Black Hat, White Hat & Lots of Gray

Dec 14, 2004 - 1:54 pm 0 by
Filed Under SES Chicago 2004

Danny kicks off the session, wearing a tan cowboy hat. He said that they do not know if they have the answers to these questions, but they will begin talking about it.

Jill Whalen was first up representing the white hats. She posted a picture of Scottie and herself with halos over their heads and Greg and Todd with devil horns. Very funny. So who is better? She wouldn't and couldn't say. Big time spammers are in affiliate marketing, viarga and gambling are where the black hats are found. If its in your email as spam they do it. Black hats are not for most, real businesses with real sites should not use it. That was it from Jill.

Alan Perkins, an other white hatter was up, Danny says the white knight of the white hatters. He put up a chart to show the difference between white and black has. - Black hats deploy content and links from search engines to see versus humans to see. - Visibility to humans for black hats, its hidden, white hats its visible. - Quality of Work for black hats are hidden, and white hats are visible. - Search engines are black hats enemies and white hats friends. - Domains and Brands are disposable for black hats and cherished by white hats. - Site and relevance apparently not improved for black hats, and what hats they are approved (this is from his slide). - Results are more short term for black hatters and long term for white hatters. - Ethical techniques are not used by black hats, only white hats. :) - Legal, Alan say "no?" for black hats and "yes?" for white hats.

Alan said he feels some tactics are illegal such as not having a site that is accessible to all (disabled) and deceptive advertising.

Mikkel Svendsen was next up, he is representing the gray hat. He showed some hysterical hats, just too funny. Mikkel, hook those slides up please. Mikkel quoted "It's a war out there". He said there are many ways to win a war. You do not have to be number one for a search on casino to be a successful casino company. Keep things in perspective, what kind of risk do you take with your brand today. Would Enron deploy black hat methods? :) Are you on the right path? He said more bigger brands should use black hat techniques and smaller companies white hats. Then Mikkel showed a picture of dark vander.

Todd Friesen, Oliman, was introduced as the black hat. He said there are very few black hats that are 100% black hats. He first explained a bit about referral log spamming. If you see that you have referrals from adult sites, that means your log files are wide open. Make sure to lock your stats folder or else he (or other black hats) will use it to link spam. Auto generated gibberish, a very good tool to generate content targeting content. They would take these content sets and cloak the content. They would screen scrap the content and repackage it. Then deliver different pages to the search engine and human. Flash sites is one area where the black hats travel into the white hat area. Laundering your visitors via IP, sending your visitors to the right page based on the IP referral. If your going to cloak, do the IP based method. An other good place to cloak is a member's access forum, and they did this with the supporters forum for WebmasterWorld. He then said the search engines cloak as well. Buying sites, PR and Link is no longer black hat only. Buying sites for PR to pass to your network. Buying off topic links for the PR the link will pass. Buying bulk links in large networks for the anchor text boost. At the end of the day be aware of the tactics competitors are using in your space, also be prepared to use those same tactics to compete. You must use SEO tactics (black or white) to a degree that is relative to your search space.

Greg Boser was the final speaker, to talk about the black hat side of things. His slides sport a black background. He said this is a long going debate, something he dislikes getting into. He said that there needs to be more honesty. SEM = Search Engine Manipulation. He said it is upsetting that our industry wont admit it. We are all here to learn here to learn how to be better at manipulating the results. My site or my client site isnt really the most relevant. the site sin the top 10 arent the most relevant always. After he is done with his job, he convinced the search engines that the pages are more relevant - but they are not. White hat SEO in Greg's opinion is content manipulation (if you write a way that differs from how you talk, then it is content manipulation). Gray Hat; technical solutions to overcome obstacles put in place by incompetent web designers. Corporate America does this all the time to make their sites more visible. Black Hat; full algorithmic assault. Finding and exploiting all possible algorithmic holes. SE guidelines play no role in determining course of action. He explains that he might not go full force black hat for a corporate client. Is aggressive SEM bad for your brand? He posted some logos of very famous companies that got caught spamming. He said a lot of people in the white hat spectrum use fear talk because they are afraid to get into the market. He said probably more white hat content has gotten banned, then IP based cloaked pages. Who is really Evil? The SEO companies that dont tell the client what they are doing and how they are doing it. He explains that you need to be transparent with your client about the risks and rewards. Full disclosure is a must!

Alan disagrees with Mikkel's war analogy because you can have lots of winners in business. He won't get into the "good or evil" debate.

Q & A:

Q: How is affiliate marketing black hat? A: Jill says its because many affiliate marketing sites are extremely competitive. Jill won't take on sites that are extremely competitive. Greg says PPC, pills porn casinos. Greg says that affiliate marketing is not evil in itself, but it happens to be a very competitive area on search. He said eBay has a tons of spammers on the pay roll, meaning they provide tools for the affiliate marketers to spam. Danny adds that AdSense is not helping the cause with creating bad content.

Q: How do you know when you have been banned? And how do you correct it? A: Do a site command at Google to see and watch your log files. If your banned, clean it up and email Google and the search engines for re-inclusion. Or create a new domain name. Also speak with the search reps at this conference.

Q: Can you differentiate between Yahoo and Google with black hat? A: Greg said the person with the most links wins. Google now takes a bit longer with newer sites. The new MSN has new opportunities for you.

Q: Text links brokerage are in the exhibit hall, is that black? A: He said it depends on where you buy your links, relevant versus non relevant links.

Greg said he has so little tolerance for those companies that do low class redirection and then call it ethical, high standards. Be honest!

Greg says that the search engines don't owe him anything, he has an AdWords budget waiting to be used for when they change the search algorithms. Jill says that Florida did not change the rules of the game. Mikkel responds to that saying Google in 2001 added the nocache option, so stupid cloakers used it and a few months later, Google delisted all sites that used the nocache tag. Todd also says that the search engines owe us nothing in terms of the organic listings.


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