A Black Hat Debate At SES Chicago

    December 10, 2009

This is the time of year when morality becomes mainstream; just try going a day without hearing references to "naughty," "nice," a scrooge, or a grinch.  It seems appropriate, then, that at SES Chicago, there was a session called "Black Hat, White Hat: Does It Really Matter Anymore?"

(Coverage of SES Chicago continues at WebProNews Videos.  Keep an eye on WebProNews for more notes and videos from the event this week.)

Rand FishkinThe session kicked off with an attempt to define the term "black hat."  Rand Fishkin, the CEO of SEOmoz.org, believes the meaning constantly changes.  White hat is an approach that is definitely supported by search engines, he said.  Black hat is anything that isn’t favored by search engines.

Bruce Clay, the president of Bruce Clay, Inc., later added that black hat and spam are not the same.  And Todd Friesen, the vice president of search at Position Technologies, pointed out that black hat tactics still give users what they want: a good experience.  They just don’t follow Google’s rulebook.

This led to a discussion of Google’s style of oversight.  Fishkin compared the company to a parent that doesn’t provide feedback.  He, Clay, and Matt Bailey, who’s the founder and president of SiteLogic, criticized the way in which Google forces people to educate themselves about what is and isn’t allowed, too.

David NaylorLater, the conversation turned to Google’s implementation of real-time search, and whether what SEOs can do with it is black hat.  The panel leaned towards "yes."  David Naylor, Bronco‘s SEO, said that Google’s under a lot of pressure, and that its introduction of this feature is risky, possibly leading to real-time spam (or worse – see Rae Hoffman’s post on the issue).

If Google screws up, Bing will win, Naylor then asserted, continuing, "The arrogance may be the thing that pushes them off the chair."

WebProNews Reporter/Anchor Abby Johnson contributed to this report.

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