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Morals online – Is black hat SEO ok?

Posted by
9 July 2009

An article today caught my eye. It attempts to remove some of the misconceptions of so called black hat SEO practices.

Black hat is a term widely used in technology to denote the bad guys. I.e., the harmful and malicious virus writer, the bad hacker (as opposed to the good ones), the spammer (spamming is always morally wrong in my book).

The article says:

Ever since the mid 90s when the term “search engine optimization” or SEO gradually became all the rage, a major part of the debate on what is proper or effective search marketing has been dominated in many quarters by absurdly moralistic overtones. In the early times it was all about “ethical” or “unethical” SEO. More recently, SEO is generally being seen in terms of “white hat” (aka “ethical”) and “black hat” (aka “unethical”) approaches towards search. Of course, as its really all about rankings, traffic and conversions in the first place, you might be pardoned for thinking that most of this chatter is actually quite silly and totally beside the point. After all, search engine optimization is essentially a technical, not a moral or ethical issue. (my emphasis)

It is amazing how such obviously smart people can say such ill considered things.

I took time to comment on their post and I include it here.

Just imagine if we could dupe the search engines most of the time quite easily and at low cost.

Search engines would become a lot less usable. Advertising would become more credible again. Soon this whole new media malarkey will resemble – old media.

In short, I hope the Search engines stay on top of this, so that the best information, services etc can be found easily, by virtue of being the best. And that we all can take part in the democratisation of media power; and not just big corporations and governments with spending power.

Search engines are the foundation of social media, as they effectively count the votes via links to what is the best stuff out there.

Some of these techniques are anti-social in the extreme, and some of them deserve penalties.

In other words, it is a moral issue and not just a technical one.

One of the the main reasons commentators have been making statements like:

“Adverting is a tax for being unremarkable” – Robert Stevens

is the social architecture of search engines that favour merit of mediocrity. Black hat SEO threatens this model.

It’s not that hard to get it right.

The irony is that the website hosting the article – Search Cowboys – does not have descriptive keyword based URLs. Like our post has for example.


Rather their URL reads:


That’s a basic white hat SEO technique. And it makes sense. It is displayed in Search Engine Results (Serps), helping users decide to click on an article or not. Simple but effective.

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  • Posted by blackhatguide
    October 12, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Hey, just wanted to let you know that you have a great blog going on here! Keep up the great work mate let me know if you want to partner up with my blog as well! =]

  • October 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the compliment Mr. Blackhatguide.

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