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?

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  1. Isn't Gaming Search Engines Is what we Seoz are doing? So Being Black Hat or White Hat is nothing. So called White Hatters just bound themselves to some limits and every single intelligent person knows that...

    There is nothing such thing as LIMIT...its only your weakness!!
    By SEOZ87

  2. 1)Most blackhats won't blackhat their blogs ironically enough. Too much scrutiny. So I'd check backlinks before linking yourself, but you're pretty safe.
    2)And no blackhats would remain profitable if everything was shared. Even I have to keep a lot of my own things quiet(although I do tell a lot). It's no accident blackhat forums are such brutal places to learn.
    3)Most blackhat sites don't sweat the penalties, aside from when they run legit blogs...which is normally for fun, not profit. The actual sites obviously are not looking for organic. Organic messes with carefully selected anchor text and link velocity...

    @DanThies: Blackhat isn't about not being able to offer something valuable. As SugarRae said, "any *good* blackhat seo can “whitehat” their asses off"
    And just because it's blackhat doesn't mean it's not valuable. Many sites are exactly what the user wanted. Some aren't, I'll admit.
    But either way, from a business perspective blackhats are VERY valuable. I hate to admit it(ok, I lie, I love to admit it), but we are the highest producers in affiliate programs. We are MOST of the the highest producers in PPC. We keep many websites that would've otherwise caved alive through these methods :-)
    And if you don't think blackhat is useful, read around a bit more. Don't take it at face value, but when you see something that would work *for a blackhat*, think "How can I change this to work for my whitehat project?". I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

  3. It's an interesting question. :D I think the comments already made say a lot.

    I suppose that I'd consider tapping into my considerable "black hat skill set" if I weren't able to offer something of value, and still wanted to make money online.

    It's not really about "right and wrong" to me - unless you're doing something truly evil and deceptive, the "black hat" stuff is just not very useful.

    You can accomplish the same things without spending all your time trying to stay ahead of the search engines. If you can catch a wave and ride it, then do that - why keep paddling against the swell?

    Is Darth Vader cooler than Luke Skywalker? Probably, but both of them were dorks when they were young.

  4. Even if I were to become a black hatter, I would maintain at least one white hat site. Black Hat SEO fills our wallets today, but will it continue to remain effective in say 5 years? Most likely not, whereas White Hat SEO will maintain it's effectiveness.

    Black Hats actually know this, which is why they have a few white hat sites in addition to their collection of black hat sites.

  5. I'll admit, I've often thought how great it might be to know all about Black Hat SEO and make boatloads of money by spamming the search engines.

    But, as nice as all that money would be, it all seems a bit dirty, so I'm not sure I'd actually do it, even if I had the ability to do so.

    Then again...money is a powerful motivator, and it's not like I'd be physically harming anyone.

    • Not physically harming anyone...except taking away revenue from those who play by the rules, of course!

  6. I don't think it comes down to one method being easier than the other. I am coming at this from an agency perspective; if you want to grow a successful and reputable search business, servicing multiple clients, white hat SEO is the only option; it's an exceptionally time consuming option but one that enables you to gain results with greater transparency, therefore building your reputation. How many of the well-known, successful search agencies profess to be black hat? Very few, if any. If you want to be a successful player in this business, it is my view that you need to be open and honest; this is not easily achievable using black hat tactics. Therefore, in answer to your question, even if I knew the absolute in's and out's of black hat SEO, I still would not adopt such tactics as part of our clients' strategies. Why bother when results are achievable using 'accepted' methods which not only improve the site for search engines but also for the site users, thereby creating a richer experience and greater value for the client.

  7. I'd say don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

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