Should going Whitehat be an ethical decision or a Business decision?

White hat SEO
First published 2011

To Go White Hat or Black Hat SEO is not an ethical decision it’s a business decision

The aim of the white hat seo is to unnaturally manipulate the Google results page in their favour. The aim of the black hat seo is exactly the same.

Where it differs is the white hat keeps within the Google guidelines and the black hat does not.

Therefore it is inaccurate to call the black hat unethical as it is absurd to allow an American Corporation whose legal obligation is to its share holders to define what is ethical and what is not ethical behaviour.

It is not an ethical decision to employ black hat techniques, or white hat. It is a business decision.

Sometimes I use what is erroneously called black hat techniques, sometimes I use white hat. I use what works.

What works is defined by how Google works.

I would have no problem being 100% whitehat if blackhat made little business sense.

When I realised that many seo agencies who publicly said they were whitehat but were ranking by employing blackhat techniques I realised it wasn’t about slavishly following what Matt Cutts told us to do, in fact in some niches if you follow the Google guidelines you will lose.

When well known newspapers sell links for thousands of pounds with impunity you have to ask, what exactly is going on here?

I don’t do paid links as I have other skills which I can use. But I have to compete against sites which do buy links. I have no problem with that per se, but why doesn’t Google level the playing field.

Unload the dice and make the buying of links in line with the Terms of Service. Because right now it’s the big boys which can get away with buying links whilst the small guy is terrified of getting caught.

Now that is what I call unethical.

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SEO is Dead

There has been a lot of navel gazing within the SEO industry this year.

You couldn’t move without someone numpty publishing an SEO is Dead post

This is mostly because the landscape has changed. The way Google ranks its results has changed. What was working within the SEO industry was not aligned with what Google wanted.

A number of techniques that only recently worked very well to get a website ranked in Google no longer works, although it’s interesting to note that quite a number of people and seo agencies are working in an outmoded fashion.

We already know this and many bytes of blog posts have been crunched to bring us that news, again and again.

The old way of working is mostly dead

I say mostly dead as there are exceptions, the old way of doing things still works for those who have built a machine with processes that are efficient enough to dodge the Google hit squad.

We even see that dodgy widget links still work and even work for Google themselves, whilst preaching it is a sin and will send you to ranking hell. Blackhat still works, but the probability of being crushed is way to high.

The point being, that if you want to build a decent, medium to long term business that delivers an effective you need a new way of doing things.

The methodology of SEO has mostly been about busting the algo, backward engineering how the Google machine works, identifying weak spots and then drilling into those spots. It’s a methodology that requires a specific mindset, a somewhat technical ability and a super hero ability to wield Excel spreadsheets without having to wear underpants on the outside.

This mindset is still needed, it’s simply no longer the killer it used to be.

Vomiting the long tail onto your title tags not longer emits the sweet odour it once did. Even hardcore, outsourced to tropical countries, manic article creation no longer works, and also industrial guest posting is liable to send your website down the toilet.

Interesting thing is, a lot of websites still employ these tactics.

It’s interesting, because it means that those working the “new way of thinking”, are going to be those who will win.

So what is the new way of thinking?

Well it’s actually quite simple and it’s something I have been preaching for years, so it’s not like I am revealing a huge secret.

The New Way of Thinking is:

You Publish for People.

Which has actually been working for thousands of years, it’s only recently we have been formatting our communicative output for the Google robot.

And yes this does include social media an mobile, but it’s more than that, it’s about taking the news and creating fresh content around it. Google is not the only thing that likes fresh, people like it too. People like to experience content that is aligned with what is currently on their mind.

No longer should you be chasing the algo, you should be chasing people.

P.S. Apologies for the headline, I couldn’t resist.

Create Linkbait like you are Channeling Elmore Leonard, adding Hookers and Xbox along the way

This week one of my favourite writers, Elmore Leonard died.

His work makes for a great read. His stories flowed like an electric eel going down the Alton Towers log flume. Along with James Ellroy and other American writers he really helped me nail my writing and ultimately my linkbait.

What these guys do is reach down deep into the brain and bring it to the open and do it with wit and intelligence.

I wrote a story back in 2008, some of you will remember it, some of you may not have heard about it.

It got a lot of attention.

ralph3

Some people did not like what I did and even went to the extreme of saying I should go to prison for it.
Matt Cutts even made me the subject of a Keynote talk about such marketing tactics.
All for few hundred words of pure fiction.

What I learned from that time is the power of the written (OK typed, but written sounds better) word and how it can be used to get people to react.

I don’t know if it was the biggest linkbait ever, it got 10K links and mentions in every mainstream media I can think of. But it’s certainly one that people don’t forget.

One of the puritanical nutters who at the time were saying that such work is the spawn of Satan just reminded me of it.

The story is quite simple.I had a short story knocking around my head that I had not used when I was in my creative writing, poverty induced period. I had a client that wanted some linkbait so I wrote it as spoof news and posted it. With zero indication that it wasn’t actual news, it was blatant and beautiful hoax.

As the piece was written in a ” too good to be true, this is nuts mode”, I expected people to quickly figure out it was not proper news and just a bit of fun. This did not happen, you see the article what designed to engage with the primal brain, it was littered with psychological hooks that would keep people reading and keep people thinking long after.

And it worked.

Back in the day, getting a front page digg was all you needed to do to launch a bit of linkbait, nowadays it’s a bit more fractured, but still doable.

A mainstream journalist picked it up and of course did not check the story, rewrote it and put it in their newspaper. With of course no accreditation to where it came from.

And then it kind of went mental.

It was picked up by as many people as I could even think of and I had people contacting me from places like Greece, saying they heard it on the radio.

The results were huge.

And then, just as that was dying down, Matt Cutts hinted that Google was not going to allow websites to benefit from stories that are not true. And of course things went mental again, with a good write up about this from Lisa Barone.

Which was bigger news than the original story.

The debate over if this kind of marketing was ethical or not raged for weeks, with a number of people foaming at the mouth doing their “burn the witch” routine.

Planting an untrue story in the media is, I agree unethical. But when it’s crafted as a funny story that hurts no one, does not sell a product and includes Texan’s of restricted growth trying to get laid, Hookers and pizza delivery, less so. It’s completely missing the point to start thinking along the ethical/unethical argument.

What is far more interesting is how the human brain craves a good story and how newspapers create not-exactly-true stories. And Google loves this, it gives these newspapers huge authority, to the point where SEO agencies have to buy links in the online version of the newspaper, planting a story that promotes their client.

Here is Fox news doing a piece on the story.

And Simon Mayo did a bit on Radio 1


I don’t talk about this stuff publicly anymore, not because I am ashamed and think it unethical, I am extremely proud of the work, and as for it being unethical, well that’s just silly.

I don’t talk about this because it’s a technique that most cannot do well. Some can and a lot of people have contacted me privately to tell me of how they created a completely faked story that got traction in the news media.

Something like this is extremely sophisticated and hard to pull off, although it happens more than you realise it and yes, I have done a few of these since.

Now I mostly consult with companies how to utilise content marketing for their websites and create content that gets publicity. You note I did not say links, because its people you need to target, not links. The links come after you attract the people, not the other way round.

I do sometimes talk about this marketing event on Linkbaitcoaching.com as I am able to teach the technique in a more detailed way. A number of people I have coached have gone on to create thousands of links using it.

In conclusion, if you are going to create linkbait. You may as well write it about a 13 year old boy coming back from a World of Warcraft tournament who wants to score chicks and play Xbox.

And if you want to know more about this, Google it, go read all about it, good and bad and then join linkbaitcoaching.com to learn how to implement such techniques into your content.

Buying an expensive Handbag? I'm sorry, but you're Black

handbag

It’s not too late to Newsjack the “you can’t buy this handbag because you are black”, Oprah Winfrey, Swiss handbag story.

But you probably only have an hour or two to start, and if you are not geared up to launch something tasty then probably best not to launch anything at all.

I first saw this story on the BBC this morning,

I was surprised there was nothing on the US news outlets, but then realised that Oprah had revealed the story on a late night show, when most of the US media people are tucked up in bed. Which raises the interesting fact that the UK is in a very good position to take advantage of any news that comes out at that hour.

We had a good few hours of prime newsjacking planning before even the earliest US blogger pinged their RSS fee. Of course those staying up late could have caught it, but they didn’t.

CBS though got a good write up about it, even locating the store where the incident took place.
And I love the quote from the Swiss spokesperson for the store, We didn’t know it was Oprah…it was a misunderstanding…”We don’t have any facial recognition here.”

Which of course raises a number of issues regarding racism and particularly when you look at the current attitude to asylum seekers in Switzerland.

I have sent out a few ideas over the Newsjacking Alerts service and hopefully a few will see the light of day.

There are of course some great handbag stories out there to be curated, such as I was handbagged by Mrs Thatcher

It’s always better to newsjack something that you really believe in and which promotes a positive messages such as anti-racism. When you go after the positive narrative it does help carry the story along.

Picture credit

Press Release for Bongo Bongoland Campaign

This is the press release I wrote for the client

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DUNDEE MUSIC SHOP SENDS BONGOS TO UKIP MEP

Dundee, Tayside, Scotland.

Local music shop http://www.rainbowmusiconline.co.uk heard the concern of UKIP MEP, Godfrey Bloom about foreign aid money going to “Bongo Bongoland”, on the BBC Radio 4 radio show, the Today, programme.

Confused as to where “Bongo Bongoland” actually was, shop owner, Stefan Pogrorzelec asked the UKIP MEP if any foreign aid money will be coming their way as they play and sell Bongos in the shop.

Stefan also thought it a good idea to send Mr Bloom a pair of Cuban Bongos on which he could practice and that “if Mr Bloom is ever in the Dundee area, we would love in to pop in for a wee dram and a session on the Bongos”.

They also suggested that perhaps UKIP get a float at the upcoming Notting Hill Carnival and have Mr Bloom play the Bongos on it and in doing so connect with the people of this great nation.

Rainbow music opened its shop in Dundee in 1979, they stock a number of different types of musical equipment including, guitars, keyboards, percussion, accessories and ampli?cation plus more.

For further information contact

Stefan Pogrorzelec
RAINBOW MUSIC
35 Cowgate Dundee DD1 2JF
01382 201405
sales@rainbowmusiconline.co.uk