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Old 12-26-2004   #21
Dave Hawley
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Where would one draw the line in the sand on 'black hat'? Seems to me like a 'black hat forum' would attract all the wrong sort of attention and crowd.
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Old 12-26-2004   #22
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Originally Posted by Dave Hawley
Where would one draw the line in the sand on 'black hat'? Seems to me like a 'black hat forum' would attract all the wrong sort of attention and crowd.
presumably that would be a moderator issue; whatever the mods/admins say. i think the definition of black hat would grow and be clarified a bit through a communal discussion as well.
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Old 12-26-2004   #23
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Cool They could play with your mind

Let's assume for a moment that all "black hats" are very bad people.

Would you trust what they posted in an open forum?
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Old 12-26-2004   #24
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Let's assume for a moment that all "black hats" are very bad people.

Would you trust what they posted in an open forum?
let's assume that black hats do exist, and that they currently post on forums.

can you trust anything you see on a forum?
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Old 12-26-2004   #25
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I think it's just as much of a waste of time to start a "white hat" thread and hope "black hats'" don't say anything on it as the reverse would be.

My major problem with a lot of the white hat/black hat stuff is that it's one of the quickest ways to derail a thread in this industry.

One thing I have noticed is that sometimes someone will start talking about a black hat technique and people will start discussing it, and finally some white hat stops by and points out that this is black hat/risky/etc and then some newbie lurker will often go "Really?! This could be dangerous?"

For every lurker that actually posts, there are usually about 1000 that don't but were thinking the same thing.

"Black Hats" talk about making informed choices and risk management all the time, but in practice threads and posts regarding BH techniques tend to focus on the technique rather than the risk.

The only way I could see a pure BH thread/forum being useful would be if it was invitation only, and only highly experienced people who know SEO risk managment inside and out being allowed in. And if that's the case, why not have a mailing list rather than a forum?

Risk managment is part of SEO. It's critical to the BH business model and yet it's the area most often ignored or neglected in discussions of BH techniques. And saying "oh, by the way, this is risky" isn't exactly disclosure. Life in general is risky. You need specifics. Even pure WH techniques can be risky under certain circumstances.

My preference would be to discuss BH techniques but also encourage free, frank and full disclosure of the risks at the same time. This often requires both "hats" showing up and discussing it.

The reverse is also true. There have been some WH discussions that have benifited greatly from a BH persective and I, for one, appreciate it.

My personal opinion,

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Old 12-26-2004   #26
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a black hat area is so desperately needed
So start your own forum somewhere that doesn't involve Danny's excellent reputation and my money (yes I'm a subscriber here) to provide cover for the crap that will likely be discussed.
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Old 12-26-2004   #27
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So start your own forum somewhere that doesn't involve Danny's excellent reputation and my money (yes I'm a subscriber here) to provide cover for the crap that will likely be discussed.
i suppose that's one way of looking at it, and as i stated in a previous post, i may in fact go for that. of course, a wiser way of looking at it would be that it'd be better for the seo community in general if there wasnt another forum -- the market is already saturated with enough of them -- but rather if the existing ones found better ways of differentiating themselves. but of course it will be the decision of danny/elisabeth and whoever else is involved in those kinds of decisions....just my two cents, although i think it's pretty obvious that there is a void in the seo community, a demand to fill that void, and an opportunity for anyone who can manage to successfully fill it. SEW is, in my opinion, the best seo/sem forum out there, so personally i think it'd be great to see this community expand.

i'm not really so sure as to why this incites anger in people. if you dont like, dont click.

of course this thread has gotten a fair amount of activity since it was started....hmm, maybe the idea is interesting after all......
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Old 12-26-2004   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
Risk managment is part of SEO. It's critical to the BH business model and yet it's the area most often ignored or neglected in discussions of BH techniques. And saying "oh, by the way, this is risky" isn't exactly disclosure. Life in general is risky. You need specifics. Even pure WH techniques can be risky under certain circumstances.

My preference would be to discuss BH techniques but also encourage free, frank and full disclosure of the risks at the same time. This often requires both "hats" showing up and discussing it.

The reverse is also true. There have been some WH discussions that have benifited greatly from a BH persective and I, for one, appreciate it.

My personal opinion,

Ian
give it up, ya'll: mcanerin just hit the nail on the head. it's really more about risk than about white hat/black hat stuff. white hat/black hat is terminology for those who believe in morals, which is nice and all, i suppose, but generally irrelevant. risk, on the other hand, is something everyone should pay attention to, as it affects your reality.
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Old 12-26-2004   #29
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Morals are never irrelevant, even for SEO work. Techniques follow from principles after all.
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Old 12-26-2004   #30
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Morals are never irrelevant, even for SEO work. Techniques follow from principles after all.
i'm not sure i follow. seo techniques are based on on-page optimization and link building. how do those stem from morals/principles?

the other issue is that what is moral and what is immoral can be a very personal issue, so i question who has the right to say what is moral and what is immoral.

the other thing i'd like to remind people about is the state of search back in the late nineties. the quality of search results was horrendous. you could type in anything into yahoo or altavista and early on in your search results you'd find some porn pages, thanks largely in part to "unethical" seo tactics. that brought about the substantial demand for a better search engine, which in turn led to google. without google, a lot of seo's would be out of business -- white hats included.

i'd like to think that the internet and search engines in particular are far from done in terms of growing and improving their algorithms. "unethical" tactics help to identify weaknesses in search engines and bring them to the search engines' attention so that they can fix them. in the end, it is evolutionary advancement that everyone seeks -- white hats, black hats, gray hats, no hats. everyone. an open discussion of all tactics is the best way to ensure the evolution of search engines. if some people are offended by certain tactics or find them distasteful, that's fine; to each their own. although there is clearly a demand to discuss the "evil" techniques and corresponding issues. personally, i'm all in favor of seeing that discussion take place here at SEW, where the community is already established and there are many, many community members who have so much information and experience to share.
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Old 12-27-2004   #31
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If Only That Were True

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You will also find that 'blackhat' SEOs are dedicated to their client base - they don't drop them when the results go south & and the clients' don't drop the SEO when results go south = together they share the risk and enjoy the rewards and have action plans in place to immediate handle dramatic drops...
I don't dispute that such loyalty exists, but it certanly does not exist as an acceptable generalization.

Black Hat was named after the 'evil ones' who took the money and ran, leaving their clients overspent and underGoogled.

Indeed, if 'twere usually true, would they not be called "Gold Hats"?
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Old 12-27-2004   #32
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Originally Posted by Quadrille
I don't dispute that such loyalty exists, but it certanly does not exist as an acceptable generalization.

Black Hat was named after the 'evil ones' who took the money and ran, leaving their clients overspent and underGoogled.

Indeed, if 'twere usually true, would they not be called "Gold Hats"?
At the same time 'white' should be 24Kt Gold Hats - but the general scope of SEO in totality it is not a mainstream advertising and promotion method that has the 'clout' of TV, Radio, Newspapers, etc.

If it had, there would be a regulatory system in place to govern what you can and can't do.

Black/White discussions often get mixed in with 'ethics', 'cost', deliverables', and 'return' or 'lack there of' and 'white' hasn't proven itself 100% that no matter the contract, no matter the industry, no matter the market, and no matter the servicing company - it doesn't get the same bad press that black can produce.

As such 'white' isn't a better way - just another way.
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Old 12-27-2004   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadrille
Black Hat was named after the 'evil ones' who took the money and ran, leaving their clients overspent and underGoogled.
I believe the terminology comes from security programming - aka, hacking - to differentiate those who used their talents for "illegitimate" coding (blackhat) activities, as opposed to "legitimate" (whitehat). Quite possibly derived from the old Mad Magazine cartoon, Spy vs Spy, to illustrate the antagonism of the practices.

I'm under the impression the terminology was carried over into SEO to differentiate those working "within" search engine guidelines (whitehat), as opposed to those working outside of them (blackhat).

Ultimately, the terminology represents rather artificial extremes - as the Google webmaster guidelines make clear, doing anything for "search engines" as opposed to "human users" is to step outside the letter of the guidelines.

So, really we're all just different shades of grey.

I don't believe that either "whitehat" or "blackhat" at all refers to actual business relationships of practices or customer ethics - "whitehat" practices can entirely fail to deliver on the investment, just as "blackhat" can backfire if handled without proper care.

And I believe "blackhat" tactics such as "cloaking" are covered in the SEW members only area.

Irrelevant 2c.
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Old 12-28-2004   #34
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Up To A Point, Lord Copper ...

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I'm under the impression the terminology was carried over into SEO to differentiate those working "within" search engine guidelines (whitehat), as opposed to those working outside of them (blackhat).
and
Quote:
I don't believe that either "whitehat" or "blackhat" at all refers to actual business relationships of practices or customer ethics - "whitehat" practices can entirely fail to deliver on the investment, just as "blackhat" can backfire if handled without proper care.
There's some confusion here; Yes, white hat can fail to deliver and yes, black hat may 'get away with it' for far too long.

But customer ethics is central to the distinction. White Hat works within the guidelines, Black Hat outside them. Already Black Hat is in shady territory.

But go further; in most cases, Black Hat is working without the customers consent to the tricks; without informed consent, anyway. Black trades on having the expertise; the customer just has the money. Black Hat depends on the client not understanding where the guidelines end, or, worse, not understanding the risks being taken with their site.

But all this is old news; point is, you are either White Hat (working within guidelines, being honest with Google and the client). Or you are 'beyond the pale' Call it what you like, but Black Hat is as good as any other color; everyone knows what it means; it's never out of fashion. If you live the life, wear the hat with pride.
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Old 12-28-2004   #35
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Quadrille, I very much disagree with you. How you chose to produce results and how you do business with your clients are two very different things. I have seen very professional handling of clients and the oposite in both camps.

In terms of evaluating risks the fact is that long-term experience in how search engines are actually dealing with these issues is worth a lot more than just claiming you follow the guidelines.

I have done work for many very large companies and with the long-term nature of such projects I can not rely on weak and ever changing guidelines put up the engines. I have to rely on my experience in what works and where the real risks are. If you claim you don't take risks because you follow the guidelines to the letter that is in my mind fooling the clint and in fact much more "black hat" (if you like) than anything usually refered to as such.

What I don't understand is why anyone would want to brand themself as "whitehat".

- Where are all the white hat lawyers? - I can't find them
- Where are all the white hat off line marketing agencies? - Can't find them either
- Where are the white hat accountants? hehehe!

The clients that hire me want to make sure I know the trade very well and all tactics used. Just like you would expect your accountant to know about every single tax loophole there is. That dosn't mean you have to use it all but how can you develop or evaluate any strategy for a client if you chose to ignore large part of the landscape even before you start? Sorry, but I don't get it.

If you want to call me a Black Hat for that, fine. I am actualy proud of the fact that I know my trade very well.
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Old 12-28-2004   #36
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Just like you would expect your accountant to know about every single tax loophole there is. That dosn't mean you have to use it all but how can you develop or evaluate any strategy for a client if you chose to ignore large part of the landscape even before you start? Sorry, but I don't get it.
'Loophole' is a gray word - in accountant terms, the difference is 'tax minimisation' V 'tax evasion'.

As Ian said - its all about risk, and understanding the risk reward tradeoff.

As best as I can tell, milliners don't even congregate based on specialisation in white or black...
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Old 12-28-2004   #37
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Lots of great comments, but I think David's earlier one probably sums up my feelings best:

Quote:
I think you will find a wide variety of topics discussed here, both what some would call black hat and white hat as well as everything in between. That is because the membership here is comprised of black hats, white hats and hats with shades of grey
I suspect that if some particular technique needs to be discussed, we'd all look at it regardless of hat. I think if someone wanted to discuss a particular technique or a portfolio of techniques to assess risk or whatever, they should be able to do that now.

There is an issue that if you were dealing with a black hat topic, as DaveN aptly points out, the technique under discussion can get hijacked with a discussion of ethics.

We've been through that here before, and the way we're handling it now is to split the topic. If the discussion is about a technique, how it works etc, the focus stays on that. If someone wants to have an ethical discussion of the technique, that can split into a new thread.

But what DaveN also rightly points out is that no public forum is going to successfully have a "black hat" area operate. If you discuss publicly specific techniques, in particular loopholes, that search engines can detect, then they shut those down. There mere act of going public shines some light on the black stuff you want to try, making it potentially die a quick death.

It's a tricky issue, though. Cloaking is seen by many as black hat. But we've discussed cloaking plenty here. I think that's because it's a tactic that the search engines have difficulty detecting -- and frankly in some cases, they don't even care.

After the new year, my write-up on SES Chicago and our black hat/white hat session will look at this more. A tactic seen as "black" for one circumstance or query might not seem so black even to a search engine in another one. Or in other words, it's not always the tactic but the intend. Did you black hat with the intent to mislead a searcher? A search engine is much more concerned about that than using a "black hat" tactic to solve an indexing problem that some might argue is a search engine failing.

In the end, my own hesitancy in wanting to start a black hat area is that I would never want someone new to search engines to dive in there, thinking they now have all the "secrets" to success. People need to learn the basics of SEO first, and those basics in my view are good content, good on page optimization and good link building. Many people can do these steps first, can still do lots of simple and non-controversial things and get success. That's where they should start -- but if you had a black hat area, folks would go right there. And black hat is hard -- it's constantly fighting to find the latest loophole that is probably way overkill for lots of people.

But I do want people to understand black hat issues, of course. We've done that in our conferences and as part of my own writing, where I think the context has been to help educate people about the broader things that are going on. Some may want to go further. Some may simply want to understand better so they can make an educated decision on why they may not want to go that route. So discussion here of these topics is part of that experience, and I wouldn't want it to go away. I just think it's probably best integrated as part of the forums overall.
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Old 12-28-2004   #38
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What I don't understand is why anyone would want to brand themself as "whitehat".
- Where are all the white hat lawyers? - I can't find them
- Where are all the white hat off line marketing agencies? - Can't find them either
- Where are the white hat accountants? hehehe!
If you want to call me a Black Hat for that, fine. I am actualy proud of the fact that I know my trade very well.
Taking those points in order;

By branding yourself 'whitehat' you are stating that you will adhere to guidelines; you will possess (and display) a code of your practice, and you will be prepared to take responsibility for your actions (not blame Google when things go belly up!)

I'm not in the business of defending those others; but the key difference is that their professions have some regulation; SEO has none.

Which brings me to the final point - I'm not calling you anything. My point is all about self description. In the absence of any external regualation, self labelling is all we've got.

I note in this thread (and elsewhere) all those who routinely defend 'black hat' techniques, also claim to be shades of grey. I don't think I've ever seen anyone say "I'm Black Hat" (apologies if I've missed it). Those who are proud to call themselves whte hat never call for shades of gray. I wonder why this difference

In fact, the only real difference is that anyone who criticizes BlackHat gets negative points, anonymously, which is a shame, isn't it?
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Old 12-28-2004   #39
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Those who are proud to call themselves whte hat never call for shades of gray.
Yes, and that is exactly the problem
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Old 12-28-2004   #40
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Originally Posted by Quadrille

In fact, the only real difference is that anyone who criticizes BlackHat gets negative points, anonymously, which is a shame, isn't it?
hey count your blessings, buddy. some of us would die for some negative rep.
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