Welcome to the Dark Side: SMX Advanced 2008
Don’t let the title scare you (or for those of you who enjoy the “Dark Side”, get excited) no Give It Up! Tips will be talked about here until the full 30 day time period expires. (Sorry. Being ostracized and shunned in a community is something I won’t do just yet.)
This was the first major SEO/SEM conference I’d been to, and it didn’t disappoint. Outside of the awesome information flowing through each session, it was a real pleasure to meet some of the folks I’d been reading and following around the net for the past several years. The networking opportunities were worth it alone. And, now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on it, I know now that there is a real “dark side” out there in the SEO world. Let me explain.
I’d always considered myself ethical and moral (not exactly a “virgin” white hat, but a nice shade of off-white) when it came to my SEO: I’d look to cut some corners, be a smidge sneaky when it came to optimizing, and take advantage of as many search weaknesses as possible, as long as it was in the Google/Search Engine Playbook. But, never in my wildest imagination did I think the Black Hats were as strong as they are, nor as simply creative as they are.
Jay Young, of Link Fish Media, had a quote that I didn’t necessarily think pertained to SEO, but always felt like it should be said, “SEO isn’t about morality, it’s about money.” And, really, in a nutshell, that’s what is all about. Yet, that being said, I can’t justify nor condone the attitude, the behavior, of some of the things I heard at the “Blow Your Mind Link Building” session or the “Give It Up!” session. Some of those techniques were just downright dastardly and could potentially destroy businesses. And, perhaps I have a weak constitution when it comes to being “dark”, but I could never do some of those things, even if I knew it would bring successes to my clients.
I think the Developer Track was excellent, and out of the Organic track, the “Analytics Every SEO Needs To Know” and “International SEO” were tremendous. Tons of incredible information those two sessions that can really help businesses struggling to justify SEO/SEM/SMO to their clients.
I will say this: at least I know they exist and what techniques other might be using against me. I have knowledge of it now, and it makes me wiser to the games others might be playing. Was SMX Advanced advanced? Yes. Was it advanced in a way that would be applicable to “White Hat SEOs”, no. It wasn’t. That’s the sad truth. If you can, check your morality and business ethics at the door, then this conference was a gold mine. If you can’t or won’t, then you’re like me, and found some useful things, but none that you’d be willing to risk a client site over, or your job over.
The best part of working at Aloha Digital Marketing, is that I have a team dedicated to same principles of clean SEO that I subscribe to. Again, I never claimed to pristine and virginal; I want to maximize as many advantages as possible, I want to build my clients’ businesses along with our own, but I want to do it in clean, ethical, and moral manner.
SMX Advanced was quite informative, excellent place to meet and network, but not enough “White Hat” I can really take back and apply to my clients’ sites. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of “burning” a site or two in pursuit of rankings and conversions. And, my guess is, neither do most of you. So, my hope is that next year, there will be ONE Give It Up, not several Give It Ups under the guise of “White Hat” Sessions.
Matt Cutts: Google’s Moral Compass?
At SMX Advanced today, at the Y & A with Matt Cutts (moderated by Danny Sullivan), Matt was asked how he feels being the “moral compass” for Google. This was in the context of the money.co.uk hoax article.
For a complete transcript of the Y & A with Matt, check out Search Engine Roundtable’s post. (Excellent job by David Wallace)