Is Whitehat SEO a Joke?
If you’ve been paying attention to what’s been going on in the SEO community lately, chances are you’ve run across Kris Roadruck’s genius piece of linkbait Whitehat SEO is a Joke.
I’m not saying the content of the article is genius, but using the controversial topic and confrontational style to attract discussion and, yes, links is pretty darn clever. Kris doesn’t hide the fact that he’s trolling for reactions, and you only have to look at the length post’s comments section to see that it’s working. It’s even inspired a series of response posts like “Blackhat SEO is a Joke” and “White Hat SEO: It F@$#ing Works.”
More than the black hat/white hat debate, I think the real SEO takeaway here is that being controversial can sometimes be as effective as being useful, entertaining, etc. If people are talking about it and linking to it, what’s the real difference?
The hat-color debate overlooks a lot of the nuances and frames things in terms of “that’s unethical” or “that’s naive.” The real issue is specific tactics, and knowing when to use them (or not) and why. Don’t just do something because you’re a “good guy” or a “rebel.” Know your options, know the consequences, and know exactly why you’re doing something in a specific situation.
Using controversy as linkbait is no exception. Sure, it can be effective, and if you’re promoting your personal brand it can be a smart way to position yourself. (See also: Michael Gray)
But if you’re trying to build a brand for a product or a service, turning off your potential customers can be a terrible strategy.
While I don’t advocate black hat techniques, at the end of the day I don’t think that being a “white hat” SEO is the most important thing. It’s more important to be a smart SEO.