Thursday, September 4, 2014

How Black Hat Practices Reveal the True Value of Organic SEO

Tina Courtney Brown over at SiteProNews recently posted a thoughtful and funny piece about Black Hat Social Media--the most recent iteration of Black Hat SEO. In the piece, she exposes Black Hat practices for what they are: "the bane of the Internet." Yet she also notes how many brands might be  practicing Black Hat Social Media, "whether or not they're aware of the offense."

The article got us thinking about how Black Hat practices, by virtue of their very awfulness, reveal precisely how organic SEO attracts business. This point is important for all brands, but especially those who might be inadvertently (or not) using Black Hat techniques to attract business.

In the end, the hard, and time-consuming work of organic SEO will always trump the purported "value" of Black Hat SEO or Black Hat Social Media. Unfortunately, this fact is often obscured by the very nature of the Internet: Black Hat practices produce quick results, and we've been conditioned to act quickly and to expect quick results.

Perhaps this is why Black Hat practices persist, despite their ineffectiveness: they give the semblance of quick results. Yet quick results do not necessarily translate to true value.

Tina Courtney Brown nails this idea when she writes of "buying your audience":

"When you stop and consider this tactic, it’s borderline ridiculous, and clearly doesn’t work. Social media is not about the number of followers you have; it’s the level of engagement that audience has with your content. If you buy a list full of fake profiles, those 'people' will never buy, support, or even like one single product or post."

We laughed at "borderline ridiculous" because it's so true. Black Hat practices often come across as ridiculous, or worse. This is why most reasonable people dismiss Black Hat spam out of hand.  In her article, Brown writes of evil, awful comment spam," and we couldn't agree more. Comment spam shows up everywhere, but especially on poorly-maintained websites and blogs. As we wrote elsewhere:

"Like a neglected lawn, apparently, old blogs can actually sprout weeds. Since we last posted, we received a slew of comments--almost all from spambots. I've just spent an hour or so deleting these comments form our old posts. Most were an illegible scramble of code and nonsense; some, though, were charmingly ridiculous.

My favorite, from 'Anonymous': 'Hi there! I would like to burn a theme at this forum. There is such a thing, called HYIP, or High Yield Investment Program. It reminds of ponzy-like structure, but in rare cases one may happen to meet a company that really pays up to 2% daily not on invested money, but from real profits.' "

I would like to burn a theme at this forum. What does that even mean? It's hilarious. 

Although it's absurd, comment spam is prevalent, damaging both individual websites and the Internet community. As Brown writes:

"Spammers who comment en masse on articles and posts are the bane of the internet. They clutter up otherwise legitimate comments with horrible, lying posts like 'Oh, great content here, check out my stuff and buy something!' They pretend to care about the topics discussed, then quickly attempt to drive traffic to whatever horrendous site they represent."

Amazingly, spam, by virtue of its sheer volume, manages to attract some attention. If you spam a million sites, you're bound to get a few clicks. As we wrote this spring:

"A spammer works on the principle of nearly 100% quantity. Blasting emails to millions, regardless of the recipient's preferences, spammers care little about the quality of their image. Instead, spammers play a numbers game, hoping for bare minimum conversions: 1% or less. Sounds inefficient? Well, it is, in a sense. Yet a 1% conversion for one million emails is still 10,000."

The practice of spam commenting, and the "bordeline ridiculous" practice of buying your audience on social media, stand in stark contrast to organic SEO.

Both of these practices promise a quick fix to a challenge that can only be solved with time and effort.

This is the true value of organic SEO: the very time and effort required to launch an SEO campaign guarantees results. Of course, that very word, "guarantee", smacks of spammy promises, but the nature of this guarantee is evident in the work itself: if you take the time to craft a quality SEO campaign, you will likely succeed.

As Alex Stepman said in last week's interview:

"Any quality marketing campaign will take some time to truly produce results. Marketing is like radioactivity in the soil--its effects are felt in the long term." 

This is why, if you're goal is a successful and sustainable business, Black Hat SEO and Black Hat Social Media is not the answer. When you engage in these practices, your image is degraded. You might attract 10,000 customers, but you repel 990,000 others. This is why we prefer quality over quantity. And rhis is why it's so important to a) never, ever participate in spamming (obviously) and b) to fight spam in your own way.

Do you fight Black Hat practices?

Take a look at Tina Courtney Brown's article: "Black Hat Social Media: An In-Depth Look." You might just discover that you're inadvertently practicing Black Hat Social Media.

If so, remember, true results