Is Black Hat SEO a Sin?
In the world of SEO there are techniques we are all warned about, techniques the search engines deride, techniques known as “black hat SEO”. From the way the search engines talk about black hat SEO, you would think it’s right up there with theft and fraud…maybe even murder and the people using it are the dregs of society…but are they really?
Is black hat SEO evil?
Google is not God.
Google says they know where you are and they claim to know what you are thinking. Bing says they can make your decisions for you. They both do have a significant amount of economic and social power, but they aren’t God.
Is black hat SEO illegal?
The simple answer is, “No.” These are rules made up by the search engines for the search engines. It’s not illegal to sell links, stuff keywords, cloak pages, or manipulate the search engines in any way. However, there certainly can be consequences, serious ones, but those consequences are from the search engines not the state authorities. (To be clear, I’m not talking about things like data mining which may be illegal)
Is black hat SEO a sin?
This is a bit more nuanced of a question. Certainly, I’ve never read a verse in the Bible referring to black hat SEO and since we’ve already established that Google isn’t God 😉 , the seemingly obvious answer would be that, no, black hat SEO is not a sin. But that reasoning neglects a few facts.
- Many black hat tactics are deceptive in nature. We all know lying is a sin. Many black hat strategies are designed to either trick the search engines or visitors. Are deceptive SEO techniques equivalent to lying?
- Black hat SEO violates terms of service. The search engines are reasonably clear (sometimes) about what they do not want you to do. Is it wrong to violate a company’s terms of service? Then again, did we ever agree to these terms of service?
Is black hat SEO just a risk?
The alternative to black hat SEO being wrong for one reason or another is that it’s just a risk. A person can do x, y, or z on their site in hopes of getting high rankings and increasing traffic, but they are risking getting caught and having the search engines penalize or even ban them. If there are no legal or moral reasons not to do black hat SEO, then it’s just a question of weighing the risks against the potential rewards.
What Do You Think?
This article has been a bit of a thought exercise for me and I’m curious what you think about black hat SEO.
Do you think it’s wrong to use black hat SEO?
Do you think it’s foolish to use black hat SEO?
Do you think it’s perfectly fine as long as the rewards outweigh the risks?
Photo by steve-and-diane