Would You Be A Black Hat SEO If You Knew How?
It's pretty easy for SEOs to take the high road and declare they are abiding by all of the optimization guidelines laid out by the search engines. Such declarations allow them to don the so called white hat and prance around with their heads held high (I try to keep my prancing limited!). But I question whether a lot of the white hats out there have chosen that path because they simply don't know how to do black hat SEO beyond the basics like having white text on a white background or keyword stuffing alt attributes.
I liken this situation to many childhood light saber battles. You know what I mean. You and a friend would pick up sticks and begin to fight like a scene out of the original Star Wars trilogy. One of you had to be Darth Vader (black hat) and the other had to be Luke Skywalker (white hat). Arguments ensued because neither of you wanted to be the bad guy, but deep down inside you knew the bad guy was way cooler. After all, Darth Vader could choke someone with the wave of his hand. And don't even get me started about how fun it would be to shoot lightning bolts from your fingers like Emperor Palpatine. Sure, we all wanted to be Skywalker, but that's because all we could do was wave a stick in the air. But how many of us would have chosen the dark side powers if we could?
And so it is with SEO. It's easy to be white hat. Aaron Wall used to sell a book on being white hat. Dan Thies gives out his 200-page white hat SEO guide for free. Search Engine Land is all white hat from what I've read and the very popular SEOmoz is about 99.9% white hat (some evidence suggests they may cross the line in rare circumstances when it comes to link building). I'm in no way suggesting that these folks aren't experts in the field. Quite the contrary as I've learned a lot from them. What I am saying is that they path they've chosen is easier than the black hat path. They can be very public with their activities and their popularity gets them relatively easy access to personnel at the search engines which in turns helps them perpetuate their industry status.
On the other hand, how many black hats would remain competitive if they described their secrets? How many of them can call on Google to ask a question? Their jobs are made even more difficult by the fear of penalties that is so prevalent that I'm too scared to even link to the few black hat resources out there (Google does include them in search results if you're interested).
And so I ask you, if you could wake up tomorrow and have all of the black hat SEO skills necessary to be successful, would you stay white?