In my last business I had just over 37,000 customers. I bent over backwards a few times but I managed to keep around 36,990 of them happy (anyone who tells you they kept ALL of their customers is either lying or has been unreasonably taken advantage of). 100% of my business stemmed through search. I was fortunate enough to take on several clients over the years that witnessed my success online and wanted it for themselves. I have a healthy portfolio of clients I do SEO for and they actually profit from it.
Anyways, I’ve seen this cool infographic below floating around lately. I’ve been online since the late 80s, I’ve owned hardware repair companies, worked in IT, am a certified network engineer and have studied a lot of network security, firewalls, intrusion detection, etc. Nearly everything I know about network security I learned from hackers. If you like to read check out my favorite quarterly 2600 or the book Hacking Exposed. The best penetration testing utilities are written by hackers. Almost all white hat hackers decided at one point that they would be better off making $150k/yr than sitting in a prison cell – and most importantly, there are no computers in prison! Much of what I know about SEO came from black hats. I have people I monitor in the black hat world. I know grown adults who practice black hat techniques and make a very good living doing it- we’re talking a stay at home spouse, a few kids, retirement fund, the whole 9. Of course, I would never use black hat techniques for myself or a client. But they are very real and they do work (briefly). This infographic makes black hats out to look stupid. Let me tell you, they are not. Sure, any moron can spam the Internet and make a site rank. That is not a true black hat SEO. That is like calling a 12yr old that broke your wireless router’s encryption a hacker. Far from it. Back in the day these people were called “script kiddies”. They were certainly not 31337 hax0rz (elite hackers).
Infographic credit: Marketing Zen
The problem is many “SEO companies” implement the poor practices on the black hat side of this infographic. There are some very large SEO firms in North Carolina implementing said tactics as I type. They’ve set unrealistic expectations for their clients and won’t put the work into creating good content. They want high profit margins. They want quick results. They’re unsure how to rank without putting in some grey or black hat work. In many cases they do build very pretty websites. But what good is a pretty website if nobody sees it? I’d rather have a terrible looking website that ranks.
Real black hats are mere shadows on the Internet. They often own dozens of websites at a time. Their money sites are often brilliant displays of white hat SEO with a black hat twist of inbound links from other sites they own. They operate under dozens of names, use proxies to hide their IPs and own websites all over the world. Not all of them “churn and burn” sites. By observing the black hats you can witness some very creative and unique tactics. They don’t spread their results around either. Sometimes you have to work very hard to catch up with these people. I promise you, the good ones are very smart. They are making enough money and they do not need clients. Many of them do everything this infographic says the white hats do, and they usually do a better job at it than most white hats do. One of them I follow recently set up a college scholarship fund and local colleges started linking to his site (from powerful, established .EDU domains). Brilliant ideas can come from observing the black hats.
The next time you hire an SEO company, ask them about black hat tactics. Ask to see some of their most recent content they’ve developed for a client website, and ask them about the most creative inbound links they’ve acquired. Ask them how they feel about domaining. If they do not know what these things are, they’re a noob. RUN!
Note on links: As of 2014 there are a lot of marketers stating that links are dead. Ignore this terrible advice. While they may not be as important as they were in the past, they are still an important factor and anyone stating otherwise is wrong.
And of course: if you need assistance gaining exposure on the Internet for your business, feel free to contact me.