Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The White Hat Vs. Black Hat Search Engine Optimization Debate is BS

That's the word from the CAC2006 conference in Amsterdam.

Rasmus Srrensson from Notabene.net, a 25 person search engine optimization firm in Denmark, proclaimed "there is no black hat or white hat search engine optimization. It is all just risk assessment", in his presentation to the audience of affiliates and sponsor companies.

Rasmus suggested you ask yourself: "are willing to have your site dropped? If no, maybe you shouldn't even be trying to rank in search engines... Search engine spamming and black hat SEO techniques are not illegal."

The CAC is the Casino Affiliate Conference. It is held twice annually, once in Las Vegas and once in Amsterdam. Over 600 affiliates and sponsor online gaming companies congregate to share information and make new business deals.

I feel that to be best the field of search engine optimization, one needs to be understand be able to apply the techniques of the best search optimizers in the world. The decision to go to the CAC2006 in Amsterdam was not a mistake.

By far the hottest topic this year is search engine optimization. The companies and affiliates that manage to secure the top positions for the most trafficked phrases are scoring the biggest new customers wins. With the worldwide online gaming market estimated to be somewhere between 15 and 30 billion dollars (USD) annually, the competition for search engine rankings is among the highest in the world.

Search optimization is all grey hat
Clearly, if so called "black hat search engine optimization techniques" are not illegal, then the option is available to all competitors in any industry. The most aggressive will likely use it and probably dominate the search engine results.

Rasmus has a good point. If you are concerned about your search engine rankings, and especially if you are in an already highly competitive online category, you need to be aware of the options available to you and your competitors to compete in the search engines.

Black and white are far too polarized terms to describe search engine optimization techniques. In reality, everything is a shade of grey. Often it's not what you do, but how you do it that makes it lighter or darker in the spectrum.

Take content for example. Increasing site content is an important factor in search engine optimization. The kind of content that you create, or how you create it, makes it black hat or white hat. Pure white hat would be adding relevant articles that you created from company resources. Pure black hat would be creating portals by scraping content off of other sites and mixing it up with other content so as to be unique.

The realist, the grey hat SEO, understands that in order to provide quality content for the user, and compete with the pure black hat optimizers, it must take a more aggressive approach to search engine optimization.

The grey hat SEO asks himself:
Where can I find quality content of interest to my audience?

  • Quality on topic blogs with RSS feeds?
  • News feeds?
  • Press release feeds?
  • Articles from other sites?
  • Partners: customers, suppliers, friends?

How can I create a page, or whole sections of content, targeted specifically at a two, three or four word phrase that I am most interested in?

How can I maximize the use of this content? Can I reuse bits and pieces of different content sources randomly to increase the uniqueness of each page? This is important if you have hundreds or thousands of pages targeting very specific, but similar phrases.

Can I create geographically targeted content? For example, can I build a separate page for each town and city that you sell in (taking care to have unique content on each page), and linking them all up through the site map for the search engines to find?

Should I create a portal for my industry? Can I create enough content to make a valuable industry resource, and then use it as both an advertising vehicle for my own site and a search optimization playground?

Does having a portal - or multiple portals - allow me to better take on the "black hat" seo competition without risking my own site's reputation?

These are just a few of the options for content alone. Then there is the actual optimization and linking strategies to consider. What about blogspam, linkspam, logspam and hijacking? What do you need to know about these activities?

What everyone needs to know:
  • the competitive landscape for your industry
  • the options available and potential rewards of each option
  • and costs and the risks of each option

To know these you will likely need a competent search engine optimization company. Not just a web design firm that knows how to make the meta tags correctly, submit your site to a bunch of search engines and make a monthly report. You need a company that understands the whole search engine optimization landscape.

My company, Agito Internet Marketing, specializes in SEO for small and medium mainstream businesses for the purposes of lead generation and online sales. If you are looking for a Toronto search engine optimization company, please contact me.

1 comment:

Rasmus Sørensen said...

Thanks for the mention Keith. I'm glad you liked my presentation eventhough it was centered about a smaller market in the casino affiliate sector.

You raise some valid points in your post and I of course still agree that it is all a matter of valuating your risk when you dabble into the world of SEO.

After the conference I had some great discussions on the black/white hat controversy and it seemed most agree that gaining the top search engine spots on the casino world takes a little more than a good title and a few links.

Actually I think I was Tim Mayer from Yahoo! that on a SES conference in 2004 said that:"

If you're being entirely organic and going after 'Viagra,' it's like taking a sword to a gunfight. You just aren't going to rank."

That's a very good way to put it imo :)