In Defense of Hats: White, Gray, Black and Blue

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about the resurgence of gray and black-hat panel discussions at the SMX Advanced conference held recently in Seattle. I posted a lengthy comment at the trail end of Matt Cutts’s post regarding the matter, but I felt that it deserved a little more attention. In short, any advanced SEO conference should not shy away from the full gamut of SEO techniques, regardless of the stigma attached.

  1. Black Hat is Beating You: Regardless of your position on the ethics of black hat techniques, it does not change the simple fact that these techniques exist in the wild and they are being employed by your competitors. If the only information you gather from a discussion on these techniques is how to identify and out those activities, you are better off than had you not heard them before. Because the vast majority of white hatters will never build up enough reputation to enter the classified halls of syndk8 to get access to such information, conferences create the perfect atmosphere where these techniques can be discussed academically.
  2. White Hat is Overly Risk Averse: Think of SEO research like pharmaceutical clinical studies. Your white-hat sites are humans. Your black-hat sites are guinea-pigs. The research, testing, and experimentation all need to be done, but you can’t risk that kind of research on a white-hat property. So, you have two choices, either do gray hat on your own secondary properties or just learn from those who know it. Once again, conferences are the perfect atmosphere where this research can be discussed.
  3. You Can’t Trust White Hats: Sorry, but white-hats are made out of tin. Here is just a short list of SEO tactics that most white-hats will swear don’t work even though, if executed correctly, do.
    • Reciprocal Links
    • Paid Links
    • Link Networks
    • Keyword stuffing
    • Mispellings

    Blackhats know these still work when performed correctly, which is why these techniques still exist in the wild. However, the second a Google rep mentions the word that they are going to start cracking down, or enough people complain of getting some penalty on DigitalPoint, white-hats start to freak out.

  4. You Can’t Trust Black Hats: Sorry, but black-hats are made out of BS. A lot of black-hat is still chest-thumping, and putting black-hat techniques to the scrutiny of professionals in a live audience is a much better way of calling shenanigans.

One of the themes I have seen coming from this even though was that the panelists were quite candid (and in fact vivid in language) with regard to the various techniques one can employ to improve search engine rankings. In this candidness, many revealed the true nature of the best search engine optimizers – they are not white hats. They are not black hats either. Nor gray hat or blue hat or whatever you want to call them.

They wear the hat they need to address the problems facing their own sites or their clients’ sites, regardless of what color that might be.

No tags for this post.


  1. underworld
    Jun 14, 2008

    In the end it doesnt matter what colour hat you wear – we are all wearing hats!

    lol @ the current hatist debate – good bad and the grey between – why cant all the hats just get along? because the white hats get beat up the rankings that’s why

  2. Nathan Ketsdever
    Jun 18, 2008

    Cloaking and spamming aren’t generally advocated by many white hats. Perhaps if they are–they aren’t so “white hat” after all.

    Blurring the distinction doesn’t mean the distinction doesn’t exist.

  3. John H. Gohde
    Jul 15, 2008

    White hat SEO techniques are a lot more effective than Black Hatters claim. Could be because Black Hat SEOs are too lazy and/or ignorant as to how effective White Hat actually is?


  1. Cash, SEO and Ethics | Search Engine People Blog - [...] In Defense of Hats: White, Gray, Black and Blue [...]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *