Thought I had better make the first proper post something deep and meaningful… not saying this is, but here goes…
Black hat, white hat… what does it all mean? Also, who makes the rules? Well, that one is easy, Google does. Even though I am quite sure that the good people of Google never meant to be portrayed as the police, that it what they have become. Why? Well, power (usually) brings responsibility and Google are the most powerful force in the most well used information retrieval system ever created. So, they make the rules and they get to say what is black (hat) and white (hat). This is altogether fine in the main (someone has to make the rules I guess).
So what are the rules? Well, you all know them really. You just decide if you want to play by them. Just in case you are unsure of the rules, here is my cut:
1. Produce fantastic websites that people will like, use, love and share.
2. Make the website friendly to search engines remembering that (sorry guys) they are glorified databases (I don’t mean that to sound harsh… I like search engines).
3. Market your site like no tomorrow, but don’t use tactics that your mother would not be proud of you using.
4. Make the biggest effort possible to continually improve your site and make it better, more usable, more commercial, etc. and use analytics (and user feedback) to do this.
Give or take the things I have omitted (forgotten), that is it really. The hard bit? Well, in the bad (good?) old days when you could SPAM your way to the top of the search engines, all it took was a little knowledge and a little effort. The main part about the rules of today is that Google makes you work hard, be cleaver, etc. and the good bit about that is that most people won’t bother. The sensible people who don’t bother just get someone great to do it for them. However, great people cost a lot of money and they are in short supply.
Can you still bend the rules? Yes, sure you can. Will it last? No. Search engine marketing is inherently a long term strategy. Think short term and be prepared to get short term results (if that is what you are aiming for then this may still be for you).
In essence, Google (sorry Yahoo, MSN, Ask, etc. for not mentioning you too, you will be mentioned in the future, you just don’t set the rules, sorry) protects two main things, namely, the quality of its product so it can continue to make money and our ability to use search engines to enrich our lives, save us time. etc. (the two are completely linked).
Where does it leave all of us who want to have fantastic exposure on search engines? Quite simply (and boringly), THINK!, work hard, work smart and set your objective realistically. Most importantly, remember that Google (and Yahoo, and MSN, and Ask, et al) are (just) intelligent databases; people are people are people. The rules are really made by all of us, Google just set them.