on your own doorstep. At one point he literally singles out individuals:
ďI’ll single out Jay Young. No, I don’t think it’s anything goes. I do think there are ethics in marketing and limits you don’t go pastÖ.Ē I donít think it was needed to single out anyone really. I know Jay very well, and he is a first class SEO and respected in this industry. Jay simply stated the obvious saying that buying links can still improve your rankings. Because it does! Most SEOs STILL do buy links, he was simply saying donít by 100,000 of them, over night and from a link farm. Be clever about it. Yes it can be argued that this is black hat’ish, BUT why is it blackhat? Because the Googlesaurus say so, thatís why. If the Google Algorithm didnít put such a big emphasis on incoming links and other areas such as age of domain you wouldnít call link buying black hat technique. Who says a new site is less relevant than an old site? The algorithm says so, that doesnít mean that its actually true!!! Thatís for the user to decide!! Hang on, Iím actually going somewhere with thisÖ.

I think the stamp “black hat seo” should be based on INTENT not necessarily technique. Still with me? Basically if you are doing SEO for a (new) site that is in a highly competitive market, it is NOT going to be possible to rank and gain traffic on a well constructed and content optimised site alone. Thatís just a fact. Buying a few links and investing in a proper link building campaign is something you have to do to get into the really competitive market. Unless you are not planning on ranking before 2048!!! BUT that doesnít mean the website in question isnít relevant or useful to the user. And the end of the day, thatís what we are all working for right? Both SEOs (well most) and the engines, getting fantastic relevant and good quality websites ranked so that the user will be satisfied and find what they were looking for!!

Back to the point, so called ďblack hat seoĒ techniques are important for the development of your skills as an SEO. That doesnít mean you have to use this knowledge and techniques, but KNOWING them WILL help you understand how the engines work, what you can and canít do. We NEED these people to share, we should be grateful that they will share not condemn them and pick on them. I can with my hand on my heart say that I am a white hat SEO, BUT you know what, the ONE person I have learned the MOST from in this industry, is in fact a black hat, and a very skilled one as well. That doesnít mean he is some dodgy marketer spamming the web with any random crappy website to rank his clients. A good black hat doesnít do that ;)

Anyway, Iíll leave the black hats that attended SMX advanced a suggestion for a T-shirt to wear to the next event (so that people donít mistake advice for orders!!)

Liked this? View all posts in Blogging, Google, SEO

84 Responses to “Shock horror Ė Blackhat SEO discussed at SMX Advanced”

  1. Mike Nott says:

    Hey Lisa – really good post, I fully agree with you. :-)

  2. Julie Joyce says:

    Well said Cookie. As I’m married to Jay, this situation is quite close and it’s been a bit disturbing to see him going out there with the intention of telling people what works, then getting raked over the coals for it. What has NOT been written all over the place is the positive response that he received from what he said.

    All of the talk about the event being too black is just insane…I went to last year’s conference and learned exactly one thing, out of all the sessions that I attended. I didn’t come away with anything useful at all. At least this year, whether or not people agreed with the tactics discussed, they heard something interesting. It’s just a shame to see people spending their time and money to speak at these events and getting publicly singled out as an embarrassment.

  3. The 2 “Whiteboard Fridays” I did for Rand should take some heat off Jay ;)

  4. Rebecca Scott says:

    Fanbloodytastic post Lisa!!! You couldnt have a school lesson with the blackboard being white as no one would see the chalk and never see the lesson. SEO is similar, you cant have this industry without the black hats how would we learn if we cant see the lesson of how far we can take things!!! That would be so boring!!

  5. Jane says:

    I completely agree, Lisa. I wrote something similar to your piece on SEOmoz, but without quite the “oomph” that you’ve included. The hysteria surrounding the content isn’t necessary.

    Well said, my girl. I’m glad you wrote this.

  6. Andy says:

    Good points and well made.

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

    Doesn’t Danny want honesty in his conferences?

  7. Nick says:

    If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying ;-)

  8. Lauren says:

    Great post! It’s about time someone said something

  9. John Lessnau says:

    Many people not so happy with Lisa now it seems so I am cutting her some slack.

    Lisa is just trying to be relevant in her required Bruce Clay Inc. SMX wrap up post. She is probably in shock after finding out she works in a black hat business as defined by the Google.

  10. Tyler Shears says:

    Excellent post Lisa.

    I was standing 10 feet from Jay as he got singled out and it was definitely not necessary. These conferences feel so policed, and I understand the need to be tactful, but we can’t pretend we’re blind to something like link buying.

    If you’re not buying links you’re just not competing in a competitive niche any time soon.

  11. Julie Joyce says:

    @John: she is TRYING to be relevant. I’ll agree with that.

  12. Julie Joyce says:

    OK I’m only being jokingly petty but I will stop…the fact remains that this turned into a nasty experience for people that I respect and care about, people who put a lot of time, money, and effort into flying halfway around the world to speak in Seattle. I cannot distance myself from Jay, as hard as I try hahaha, but really he is one of the smartest people in this industry, and his only downside here is that he is simply too honest. That’s because his goal was to tell people what works, so that they can be successful.

  13. Doug Heil says:

    Will you all post my opinions as well? I’ll find out.

    You wrote:
    “Basically if you are doing SEO for a (new) site that is in a highly competitive market, it is NOT going to be possible to rank and gain traffic on a well constructed and content optimised site alone. Thatís just a fact.”

    Let’s see now; you open up a brick and mortar business. Do you get FREE customers storming through your doors with no time or effort involved? Nope. So why the heck would you expect Google to start ranking your new site right away?

    Second; You seem to be saying that anything goes on the internet, right? That’s just wrong, sorry. Marketing is the same whether it’s online or offline. It’s called “marketing”. There are ethics involved with marketing. If you don’t know that, please ask some advertising agency out there if there are any ethics.

    Third; it’s a fact that Google is cracking down a paid links big time. Why would a conference which is supposedly a Professional Conference hosting a bunch of Professionals want to teach new people, other people, new seo’s, old seo’s, etc, etc, how to spam Google and search engines, and how not to get caught doing it?

    Come on now. Lisa’s very right however; this debate is at least one week old. I would never have posted, but many in this industry are more naive as anyone in another industry I’ve ever seen.

    That’s right; Pat yourselves on the head a few more times as you obviously need the stroking. Some of us don’t see it that way. Check that; many of us don’t see it the way you all do. Guess what? I never will see it your way either. :)

  14. Julie Joyce says:

    @Doug: Kickass use of a smiley face!

  15. aimClear says:

    Where can we buy the shirt :) .

  16. Doug Heil says:

    Thanks Julie! :D

    Many of you are younger than me and will have to live with the SEO industry you help create for many years to come. The question that leaders need to ask themselves, is how do we want those outside viewing the industry in the next 5 to 10 years?

    Does the industry want to be known as cheats and fake content con artists? Or does it want to be known as something else? You all will have to decide and conduct yourselves accordingly. I’m just an old fart myself.

  17. John Lessnau says:

    @julie She is also trying to be like @sugarrae. However, as much as she cusses and rants on twitter, there is only one sugarrae.

  18. Julie Joyce says:

    Rae is truly one of the best American cussers out there. She should have been on Deadwood. It’s honestly amazing. I am quite a fan of the cussing.

  19. Jon Myers says:

    Wow!… it is amazing how a post about buying links keeps generating all this interest. Bit harsh in my eyes to single out Jay for something that alot of people out there (and I mean alot!) are actively doing day in day out. He is only stating it how it is but as soon as you mention it people jump all over it.

    Seems like buying links is good blogger PR in the market!

    Well said my Lisa :)

  20. I <3 Doug. They don’t make them like they used to.

    I think we should bring back the swear box. Black Hat SEO is fine, although I don’t like all this cursing.

  21. @ Doug. You are entitled to your opinion. I’m not saying you should do black hat techniques, I do SEO in B2B marketing for some big clients, I can’t afford to. What I’m saying though is that we can learn and benefit from learning what the black hat SEOs are doing and shouldn’t condemn them for what they are saying. In fact I firmly believe we should appreciate them sharing with us. To be fair they are the ones that stretch the limits and really find out how far we can go, without the black hats we would not know what is white hat and what is black hat! And you are wrong, I don’t believe anything goes on the internet. You have misunderstood.

    And yes the discussion might be one week old, but i genuinely didn’t pick up on it before yesterday when it was pointed out to me. I’m a mother in full time work, heading a department, I haven’t got time to read every blogpost under the sun. I’m not patting my self on the head, I’m simply standing up for something I believe in, and someone I believe in!

  22. Lisa, I did single out Jay’s presentation. And if you’d presented the entire context, it sure would have sounded different. So let’s do that, shall we?

    “Just as I had some people say privately to me that they felt I was being too defensive or hostile to Lisa earlier, I’ve also had some feel that I’m trying to sell some of the speakers down the river, so to speak.

    I’ll clarify that a bit more. I’m proud to have had those speakers take part. They’ve shared blackhat things not in some smoky bar with a few select individuals but openly on stage, in the full glare of search reps watching. And I did consistently hear them warn about risks.

    Yes, there were a few things I was embarrassed about, especially as I realized we had beginners in the audience who might not know better. I’ll single out Jay Young. No, I don’t think it’s anything goes. I do think there are ethics in marketing and limits you don’t go past. I don’t want to blog spam a tribute page to someone’s dead friend, as Mike Grehan once wrote about happening to him. And it is embarrassing to hear someone say that if some of those people are coming away with the idea that the conference overall is endorsing it, or that I’m promoting it.

    That’s a difficult struggle — that people may not understand the idea of various opinions and ideas being presented with their responsibility to choose for themselves. As a conference organizer, I need to do more to setup and prepare people for that, especially when there are beginners around.

    But while I might disagree with Jay, I’m glad to have had him take part and raised the issue. There was value in it.”

    Short story. Very proud and happy to have had Jay take part, even if I disagree with some of the things he said. Because he’s a knowledgeable person, brave enough to say the things some people think and some people actually do. And he’s a hell of a nice guy, as well.

    I regret having used the term embarrassed in response to some of the presentations initially, and I can only say that reacting to Lisa’s post when I was still pretty tired, still sorting out some of the issues didn’t make me as clear as I hoped own post was later. I was embarrassed that I — ME — had failed to prepare some of the attendees at that show to understand they were hearing opinions, that they would hear some blackhat stuff and that ultimately they needed to make their own decisions. It is embarrassing, Lisa, to have to explain to a newbie that no, blog spamming is probably not the way to start off with SEO — if you’re in charge of a conference designed to educate people. That’s bad education no matter what hat you wear. It’s not embarrassing that someone might have explained the issues — just that I didn’t work more to get them in the right context. So I’ll work on that.

  23. John Lessnau says:


    Based on the type of session it was, why would you even let search reps in the room?

    I know the search engines are big sponsors of the “SEO” conferences (a bit ironic) so maybe its difficult to not include them.

    Idea for future SEO conference – Search Engine Rep free zones.

  24. Rae says:

    First, I just wanted to say that Lisa Barone doesn’t attempt to “be like me” in any way that I’ve ever seen. As she has become more comfortable with the scene, she has simply formed stronger opinions. I for one give her a pat on the back for having the courage to state her opinions, even when she knows there will be backlash… maybe that indeed is a “bit like me” but it is only noticeable because this industry is full of people so worried about their fame and popularity that they don’t have the guts to speak their mind. Lisa B is one who let’s her voice be heard, regardless of the opinion. As is Lisa D. This was a great post. So was Lisa Barone’s. Always question everything and when something doesn’t seem right in your mind, voice that opinion. Just be sure to attack the idea/opinion and not the person… unless the person deserves it. ;-)

  25. Doug Heil says:

    Lisa wrote:
    “What Iím saying though is that we can learn and benefit from learning what the black hat SEOs are doing and shouldnít condemn them for what they are saying. In fact I firmly believe we should appreciate them sharing with us. To be fair they are the ones that stretch the limits and really find out how far we can go, without the black hats we would not know what is white hat and what is black hat!”

    Wow. You don’t know how far we can go without a blackhat telling you?

    That one paragraph says a lot about this industry. I also think it sums up what Danny just said above as well. I don’t get it guys/gals. I really, really don’t get it. You have to have someone other than Google tell you what works and what doesn’t work? I’m finding a hard time coming up with the right words about now, so I’ll stop here.

    walks away shaking head in disbelief…..

  26. It’s good that the “embarrassed” statement has been rescinded, this is what got me very upset. It’s true that newbies shouldn’t think that “Black Hat” is the only way, and also true that “Black Hat” can help “White Hats” truly understand SEO.

    I look forward to many more cutting-edge techniques at SMX conferences and hearing the superb techniques, like disclosed at the Seattle conference.

    SMX Advanced was without doubt, one of the most interesting and fun conferences I’ve been to.

  27. adybee says:

    Maybe it’s me but what’s actually wrong with supplying relevant web links whether they’re paid or none paid? It’s certainly not black hat if you’re not seeking to actively gain PR from it. Let’s face it we all know someone who makes a lot of money out of paid relevant links or should I say “sponsored listings” ;-)

  28. @Danny. Thanks so much for clarifying and taking the time to comment Danny. I totally appreciate the stress and tiredness that must come with organising these conferences. It must be a huge responsibility and I appreciate your concern for newbie SEOs attending the conference might not have understood the delicate nature of some of the techniques mentioned.

    My concern was that naming names and singling out individuals like Jay could hurt his reputation and be unfounded critique that could potentially have consequences. In short, I just wanted to clarify that Jay and some of these so called “black hat” SEOs are damn good SEOs. And that I personally think it is absolutely necessary to know and learn “black hat” SEO (although I don’t necessarily think what Jay talked about is black hat).

    I think you should be very proud of your conference series, SMX Advanced IS actually advanced, too many of the other search conferences present the same basic powerpoints over and over again. Your conference series actually HAVE achieved a reputation of not being the same as everything else. Again I, and I bet Jay does as well, really appreciate you leaving this comment. Thank you.

  29. Doug Heil says:

    The absolute only person who can change the direction of this industry is Danny Sullivan. He is the only one who has the power and influence to do so. Unless he wants the industry to look like a bunch of cheaters (blackhats) and con artists in 5 years time, he must take a stand on things he believes in, and stop talking out of both sides of his mouth. Danny; everyone is not going to like you. No matter how hard you try, they just aren’t. Don’t you have any kind of stance on anything ethics related? Don’t you want a true “Professional” industry in 5 years that you can be proud of? Don’t you care what people outside of this industry think? If you do, you will do something about the huge mess that makes up this industry now.

    The above speaks for quite a few in this industry. Really.

  30. [...] up against some if they’re trying to rank anything even mildly competitive. And I’m not the only one who feels this [...]

  31. Mich D says:

    I am in total agreement with you on needing to know about it. I also have learned more from ‘hackers’ and ‘blackhats’ than any other ‘stupid label’ of folks online.

    You share the right outlook I think. Intent is more important than application. Take the infamous black hat keyword spamming church. Or the blackhat+hacker anti child-porn attacks. Both were technically wrong but …

    The blackhat/hacker attack was a huge justice no other group could do, the intent was nothing like ‘blackhat’ or ‘hacker’ myths. it was to save real children from sick people.

    The church wanted to save your should so much they were willing to lie cheat and spam to do it. The intent was good [???] but the action was rather unethical.

    Just my 2 cents

    Peace ladies and thnx ;)

    Mich D aka @MichDdot
    The worlds fastest seo … search it :)

  32. MK says:

    Hey there little man, are you seriously generalizing by referring to Blackhats as a bunch of cheaters? A bunch of con artists? That pile of BS proves one think, that you sir, and the rest like yourself, are naive, simply put.

    Look, BlackHatt has become a term loosely used, if i can put it that way. When you refer to ‘blackhatters’ you’re referring to those that don’t follow by Google’s guidelines, well sir, who the fuck is Google to force people, online business owners, to use the internet a specific way? It’s everyones right to go about doing business online as they see fit, as long as they are not doing anything illegal (as defined by law) there is no one that can do squat about it.

    Webmasters need to stop listening to the BS they’re fed constantly about BH’s being a group of some evil cult, it’s rubbish. BlackHat SEO is not, and should not be mistaken for black hat wearing gun slinging baby stomping cowboys of the west, but rather folk who want to test their skills, push things as far as they go, then push further to see what happens. Thinking outside the box, blackhats work 50times harder than you’re so called advanced whitehat. Developing new techniques, new scripts new ways of pushing google to adapt to us, we force change sir, not they. We f

    Fan boys that holler in the name of white hats don’t get it, you don’t get it. Those stuffing their content, cloaking, those spamming call themselves blackhats because they are misled. They don’t know what Blackhats really do, they think because everyone thinks that’s what Blackhats do, that’s what they should do.

    Blackhats are just folk that don’t believe in being told what to do by a meer company, not even an authority. If you’re happy following the rest like a sheep, go right ahead.

  33. firetown says:

    Until the day all blackhats die, you should NOT deprive yourself learning how to protect yourself from them. Protection and awareness is important.
    What is better?
    Be like so many on certain networks calling blackhat seos “evil linkbuilders” to downplay what it really is or give people the tools to make a decision on their own whether they are going to use it or not?

    I also truly dislike any form on grandstanding and lying in order to get on Google employees good site.

    Doug, I know you believe in what you say, so I am not accusing you of asskissing at all.

    I wished I could however say the same about most of the commentators.

  34. Doug Heil says:

    MK who is hidden wrote:
    “Hey there little man, are you seriously generalizing by referring to Blackhats as a bunch of cheaters? A bunch of con artists?”

    Yes I am. I certainly am. I won’t call you a little man as you hide yourself from public. I call that cowardly though. :-)

    MK wrote:
    “That pile of BS proves one think, that you sir, and the rest like yourself, are naive, simply put.”

    If you think I’m naive Sir, go ahead and think that. :)

    MK wrote:
    “When you refer to Ďblackhattersí youíre referring to those that donít follow by Googleís guidelines, well sir, who the fuck is Google to force people, online business owners, to use the internet a specific way?”

    Let’s see; maybe because people like you want to get free referrals from Google and will do anything at all, including cheating to achieve those referrals.

    MK wrote:
    “Thinking outside the box, blackhats work 50times harder than youíre so called advanced whitehat.”

    Hmm. Funny that. I’ve got that the exact opposite way my hidden buddy. :)

    MK wrote:
    “If youíre happy following the rest like a sheep, go right ahead.”

    I follow no one. That’s the opposite of following someone. I’d say you blackhats are the one’s following like sheep. I also say that Google is at fault with the state the SEO industry is in. They are not strict enough with the likes of blackhats, which are cheaters and con artists. They shouldn’t be taking money from blackhats either for adwords. They should not be allowing blackhats to buy themselves in after being banned in the organic results. So yes; Google is at fault as well.

    Blackhats are a penalty or ban just waiting to happen. That isn’t a way to lead a life. It’s not good for sleeping at night either. When you have to wake up and immediately go to Google to make sure you have not been caught yet, I’ll bet your wife or husband or girlfriend or boyfriend gets mighty upset with your obsessing over Google day and night. I feel sorry for you as you have been steered down the wrong path. Sometimes I don’t check my client’s sites for a few months at a time. I have no need to.

  35. firetown says:

    Back in the days when you started, Doug, things were different. There was a sense of idealism involved in SEO. That has disappeared especially since the smokescreening started on you know whose blog a couple of years ago.
    Blackhat SEO is something that has been evolving exploiting holes in the Google algo. The Google founders are laying back, Google is now in the hands of shareholders and most of all employees playing games with the SEO public.
    We have been hearing nothing of value in those past 2 years and no real effort has been made on Google’s part to better the results. In fact they have been gradually going downhill and rather than them working on it, they let us know thru unofficial spokespeople that we as webmasters should do more to help clean things up for them.
    What goes up, must come down. It’s the way of the world, Roman empire all over.
    The market decides at the end, idealism is always short lived.
    For the life of me I cannot imagine a new webmaster reading Matt’s blog saying “Wow, this guy is for real, I will do whatever he tells me to.”
    We both know who is to blame, and why should kids these days follow instructions of a company which benefits from everyone, the searchers, the webmasters, the world?
    Google spokespeople have been less than truthful. Covering up huge gaps rather than working on them. Rather than bashing blackhatters (even though there is some of it that is definitely deserved), Google should be held responsible. If Google engineers were as passionate as you, Doug, do you really believe that there would be such a success amongst blackhatters? Think about it.
    I can tell you that the new generation of blackhatters is far more passionate and driven than any of the Google employees I have encountered and far more creative than the Sphinn crowd making sure each others lame stories about Twitter get a ton of traffic generating adsense clicks.
    I consider “white hats” responsible for 80 percent of results being lame articles, written for Google and not for people, helped by links from each others networks, using every stronghold possible to ensure that they stay up there while the force from beneath is starting to push harder.
    Google has a lot of work to do, and instead of blaming those who challenge Google, I would rather encourage Google to meet the challenge and see them come to terms with the fact that their days of glory and superiority seem to be numbered. There is no place for a monopoly in this society. Things will even out and this is a part of the bigger plan.
    I have met some real scumbags amongst blackhats this year, and many more amongst the white hats in the past 8 years.
    Many white hatters are moving to the darker side because they see everyday the amount of deception and hypocricy that Google employees are guilty off slamming a few sites to set and example while rewarding personal friends guilty of doing even worse. You and me both know the stories and I can only advise everyone to do whatever is best for them and not rely on some corporation to make sure the employees get of their asses instead of blogging about their cat. ;)

    Anyways, I think the anti blackhatters need to put more pressure where it belongs. Google has not been doing its job, and it’s not yours or mine to protect them from those they should be able to beat to begin with.

    The last 2 years have been nothing but games discussing Update Flipper and what have you talking a lot without saying a thing.
    While you say in private what you say in public, the majority of white hatters will break every rule in the book while publically saying whatever gets them on Google’s good side.

    If anything, the new popularity of blackhatters will force Google to work. Which is good for everyone. You will see a lot more, I predict. Within a year Google will be hacked and instead of their logo, you will see a blackhat on their front page.

    Wanna bet? :)

    Mike Dammann

  36. [...] SEO June 14th, 2008 In addition to this post I need to say I am in disagreement over Doug saying Danny Sullivan can change the impact of [...]

  37. [...] blackhat SEO evil? June 14th, 2008 Here are links to current discussions hot and happening: Shock horror Ė Blackhat SEO discussed at SMX Advanced Blackhat SEO – is it pure evil? Blackhat SEO – is it pure evil? SMX Advanced goes dark (total [...]

  38. Doug Heil says:

    Mike; some of what you wrote I agree with, but some I disagree with.

    Back when I started, the spammers were certainly around. I listened to one of them before I knew a damn thing and got banned by AltaVista because of it. Matter of fact; I’d say search engine spam was more prevalent back then. We had Infoseek, Excite, Altavista and Yahoo as major search engines. It was very easy spamming Infoseek. They just didn’t care. Excite and Alta was tougher, but people still spammed them for high positions. It just wasn’t talked about and spammers were pretty much underground. If a spammer wrote something, he was shot down by everyone.

    These days; spammers are praised and touted. People like Danny Sullivan take money from spammers for advertising on his properties and speaking at his conferences, and paying for a booth at his conferences. His conferences now teach spam as well.

    It’s not that there are people moving to becoming a blackhat, but that blackhats are now being praised by leaders like Danny Sullivan and others. Blackhats were much more prevalent way back when though.

    Google needs to get tougher. If they don’t, a new engine will do so. The Google users will get tired of seeing increasing worse results because of Google only penalizing the site they find spamming, and leaving the SEO totally alone who helped the site spam. Not a good thing.

    I think we will find Google WILL get tougher on spammers/blackhats in the near future. I think we will find VERY new things coming from Google. I think they will do the right thing. I think they see what will happen and IS happening with the way things are going now.

  39. Tony Spencer says:

    “ME ó had failed to prepare some of the attendees at that show to understand they were hearing opinions, that they would hear some blackhat stuff and…”

    WTF. Did some marketing exec from BestBuy or Microsoft break out in tears? You make it sound like Jay flashed the beans and franks on stage.

  40. Doug Heil says:

    For an industry who professes to be Professional with integrity, that conference was very irresponsible to that end. The so-called leaders of this industry are very irresponsible as well with all things related to this industry.

    I believe more people than not are actually good. I believe that deep down we all know what is right and what is wrong. For some reason, this industry has lost it’s way over the past …erm, hmm, even one year. I also believe it’s a money thing, and that is very sad.

  41. [...] be going up against some if theyíre trying to rank anything even mildly competitive. And Iím not the only one who feels this [...]

  42. Yes, Doug, money was the thing that seemed likely to have changed your mind over your past criticisms. I’ll remind you of your pitch to me:

    “By merging our views, I believe it would be a great help to our industry as a whole. Let’s face facts; if you continue on with another group, or even with your own group, you will always have that “pesky” IHY group who will be pretty much against many speakers, etc. I have a great way to get rid of all of that, and even keeping your own core people intact in some way.”

  43. Nick Wilsdon says:

    Great article Lisa, you rock as usual.

    I think most of you know where I stand on these issues, but I don’t believe you progress as an SEM by blocking out knowledge. Burning books has never been particularly enlightened.

    I don’t agree that we need “pre-session warnings”. Honestly, if you need someone to tell you Google finds buying links problematic then where have you been this last year? You certainly shouldn’t be advertising your SEO/SEM services.

    Danny’s written an apology though here, which was cool of him.

  44. Doug Heil says:

    Hi Danny, How many times are you going to show the world your class and ethics of posting a private email? That email had zero to do with money. You dislike someone getting over on you, and who doesn’t take criticism in any way. You hate the idea of me being very right about the money thing. I feel sorry for you Danny Sullivan. I really do. I believe deep down you are good, but money has clouded your judgment in a big way. Proof positive is the fact you accept money from spammers for advertising at every turn. You stand with spammers many times and stand against whitehats many times. You can’t take a stand on things having to do with standards or ethics. I do feel sorry for you.

  45. @ Adybee, lol good point about the “sponsored links”, oh the irony =)

    @ Nick. Thanks, you rock too, now fly over to London for the LondonSEO party on Thursday =)And yeah saw Danny’s post this morning, that’s very good! I really respect him for how he has handled the aftermaths of this.

    @ Doug. I would appreciate it if you could refrain from personal attacks in your comments please. It’s kind of vicious and aggressive, and totally not necessary. Thank you.

  46. Nick Wilsdon says:

    @Lisa I’ll have to be there in spirit only I’m afraid – maybe next time ;)

    That’s crazy reading through the old TW post Danny put up. I can’t believe that was only 2006, it seems so much longer.

  47. John Lessnau says:

    @Doug has been on the same fire and brimstone link buying is illegal and unethical rant for at least 5 years now. You got to appreciate his tenacity on the topic.

  48. Tony Spencer says:

    I got the same feeling Nick did about it only being 2 years ago.

    One of the funniest comments in that TW thread from webprofessor:
    “Doug’s links wear berka’s to remain modest and spam free.”

  49. Firetown says:

    Why get personal period? This is all about business. The market will decide. Google is not the ethics police, it’s a business. Google benefits from us and we are benefitting from Google. We all have different ways to do that, so why even bother worrying what someone else is doing?

    Google has a spam control team. Why does Google need our help? And Google people should be thankful whenever some blackhat gives out information. Not just be thankful but get off their butts and learn from it and use that information to know what they’re up against.

    Since when does a multi billion dollar company need our help?

    Sure, Danny apologized and may not give blackhats airtime for a while, but still, there will be more and more a demand for blackhat in the future. It’s funny how my posts on Sphinn initially got so much animosity and now more and more of the anti blackhats email me asking “Where do you think is the best place to learn blackhat?”

    What an ethical industry SEO is. Seriously, guys, everyone seems to be out for himself. Stand up for YOU and don’t worry what the next guy does. Let Google do their job and do whatever feels right for you.


  50. DaveN says:

    whoaaa SMX goes to the Darkside., I heard buying backlinks is Sooooo Evilll.. fucksake …

    Get people banned above is more Blackhat, Jay should have told them about $*%(^&) )&^)_) %$QW*(W_


  51. DaveN says:

    Btw Lisa you won the Best looking Seo ..


  52. MK says:

    @Doug Heil

    First, let me start off by saying, AAHAHAHAAHAHAHHHAHAHHA!

    Now, who’s hiding little man? Not I, that’s for sure. But, because you, Google and the rest of the brady bunch are after all those who wish to earn their paychecks by being creative, id rather remain under the radar, plus the fact that i’m short, fat and bald, very nerdy is also why i don’t want to add a url, i’d hate to get picked on by big ‘ol mean you…ha ha….ha.

    What’s this doing for you? What are you achieving? While you’re ranting on and on sir, clearly proving no point but the one which states you, are full of bs, we’re making money, those you refer to as cheats, con artists, we’re working developing new ways to rank.

    You’re naive because when you refer to me as a BH, you think spammer, cookie stuffer and god knows what else. That’s now what I practice sir, not what a lot of us practice. Stealing is not blackhat seo. period.

    Those that claim to BH’s by stealing are not, and should not be given the pleasure of being called so.

    You really do have something stuck that needs removing from down below sir, really now. Gayness is not the way to go.

  53. Dave (Original) says:

    RE: @ Doug. I would appreciate it if you could refrain from personal attacks in your comments please. Itís kind of vicious and aggressive, and totally not necessary. Thank you

    But posting private emails is just fine? IMO, Doug should abuse Danny $ullivan in all the ways he just did and then sue his greedy blackhat arse.

    Danny $ullivan has driven the entire SEO industry into the gutter for nothing more than his OWN PERSONAL fiscal gain and YOU get on Doug’s case. Amazing.

  54. Doug Heil says:

    My posts are “vicious”? Oh my. I actually thought I was being extremely nice in this thread. I guess other people are nice for posting private email that is misleading? Oh, I know Lisa; you wouldn’t want those people mad at you. That’s OK. It’s easier to just bash Doug. Thanks. BTW: I suggest everyone put a disclaimer in each email saying it’s private when corresponding with anyone in the SEO industry. It’s sad when you assume others have ethics, but really don’t. A few blackhats over the years have emailed me and even called me wanting a truce of some kind. Do you think I have “ever” made anything public or posted names who did? Nope. It’s called ethics and integrity and personal respect.

    Mike (firetown) above knows when I am actually vicious. At least he and many others know I take a stand and stick with it….since 1998 now. Much unlike many who claim to be whitehat, but are not, or who talk out of both sides of their mouth.

  55. Nick Wilsdon says:


    “Danny $ullivan” Ahh I get it, like Micro$oft. Clever.

    I guess you’re young and unaware of the history but Danny’s kinda instrumental in there *being* an SEO industry.

  56. firetown says:

    A lot of people are testing both sides to see what works for them. Sure, the best thing to do is have a business site and a brand and get that thing ranked thru it’s own quality. It does happen, but the fact remains that Google is not fixing the holes. If my neighbor has a 2 Million Dollar mansion that people keep breaking in and won’t spit out 9 bucks an hour for a full time rent a cop, why would I feel bad for him or even want to listen to him complain?

  57. SEO Pune says:

    Congrats on winning SEO Chickbest looking seo, Lisa.

  58. thanks SEOPune, it’s flattering, but I would rather have a title like “respected seo” or even “good seo, that knows her shit” rather than “best looking”. That doesn’t say anything about me really, looks will fade, knowledge will not (ehm unless I get Alzheimerís, touch wood.)FFS I sound like Yoda…

    But thanks anyway whoever voted, although I still think DaveN was drunk when calculating this…Pint in one hand and calculator in the other ;p

  59. @firetown. Good analogy lol ;)

  60. Lena Ňrvik says:

    Lisa, you are so my hero!! :)

  61. [...] addition to that “SEO Chick” Lisa D. wrote a great post which a completely agree with, definitely wort reading. Also be sure to check the comments over [...]

  62. Dave (Original) says:

    RE: I guess youíre young and unaware of the history but Dannyís kinda instrumental in there *being* an SEO industry.

    I’m old and wise and very aware that $ullivan it “instrumental” in there being gutter “SEO industry” with low morals and ethics.

    Looks like he has you fooled though even after posting PRIVATE email in a PUBLIC forum. About the only “instrumental” things $ullivan does is being a tool.

    RE: A lot of people are testing both sides to see what works for them………………….

    Just like a lot of students cheat on their final exams. Or people cheat when playing cards etc.

    RE: If my neighbor has a 2 Million Dollar mansion that people keep breaking in and wonít spit out 9 bucks an hour for a full time rent a cop, why would I feel bad for him or even want to listen to him complain?

    Bad analogy. Google spend millions perpetually in an ongoing effort to rid it SERPS of spam while still meeting it users (searchers) needs. It’s a continuing cat and mouse game.

  63. Russ Jones says:

    The biggest problem with the whitehat-blackhat debate is that it is poorly defined.

    Do whitehat activities and blackhat activities refer to the way a webmaster interacts with web users (visitors and other webmasters) or the way they interact with search engines and bots?

    If we determine our ethics in regard to how we treat users, then we define whitehat and blackhat techniques based upon how they impact those individuals. Content generation, for example, can be part of an ethical strategy because it can improve the rankings of legitimate content that is most relevant and valuable to the user for a particular search phrase. For example, a website that sells cable television subscriptions in 1000 cities would be justified in generating unique content for each page because doing so would assist users in finding their local-relevant information. Link spamming, on the other hand, is unethical under this guideline, because it infringes on the property rights of other webmasters (also a web user). Link-buying, however, can be ethical if the links are relevant. This is also considered a consensual model of ethics.

    This model also informs traditionally whitehat techniques. Your title and meta description ought to accurately describe the content so as to provide informed consent to individuals who are considering your site from the search engines results page.

    However, most whitehat extremists like Doug wrongly believe that the ethical interaction in question is that relationship between webmaster and search engine. They hold that no technique should be employed that violates the ToS or guidelines of the search engines. This is very much akin to choosing your government over your neighbors. You have chosen to abide by a third-party’s set of rules and regulations regardless of whether they may force you to treat others unethically. In the same way that I may choose to jaywalk to push a child out of oncoming traffic, I may also choose to buy links to ensure my client’s FAQ on dangerous drug interactions ranks above an abstract on a similar topic from a medical journal that cannot be accessed without a username and password. Sure, I may be violating a Google-centered ethical model, but I am fulfilling a user-centered ethical model. I am using Google as a method to provide users with better information and, in reality, I am actually improving Google’s results.

    I am not so naive as to believe that the majority of true blackhats ponder over such questions. However, I believe that the average whitehat SEO justifies his or her ethical existence along these lines. And I believe they are right in doing so.

    The truth is, Doug, that the realm of ethics in marketing must consider all parties but, ultimately, must consider the consumer first.

    Google is working very hard to push an ethical model upon webmasters that puts the Search Engines first, not Users, and many have fallen for it.

    The case-in-point is No-Follow. This seemingly innocuous scheme allows webmasters to, by definition, cloak links on behalf of Google. Webmasters present untrustworthy links to their users with no warning, but show Google in the code via nofollow that the link cannot be trusted. Google doesn’t mind you showing untrustworthy content to your users, as long as you don’t impact their rankings. Google only cares about their users, not yours – and they will do everything within their power to see to it that you, as a webmaster, hold those same values.

    Perhaps what is most frustrating about this debate is that it is being pushed most heavily by individuals who at least appear to be ill-equipped to carry on a logical, academic discussion. Instead, we get invective and accusation.

  64. Doug Heil says:

    Hi Russ, That was a very nice post, however; you assume some things that are very much not true at all.

    You are assuming that a whitehat does not think about the end user? The realty is that a true whitehat thinks about the end user of a search engine or any other visitor first… not last or never. It’s first. Let me repeat that; a true whitehat thinks about the end user of a search engine or any other visitor first. I’ve thought that way for over ten years and guess what?; if you do things in that way it just so happens it’s also very good for the search engines. You could debate this with me until the end of time, but won’t get anywhere with it. The above are the facts.

    Again though; you made a nice post. :)

  65. Russ Jones says:

    Thank you for your reply Doug. Hmmm, how do I explain this politely.

    To begin, your statement that “the above are facts” is actually a common logical fallacy known as a “Hasty Generalization”.

    What you have done is taken an non-representative sample (your anecdotal experiences, your perception of what is right for the user, and your perception of what the search engines view is right) and jumped to the generalization that what is right for the user is right for the search engines.

    What is puzzling is that I have already presented a situation above where this is simply not the case – where a user would find a complex, password-protected journal article for a keyword rather than a page that provides the same, if not better, information for free. For some reason you chose to ignore this counter-example and instead, simply restated your point. It is as if you said Roses are Red, and I showed you a yellow rose, and your response was, Roses are Red.

    You use Google’s guidelines to dictate how you behave, without questioning whether those behaviors may negatively impact a user. I do agree with you that a “true whitehat thinks about the enduser of a search engine or any other visitor first”. You, however, do not. Google’s guidelines are not an acceptable substitute.

    Do you use nofollow on your site? your clients’ sites? Do you show your users links that you would not entrust to Google? How is this not putting Google first?

    Furthermore, your position that we could “debate till the end of time” indicates that not only do you believe these to be facts, but that they are immutable facts. This, in itself, indicates that your position is far more akin to a religious belief than a logical conclusion. For example, the search engines could change their policies and begin to inject paid listings directly into the otherwise organic results. Clearly, at that point, participating in such a program would be negative to the user but well within the search engine guidelines.

    Doug, I truly hope that you will take the time to thoughtfully reconsider. You have a strong voice in the SEO community, and clearly a knack for marketing, but your positions are embarrassingly intellectually false. And worse, they are keeping you from becoming a more effective SEO.

  66. John Lessnau says:

    @russ You will never change Doug’s tune. Over the top anti-blackhat raving has it has been his shtick for serveral years now and he gets tons of attention and business because of his blackhat bashing.

    It is genius when you thing about it…

    It keeps him on Google’s good side and makes his niche of clients feel warm and fuzzy.

  67. Doug Heil says:

    Hi Russ, you wrote:

    “What is puzzling is that I have already presented a situation above where this is simply not the case – where a user would find a complex, password-protected journal article for a keyword rather than a page that provides the same, if not better, information for free. For some reason you chose to ignore this counter-example and instead, simply restated your point.”

    Ok fine; allow me to directly answer this then. First off; it’s a not so knowledgeable designer who would do it this way. Wouldn’t it be much more user-friendly to show at least one juicy paragraph of that article that is NOT password protected? Sort of like a teaser thang? It sure would be. In fact; not only would it be more user friendly, but it would also be more search engine friendly as well. That’s what I mean by putting your users first. I do this all day long and have done so for a long time. Why would you want an article totally hidden by a login screen anyway? Even if it’s a paid article, etc, why not show some content that is open and public to everyone and everything? You can a bad example there Russ, but I do know where you are coming from.

    My point is that you can do most anything you can think of by putting the user first… and it’s just fine and dandy for that se as well.

    Second; Maybe you do not read what I write too often, but I’ve said multiple times that I do not read the G guidelines as as really see no need to do so. In fact; google just put up some new stuff they say is more clear. I thought their guidelines 5 years ago were clear enough. I have no need to read them now either.

    BTW; you wrote this:

    “Do you use nofollow on your site? your clientsí sites? Do you show your users links that you would not entrust to Google?”

    My answers:
    No. No. No. I have no reason to stick up a link on a client site that the client did not trust. But yeah, members might sneak a forum post with a live link on it, but we usually find them and delete them. Besides; se’s pretty much ignore forum comment links.

    I really have no desire to stick up links I don’t trust or my visitors wouldn’t think we great resources. After all; doesn’t putting your visitors first mean that you post links for your visitors as well? Yep.

    Again Russ; you can debate this with me all you wish, but you won’t sway my thinking on this issue. People have tried to change me since day one with no success. :) Unlike many in this industry, I don’t sway with the current public opinion polls of what this SEO wrote or that one promotes. I don’t back down from my stances on anything. I won’t tell one audience one thing and turn around to tell the other something else.

  68. Doug Heil says:

    Hi John, you wrote:

    “it keeps him on Googleís good side and makes his niche of clients feel warm and fuzzy”

    Yes, I’ve found that most people/site owners don’t like unethical/blackhat helping their sites… so you are correct about that. I don’t about the Google thing though, as I know Google has many best friends who are blackhats and who have their ear almost daily. Also, I’m one of the very few who bashes Google all the time for allowing blackhats to continue advertising through adwords, and taking money through adsense, even though the same blackhats had sites banned by Google. I don’t feel it’s right at all. I also don’t feel that Google is tough enough on penalties or bans. So on Google’s good side? If they have one I wouldn’t be the first or second or tenth SEO on that good side, if at all.

  69. Russ Jones says:

    I am not sure why you responded as you did. My example was that the top ranking page was to the abstract of a journal article that is password protected. IE: the user can see the description once they click through, but get no value from visiting the page. Your site, on the other hand, offers the complete content for free, but is outranked – perhaps because the journal article abstract is hosted on a .edu. Buying links to promote your content over theirs actually improves the user’s experience by seeing to it the more complete, relevant information is ranked at the top of the results.

    The pro-user ethical response is to rank above the poor content that is currently #1 using any available technique that does not harm other users or webmasters.

    The pro-search-engine ethical response is to restrict yourself to techniques that may not accomplish the goal.

    This understanding of consensual ethics requires that you adjust your terminology of what is blackhat and what is whitehat.

    And, actually, you do use nofollow. It is used on your blog to manage links coming from users who post comments. . It appears you don’t really take much time to update your blog, which was last updated 10 months ago.

    You are, Doug, a true conservative though. I am impressed that, even if faced with an obvious truth, you would not back down from your false position. I am not saying that is necessarily the case here, but I think you have made it clear to us, the community, and your clients – that once you have made up your mind (which apparently you did 5 years ago), you won’t “back down”. I hope you didn’t decide what browser was best back then – I would hate for you to still be using IE.

  70. firetown says:

    RE: If my neighbor has a 2 Million Dollar mansion that people keep breaking in and wonít spit out 9 bucks an hour for a full time rent a cop, why would I feel bad for him or even want to listen to him complain?

    Bad analogy. Google spend millions perpetually in an ongoing effort to rid it SERPS of spam while still meeting it users (searchers) needs. Itís a continuing cat and mouse game.

    It’s not the amount you spend, it’s about what you spend it on and most of all how you prioritize. Funny who quick people are to jump on Danny but would never dare pointing out where Google is lacking something.

  71. firetown says:

    To clarify my last comment:

    1st part is What I posted, second part Mr. Naylor and 3rd my response to that!

  72. firetown says:

    Lisa, it doesn’t matter what you initially get known for, as time goes by you’ll be known for what you are, whatever that may be :)

  73. Dave (Original) says:


    Do some “SEO profesional” REALLY think Google gives more long term weight to pages optimized for Search Engines over pages optimized for humans?

    Common sense tells me that Google ranks pages optimized for humans and EARN one-way links based on merit of content, WELL above those optimized for a Search Engine.

    You see, what Doug and a select few others KNOW is, Humans use Google to search and **Google put’s it users 1st and foremost**. Take a leaf from Google’s book and you too can stop playing guessing/cat & mouse games with Search Engines.

    Think long term and optimize your pages for humans and nothing more is required.

  74. Dave (Original) says:

    RE: It keeps him on Googleís good side and makes his niche of clients feel warm and fuzzy.

    It also keeps clients on page 1 for Google SERPs and they NEVER have to check their rankings or request those silly “reports” that most SEO supply to clients to justify their over-the-top fees.

    This will come as a shock to most SEO “Pros” (cough) that, like Google, Doug puts his clients 1st.

  75. Dave (Original) says:

    RE: Itís not the amount you spend, itís about what you spend it on and most of all how you prioritize. Funny who quick people are to jump on Danny but would never dare pointing out where Google is lacking something.

    Where did I say it’s the amount that counts? In regards to “prioritize” they put they users 1st and foremost and that in turn gives them the right balance.

    The facts are, Google has a balance to find and shareholders and users (searchers) to answer to. Their history and the fact they ARE still the most popular SE on the Planet, proves beyond doubt, they have got the mix pretty well down-pat.

    I would love the opportunity to “jump” on $ullivan and like Doug, I voice my negative opinions on Google frequently. But of course, you wouldn’t let facts stand in the way of good story :)

  76. Doug Heil says:

    Hi John, You are very right; I have about 400 comments waiting to be moderated on that blog. I’m going to take it off the site as I have no time for it whatsoever with the forums, etc.

    Ok; I read your example wrong. But again John; that’s easy for me. I don’t call that cloaking at all. Cloaking is very specific and has to do with showing content that “only” a spider sees. What you describe is showing password protected content that BOTH a spider sees and a user who is already logged in will see. Not cloaking. I could do the same darn thing for the paid/private part of my forums and not blink an eye. However; I don’t feel it’s right for a search engine to show a listing in the SERPS like that without a disclaimer saying you must pay to see the content or already be a member.

    I hope that answered your questions sufficiently. :)

  77. [...] SMX thinks Advanced SEO [...]

  78. evpstud says:

    I think the realms between black and white hat SEO are blending since Google is constantly trying to stop SEO’s from getting the results they work for because that removes Google’s “control”

    I believe that eventually, there will only be “black hat” SEO because Google will outlaw just about anything webmasters can do to optimize their sites beyond writing attractive content. Then there will be no more “white hat” SEO and just good publishing.

  79. Firetown says:

    From what I see, attractive content is no longer enough. It helps, but the first few pages of the SERPs for just about any keyterm are so full of sites spending high figures on linkbuilding and SEO, the good content sites can no longer compete. Web promoters are choosing different avenues to generate revenue and targeted traffic. Remember when the numeber 1 result for was a totally non commercial hobby site with great content? Those days will never come back. More and more clients are asking me now to focus on Social Network promotions as well as Pay per click. Many blackhats are finding keyterms easy to get yet generating much more traffic in combination and quantity of terms than a tough keyword would get.
    The days of idealism on Google’s part are over.
    This is the era of survival of the fittest. Sure, if you have an authority site then you don’t need to do anything to get Google’s blessings. But if you don’t, you either stand on the sidelines or think outside of the SEO box to keep your business alive.

  80. Marty says:

    @evpstud: Yes, Google would prefer that we be SEO secretaries and limited crawlability technicians. They intend that the linking universe be anarchy and the only predictable “SEO” options be THEIR universal search verticals(labor intensive)and AdWords.

  81. Are you selling this tshirt? :)

  82. swapna khade says:

    This is really good article to know about black hat.

  83. [...] outstanding material, and I’m sorry my poor response to the criticism may have made them feel abandoned, upset or that I was embarrassed to have them take part. It was a terrible thing to say [...]

  84. [...] I got a decent amount of comments on. I also wrote a blogpost a few years back on SEO chicks about black hats which got quite a lot of attention (although some arse- biscuit highjacked the [...]

Leave a Reply