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A boring post on SEO hypocrisy

Like some kind of super-hero (or super-villain?), I live something of a double life, blogging on both here (my personal blog) and working and blogging at a search marketing agency that I just gave an anchor text link to.

Yesterday, I posted an article highlighting some rather high-profile link selling that I don’t agree with.

I received a message (or actually a comment that I didn’t approve because it didn’t fit in with my evil propaganda regime) that I was a hypocrite. On the one hand, I blog here about blackhat SEO and on the other, I blog somewhere else and denounce link buying and say it’s improper practise.

I don’t feel this is the case, but I don’t like to duck or ignore questions, as I think it’s bad form – so I’m more than prepared to handle any questions here, on my personal blog, if you want to give me a good slagging off.

Why do you blog about blackhat on Digerati?

1) There’s already a billion white hat “best practise” SEO blogs, which is great – but I don’t see the point in me (personally at least) adding to this fray. There’s very few blogs that give detailed guides on blackhat topics or effective guides to make money online. Yes, I can guarantee you the “Get Rich With BlackHat SEOs” E-Book you bought is a pile of crap.

2) I find search engines really bloody interesting. I like understanding how they work – and sometimes the best way to do that is to try and turn some of the dials to 11 and see what impact it has on search results. A lot of effective white-hat knowledge and white-hat techniques can be derived from what might be deemed “blackhat experiments”. So, by knowing that “x tactic” or “x type of links” produces great results, you can work getting these types of links into your white-hat strategies. The devil is in the detail with SEO and experimentation can prove the key to success, knowing exactly what metrics can tip the balance in your favour.

This is almost a “reverse engineering” method of trying to fathom which techinques work well and which work great; and of course, you have to understand that correlation does not equal causation.

Pirates and Global Warming
It really doesn’t

So this method of collection, as Ryan will constantly remind me, is flawed.

Increasingly, there are more reliable ways to make these ranking correlations with data from people like MajesticSEO and SEOmoz’s Linkscape. (SEOmoz actually did this really cool post on PageRank correlation recently)

So in some ways, I’ve been doing less experiments and more analysis on existing data – perhaps the reason for less posts in the last 12 months. My goal here isn’t to be a blackhat SEO or a whitehat SEO; it’s to learn and become a great SEO – which is what everyone should be doing.

3) Blackhat SEO is fun, just stay away from cracking – that’s not SEO, that’s just you being a very naughty boy (or girl (: )

Information I give on this blog and advice I give to people that pay
There’s a big difference between these two. On this blog, I try and give people information about various SEO techniques that they may have not come across before – or tutorials on how to do neat/interesting things. If any of these things stray into techniques that search engines currently don’t like, I put them in a “blackhat SEO” category.

I think I’m being clear on this, if it’s filed under “blackhat SEO” and you do it, there is a risk of being slapped around by Google (or perhaps Bing or Yahoo). I’m not sure how much of a cross-over on readership there is, but most of the feedback I get on this blog is positive and I am helping individuals learn, experiment and sometimes (I have the e-mails to prove it!) make some money.

If you come to me, with a “real” business, a brand – and you have long-term ambitions to make money online, interact and engage your customers, I’m not going to advise you to do anything blackhat, because while it may be effective in the short term, the results you get are not compatible with traditional business models.

If you can make money, sitting at home with affiliates, tricking Google into ranking your website better – that’s fine: your overheads allow you to be flexible and rebuild from the ground up in short amount of time if the worse happens: I’ve written about lone SEOs vs Big Business in the SEO Guerilla Warfare post previously.

If you’re a business, you employ people, you work hard to be the best at what you do, you invest money in training, premises, stock and a reputation that puts value to a brand, getting banned in Google is really going to piss on your parade.

Why don’t you like paid links?
I’m well aware of the underground (and sometimes not) links trade on the web – and by links, I am specifically referring to the trade of links that are aimed to influence rankings. Most of the highly competitive niches are full of link buyers – I’ve got no problem with this.

While link buying does usually positively affect rankings, my specific grumble is that it that it is not scalable. Google has it’s hands tied somewhat, as banning well-known brands will lower result quality for the end user, so they tackle the problem by trying to devalue the links from those selling them. This means that you might be spending vast amounts of money on links that are providing you with no SEO value – a complete waste, apart from a trickle of referral traffic.

Why bring up this specific case?
That being said – I don’t mind people buying and selling links. If anything, it gives me the long-term advantage of not having the overheads and wastage. The problem is when people (whoever this may be, some SEOs, brokers etc) who try and pass link selling off as a non-blackhat strategy that carries no risk.

To be very clear, take words from Google:

Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as: Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the a tag”

“Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank”

I really don’t think that leaves too much to the imagination.

In summary:
The information on this blog isn’t the same information you’d receive from me in a professional capacity. Digerati is not an SEO agency, I don’t do work for clients, don’t try this at home work.

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17 responses to “A boring post on SEO hypocrisy”

  • Adrian Land says:

    Like, it. This is why I talk about being a corporate SEO Monday to Friday. But playing in the fringes is the fun stuff.

    Comment by Adrian Land
    April 23rd, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  • Gath says:

    You got it wrong – Temperature increases don’t increase the # of Pirates, Boobies Cause Earthquakes!

    Comment by Gath
    April 26th, 2010 @ 5:35 am

  • darryl Hannah says:

    Ok so here is my question Marky Mark:

    Do you buy or sell links professionally?

    Comment by darryl Hannah
    April 26th, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  • darryl Hannah says:

    http://www.further.co.uk/fitness-footwear.aspx

    Thats why your a hypocrite Mark.

    Comment by darryl Hannah
    April 26th, 2010 @ 8:16 pm

  • Yeah right says:

    Didnt think you’d auth those comments Marky Mark!

    C’mon lets have a big laugh…

    Quote Google etc again!

    That bit about: “?Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as: Adding a rel=?nofollow? attribute to the a tag?

    ?Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank?

    thats awesome man you totally know your shiz….

    Then show everyone this:
    http://www.further.co.uk/fitness-footwear.aspx

    Thats why you’re a hypocrite you plum.

    Comment by Yeah right
    April 26th, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

  • Mark says:

    Hi Darryl,

    Little confused as to exactly what you are trying to demonstrate here?

    In answer to your first question, no I don’t buy or sell links professionally (did I not make this clear?)

    You’ve cited Fitness Footwear? Are you suggesting that the links given in a case study qualify as paid links?

    I think Google would see it differently, but then fully understanding what Google defines as a paid link and understanding the intent behind Google’s TOS is what makes a good SEO I guess?

    Please, clarify – I’m interested.

    Your comment was approved late because I’ve been at a conference all day.

    Also, PROTIP: If you want to stay anonymous, probably best to change your name the first two times round (or at least your IP!) (:

    Comment by Mark
    April 27th, 2010 @ 12:51 am

  • Mark says:

    @Gath – The evidence is overwhelming (:

    Comment by Mark
    April 27th, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  • darryl Hannah says:

    Morning Mark.

    Fitness first pay Further for SEO – to promote them in the SERPS.
    You give them a do follow, anchor rich, text link that is entirely designed to manipulate results; of course they are paid links! Did they get them free??
    What is the difference between that and what the Express did? to take money to promote someone in Google. None.

    That sir is what makes you a Hypocrite.

    Comment by darryl Hannah
    April 27th, 2010 @ 7:40 am

  • Mark says:

    Hi Darryl,

    Yes those links were free – we don’t charge clients for writing case studies on them.

    I understand what you’re getting at, but the absolute point of my post is link buying in terms of what Google defines as acceptable and what is not: which is the parameters of SEO.

    If you have a look through other posts I have made, I link to many different websites and blogs using anchor text which is not paid for.

    Using your absolute literal interpretation of: if any money changes hands and links result = link buying, then *all* work done by *all* SEO agencies is classed by blackhat as Google.

    Obviously, the above statement is false: Google has no problem with SEOs helping clients gain links – and it wouldn’t bother me if Google looked at particular page, as I don’t think they would see those links existing soley to manipulate PR.

    The fact is: Google seem to agree on this one as the Express site was penalised for sending out link selling requests. This is my understanding on the TOS from having spoken to many experienced and reputable SEOs and the honour of speaking to some Googlers over the last 7 years. If I’m wrong (and anyone from Google, feel free to let me know if I’m in the wrong), then I’m prepared to change my view.

    I don’t know how SEO works in Brighton, but I assume it’s the same as the rest of the world – and links are one of the most important things an SEO can help a client with. Google knows SEOs help clients develop link strategies and hasn’t expressed a problem with things that fall inside their TOS. This isn’t my definition, it’s Google’s definition and in my opinion, you’re misinterpreting it.

    As I said, I can understand where you’re trying to put the definition, but you’ve missed Google’s point on paid links – and therefore it’s kind of irrelevant in the realm of SEO.

    Thanks for the discussion, though. Interesting topic. There’s no need to call me a plum either, you raspberry. The only reason I ever second-thought about approving your comment(s) was I don’t like people being so confrontational while trying to post anonymously, it takes weight away from your comment. If you’ve got a point of view and you want to express it so strongly, put your name with it.

    Comment by Mark
    April 27th, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

  • Darryl says:

    Ok Mark, I apologise for the plum comment but I still think you are a hypocrite; I’ll explain why:

    “Those links were free”.

    No they were not. The very fact they are client means they arent free,. You didnt only linked to them because thye are paying you. The fact you say they dont pay you for those links exactly is a bit of a cop out at best.

    You linked specifically to manipulate Google’s serps. Fact. You wanted to pass weight to your clients site.

    The fact you dont get this absolouetly amazes me. You eeven quoited Google yourself:
    “To be very clear, take words from Google:

    ?Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as: Adding a rel=?nofollow? attribute to the a tag?

    ?Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank?

    I really don?t think that leaves too much to the imagination.”

    Ummmm how do you seriously think that putting do follow links with anchor text to someone who IS paying you to promote them in Google does not come under that?!

    I hope you do change your view as it is absoloutely wrong. No a grey area there Mark. Black and white fella, you are doing exactly what the Express are/were doing.

    Feel free to ask about with some industry experts or Google mates.

    …who do you admire the most? DaveN? GrayWolf? Danny Sulivan?
    If you want Ill ask them to give you their opinion.
    They, I am afraid will agree with me, no misinterpretation at all.

    But what suprsies me the most is you are a supposed to be an SEO; you should know your turkey, certainly something as basic as that. ANyway my point remains, before poiting the finger you should make sure you know what you are talking about.

    Now although now I am sure you are a nice bloke you are still a hypocrite.

    Comment by Darryl
    April 27th, 2010 @ 7:38 pm

  • Mark says:

    Todd,

    I just messaged a couple of people the URL with the question “do you think these count as paid links?” – including someone from your own list of industry experts – and they agree with me, that the links do not currently fall under Google’s definition of paid links.

    Perhaps it’s time you reconsider your position, before telling me I don’t understand the basics of SEO and publically announcing what some of the most respected SEOers in the field would say, without even checking with them first.

    If you’d like the names of these people – follow me on Twitter and I’ll direct message you their names, so you can ask them yourself.

    I think I’ve answered all of your questions honestly, so for all my readers who are following this discussion, I pose these two questions for you:

    1) Were you (or your clients) affected by the outcome of the Express post and do you professional buy/sell links?

    2) Which agency/firm you work for?

    Comment by Mark
    April 27th, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

  • Darryl says:

    Morning Mark,

    Ill do this in reverse order if thats ok:

    1) No neither myself or my company deal with link advertorials from the express or their clients.

    2) My firm has nothing to do with this discussion. I posted anonymously as you allowed it.

    Anyway this has nothing to do with my firm it is about the title of the blog post “Hypocrisy”.

    Hey also its no big deal, I just read your comments about buying links from the Express and felt they were funny as you were doing exactly the smae on your own. I felt obliged to point it out to you.

    Since then you have decided that giving “do follow” links from someone who pays you money to promote them in the serps is not the same thing.

    I disagree and we have a post writing competition.

    If you dont mind ill get a few industry guys to come over here on Friday who you may know or respect and explain to you that you are wrong?

    I am just amazed you don’t agree!

    D

    Comment by Darryl
    April 28th, 2010 @ 9:14 am

  • Mark says:

    We’re kind of going around in circles here, aren’t we? So, I guess we’ll have to leave it at agreeing to disagree.

    At the end of the day, it’s very hard for me to accept your point of view, when you remain anonymous, as your opinion carries little creditability – the same with industry experts that you haven’t named.

    Door is always open for a Twitter/Email/Phone conversation if you feel it’s productive, although it doesn’t sound like we’re going to change opinion – and you’d have to reveal your identity!

    Comment by Mark
    April 28th, 2010 @ 8:17 pm

  • Kettle says:

    Hang on.

    This is your client.
    Who pays you money.
    Who you’ve given a anchor text rich link to.
    But it’s not a paid link?

    *rollseyes*

    Why aren’t they nofollow if they’re not for seo purposes? It’s /just/ a case study?

    Comment by Kettle
    April 28th, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  • Mark says:

    Hey kettle,

    Can I ask what your view of a directory link is?

    So I pay an SEO agency who then places my company website in a directory – by this definition

    I’ve paid them money
    They’ve got me an anchor text rich link

    Therefore = paid link?

    That’s why I have a problem with the literal interpretation, yes.

    The nofollow tag is used to control and mark 1) links you can’t vouch for (usually ugc – such as these blog comments) and 2) links that are specifically paid for as an advertisment.

    I don’t see how they fall into either of those catergories.

    As I’ve made clear, this is my opinion and understanding of what Google is trying to produce within their guidelines and I’ve had a lot of other SEOs agree with me – and some posting here that don’t.

    Comment by Mark
    April 28th, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

  • Anna says:

    Would be really nice if we could move on from this as Mark has suggested and start the comments again with new thoughts and feeling and ideas on this….I’m a newbie at all this so I want ideas not rants to chew over.

    Comment by Anna
    July 4th, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

  • Adam says:

    I have come across many sites offering paid links one of the most recent is 10,000 permanent links for $99? You know this doesn’t sound right so really it isn’t. I understand the point you are trying to get across mark and im not sure if these other raspberries do.

    There’s no need to call me a plum either, you raspberry. – Cracks me up.

    If you say pretty please do you get a do follow link?

    Comment by Adam
    October 24th, 2010 @ 12:27 am