3 Questions You Should Ask Before Debating “Black Hat” Tactics


We have positioned ourselves as ethical digital marketers and we stand behind that assertion, but a chasm is opening up in this industry and I don’t think it’s healthy. Marketers are outing “black hats” while many “inbound marketers” are being criticized for hypocrisy and false assertions that what they do does not work.

The real problem with this debate is that there are no stated goals other than the desire to position ourselves as “safe” marketers or as “real” SEOs. The phrases “black hat” and “white hat” are being defined only by whoever is using them, and legitimate criticisms from either side are being fully ignored due to cognitive biases. Black Hat Tactics

We’re probably guilty of some of this ourselves, so we’re not preaching from the pulpit here. I just think it’s time to start defining what we mean and why we care so much about this debate, to stop inventing straw men, and to build something constructive out of this.

So, with that in mind, here are 3 questions I think we should all ask before we jump back into this debate.

1. What are “black hat” and “white hat” tactics anyway?

Ask an SEO, get a wrong answer.

“Inbound marketers” will mostly point to tactics that Google has explicitly stated are against the rules, like:

  • Buying and selling links, including exchanging goods and services for links or sending “free” products in exchange for links
  • Trading links “excessively”
  • Linking to spammers and unrelated sites to manipulate PageRank
  • Building pages just to link from them
  • Building links with automated programs

Meanwhile, supposed “black hats” will point out that the term comes from the hacking world. You’re not really a “black hat” unless you are breaking the law or hacking computer systems, many of them will argue.

But, as we’ve pointed out several times, and Michael Martinez has joined us, Google has stated that any links intended to manipulate rankings can be considered part of a link scheme.

If we accept the premise that SEO tactics are “gray hat” if they lie in murky, unclearly defined territory according to Google’s guidelines, then virtually all SEO is gray hat. We’re all trying to “manipulate” rankings. It’s only by attributing a sinister connotation to the word “manipulate” that we can justify calling ourselves “white hats” and them “black hats.”

And, of course, Google can change its guidelines at any time.

As we’ve said before and will say again, we advocate attaching some non-SEO marketing value to every SEO tactic you use. The simple mantra “would I build this link if it were no-follow?” is a good one to live by. We also feel it’s a better decision to scale through smart hiring and project management software like WorkZone than through automation like Xrumer or whatever the kids are using these days.

But this doesn’t really come down to being “black hat” or “white hat.” It comes down to our goals and our risk tolerance. And that brings us to our next question.

2. What are your goals and your risk tolerance?

Why do you care about rankings, and how much risk are you willing to accept?

If you’re in SEO for yourself, the ethics can get murkier than most of us would like to admit. You’re only putting yourself at risk, and a few spun articles and purchased links probably aren’t going to hurt anybody but you beyond mere annoyance. This is, in fact, fairly tame compared to some aggressive marketing tactics that predate SEO.

If you’re working for clients, the situation is very different. Putting a client at risk without their consent is certainly unethical, bad for morale, bad for publicity, and ultimately bad for business.

Even clients who claim to be up for the risk will often quickly be reduced to tears when they find themselves getting penalized.

And this isn’t the world of insurance, where risks can be calculated with some degree of accuracy. We have to face facts and realize that we have no idea what the risks are when we violate, or tip-toe on, Google’s guidelines.

I’m of the opinion that deliberately violating Google’s guidelines can only make sense if all you care about are short term results. Most spammers fully realize this, and leverage automated, risky tactics for short term profit. That’s an ethically gray decision that we’re not interested in making, because long term success is the only kind of success that matters to us.

But what about the rest of us? When we use guest posts to boost PageRank or use outreach to build links, we are arguably engaging in “link schemes.” That’s also a risk we need to be fully aware of, which is why it is so important to diversify and chase referral traffic and branding impressions just as much as SEO value.

And all of this talk about ethics really makes me wonder about one big question that often goes unaddressed, and really gets to the heart of why this debate has been bothering me lately.

3. Why do ethics only matter when it comes to Google?

Ask almost anybody and you won’t find that their hearts go out to Google and its shareholders, and all the pain and suffering that they must go through because of “black hat” SEOs.

Whenever people debate “black hat” vs “white hat” the subject of ethics always seems to come up, but rarely does this discussion move beyond the rules Google has defined. This is probably why “black hats” often claim “inbound marketers” are brainwashed herd animals.

What about collecting arguably private user data for remarketing advertisements? What about using Facebook’s user data to market to consumers using what they often argue is private data? What about maximizing your conversion rate by making false promises?

I’m not arguing for or against any of these tactics; I’m simply pointing out that these subjects rarely seem to come up during these debates. As far as the user is concerned, a remarketing ad is just as bad, if not worse than, a purchased link. False promises are still worse, and yet practically ubiquitous as far as consumers are concerned.


Ethics go deeper than the rules Google has laid out for us. In fact, ethics are a crucial part of holistic marketing. Shared values are one of the strongest motivators for purchasing intent, and internal morale is driven in large part by ethics. If we can move beyond name calling, we can address how ethics really impact SEO, instead of focusing on the undeniable fact that violating Google guidelines comes with inherent risks.

What do you think about ethics in SEO outside this traditionally defined scope?

(Photo Source)

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M Solutions & OnlyDesign. The primary focus of E2M Solutions is on content marketing and leveraging its potential to generate revenue for clients. OnlyDesign helps companies build a better web & mobile presence. You can contact him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik or by emailing at web@pratikdholakiya.com

9 Things You Will Quickly Need to Learn to Run a Successful Blog


I came across this awesome guest posting opportunity five minutes ago. Literally, five minutes ago. Five minutes later I wrote this post. Why? Well, I will discuss below, as my first line item. You learn things as a blogger, things which promote your success. If you are foolish you’ll ignore these lessons.

If you are wise you will cash in on these lessons. You must be aggressive to succeed in the blogging niche. Digest, and act swiftly. You will quickly need to learn these things to run a successful blog.

Run a Successful Blog

1 – Seize Guest Post Opportunities within Seconds

I remember a few years back. I’d struggled to generate one lead daily. I would write a guest post and 5-10 leads would flow in quickly. Now, since I am human, I forgot my success and stopped writing guest posts. But I smartened up a while ago.

Now I have 7 guest posts out there, either in the queue, or already published, plus this post. Guest posting is the quickest way to reach a massive audience, fast.

2 – Get Ready for Critics

Critics will find you. I have been heavily criticized for multiple elements on my blog and writing style. Why? Because I hit the “Publish” button for the first time 4 years ago and fell in love with blogging.

Do not take criticism personally. You receive opinions, or feedback, and if somebody is nasty, thank God for block buttons or blacklisting.

3 – Check Your Energy

I consistently churned out great content for months. However, critics were my audience. I thought like a failure. Sure, my content was excellent but on a subconscious level I felt no one would show up to visit my blog.

Check your energy throughout the day. Think, feel and act from a high energy, calm and confident place. You must blog with enthusiasm.

4 – Stay on Topic

Readers leave like mad if you change topics. I ran a personal development blog. Then I ran a cash gifting blog. Then I covered like 4 topics. Now I run blogs helping you generate cash online.

By staying on topic, you program your audience to respond to your persistent, consistent message.

5 – People Love Eye Candy

People rarely stuck around my blog until I used images for each post. Then I scrapped the images on each post but posted pictures of myself traveling all over SE Asia, from my top banner through my sidebar.

Images grab reader’s attention, quickly. Use images on each post or paste images all over your blog.

6 – Sell the Dream

Posting pictures is one thing. Selling the dream is quite another. I lived in Bali for five months, Phuket, Thailand for five months, and I hit a host of other tropical paradises over the past 2 years. Stop by my blog. I have pictures of many locations where I visited.

Read my blog. Follow my online cash generating tips. Live the dream like I live.

7 – Write Frequently to Improve Your Skills

As a newbie blogger you want to hide away. You write maybe once every week or two. Well, unless you are a talented writer bump that schedule up to daily writing. There is no need to post daily, but you must write daily to improve your writing skills.

The quality of your posts improves if you improve as an author. Don’t stop blogging. Write posts. Be patient. Find your writing voice. Prosper. Grow your audience.

8 – Write How You Speak

How do you speak? Write like that. Engage readers in a conversation. Be chatty with your posts. Recount your stories. Relate your experiences with your niche, or topic of choice, to make strong connections with your audience.

9 – Become Best Buddies with Influential Bloggers

I wrote for about a year until people discovered me. That is because I wrote for a year without making any friends in the blogosphere. After becoming good friends with influential bloggers, these buddies promoted my content to their audience.

Voila! The traffic started rolling. So that’s where my traffic was, right? Make buddies by promoting people aggressively. Post helpful comments to their blog posts. Build your network. Leverage your presence.

What tips can you add to my list?


Former fired security guard and current world traveler, Ryan Biddulph went from having a net worth of a nickel to generating steady cash flow online while traveling to tropical paradises like Bali, Phuket and Hoi An. How does he help you magnetize yourself to cash? To find out Click Here

8 Steps to Building a Strong and Fulfilling Blog

1. Build Content that is interesting and attracts eyeballs. It should generate comments and conversation. Ask for feedback and don’t be afraid to be controversial. Keep writing every day, even when you think no one is reading it. This is paramount to a successful blog/site.

2. Track your traffic. Seems elementary, but do you do it? Google Analytics is great for tracking traffic and free. It will also give you a mental boost to know that people are visiting even if they are just lurking for now. Controversy and questions helps them make the step from lurker to poster which will help bring in more visitors who engage you.

3. Subscribe to Google alerts for your keywords. If you keep writing daily, and your articles are fresh and original, Google may pick you up as an authority. This increases your chances that Google will send out your blog posts to others who subscribe to alerts for your keywords.

courtesy Hubspot

4. Have something to give away. That can be a newsletter or an eBook on a topic. Send communication to your audience once or twice a week, not daily. The key is that you build a list of subscribers. Later on you will use that list to monetize what you are sending with money generating offers.

5. Host contests, and other giveaways as you progress and your blog matures to generate buzz and more subscribers. You want a list that makes money for you when you hit the send button.

6. Go to authority sites in your niche and become an expert commentator and put your link in your signature. Most blogs and forums allow this. Once the people on those sites get to know and like you they will click your link and begin to visit your site.

7. Try to stand out in some way, be unique. Take a different angle/view from the herd. Don’t manufacturer this mindset, but certainly there are areas where you disagree with the masses. Go for a niche within a niche sort of thing and then expand to be more general from there. You have a better chance of getting to the top of search with topics and keywords that are not so saturating, but good content generated repetitively will help a great deal.

8. Monetize, but wait until your content is progressing nicely. Don’t be afraid to put product and services that you find valuable in front of your audience. In some circles it seems to be taboo to make money from your site. Baloney. Promote quality and you’ll be doing your readers a favor. Google will see you as an authority if you are a content first person.

Ken Chiarella is a successful veteran in the internet marketing space, and the founder and CEO of e-commerce site Wormman.com Ken has built dozens of revenue generating sites over his career, and has a strong grasp on the processes of building a winner.