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June 26, 2008


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Fairly recently, I asked fellow tweeters what they thought of using a pseudonym or pen name, and most thought it was perfectly fine, as long as it wasn't intended for causing real harm via fraud, etc.

As an example, I recently had a guest blogger whose "name" is obviously a pen name, and I'd guess the person might be someone we all know as someone else (tho I'm not sure). But I don't see how that makes anything "bad". The post was quality. Does anything else matter?

If I want to create a site using a pen name, and write it based on who I was 20 years ago (i.e. from that point of view), does that necessarily make the site unworthy?

I guess I just am not sure that this issue is necessarily cut and dry or black and white. The world we live in is often infused with lots of shades of gray.

I think the post in question could have been toned down some and been perfectly valid for anyone, not just blackhats:

1. Create a twitter app because of the backlink possibility.
2. Forget about the rest of the post.

I have played in the black hat arena, but not with social media. I eventually realized that I have enough interests that I don't need faked accounts. I could have valid accounts if I stopped chasing trends and starting monetizing my interests.

Black hat is fast and automated. A human touch adds so much more. I saw the main reason I have used any black hat techniques was because I was unsure of what I was doing, so I didn't want to spend to much time on it.

Plus, it's just better to know you're representing yourself out in the open.

All's fair in Social media (love) and SEO (war)...

We all do what works... one mans spammer is another mans search guru - The ones who are great spammers don't get caught and they produce some amazing results... The bad ones though, well, they get blogged about and outed.

thanks for a very interesting post!

i agree with wingnut, it's all pretty grey. i personally have been on twitter for over a year and frequently get followed by people who follow a gazillion people. i rarely follow them, only if they have something interesting to say (which they rarely do).

social media is such a new thing. we need to learn so much about how to behave in this new environment. what may seem like distasteful practices to me may just be the bungling babysteps of someone trying out a new medium.

i like to remember that behind every spammer there is a real human being.

"Trouble is all that time spent "faking it" could have been spent being real and making real connections that gain you much more than links."

I couldn't agree more. Gaming any of the social media sites only pollutes the experience for those who are using these services legitimately. We construct elaborate filters to avoid having to deal with spam via email and it's only a matter of time before similar filtering options will be available on social networking sites. Spam in any format is still spam, an interruption, an annoyance. Being real and making real connections adds value - seems a much stronger marketing strategy to me.

"Black hat SEO" versus gaming social media: IMO, the expectations are different for those visiting a website and social networkers. It's like the difference between walking in to a store versus meeting a friend for lunch. If a salesperson in the store hard sells you, you may be annoyed... but if it turns out the person you thought was a friend was simply using you to get introduced to someone else, you feel angry, betrayed, maybe a little embarrassed. Your feelings, and your response are likely to be much harsher when you've been taken for a ride by someone pretending to be your friend.

When it comes to website SEO, frankly I'm not big on "hat colors." I think it comes down to a matter of risk -- there are high risk tactics and there are lower risk tactics. Which ones you recommend for a client depend on the client's situation and their tolerance for risk. As long as you've fully disclosed the potential consequences and the client agrees, then as far as I'm concerned you can have at it. Smart "high risk" practitioners don't lie about what their client's sites are about -- they simply use more aggressive tactics to bring the sites to the attention of others.

But "blackhat tactics" in the social networking world are a different matter. You're breaking the fundamental social contract. Substituting automated bots for human interaction. Deceiving people into thinking you're something you're not. Lying about yourself and what you're about. Pretending to be a friend.

Aggressive marketing is okay, IMO. Lying, deception and cynical manipulation are not.

I'm going to come at this from the POV of someone that's up to his neck (happily so) in social media, and that has little understanding of the search world.

I don't know what exactly is and is not acceptable in the search world, but on the social media side of the fence, most of us have pretty highly-refined BS detectors. We become very pissy very quickly if we think someone is even considering being less than authentic in how they use these sites and tools.

If rankings are the currency in the search world, then trust is why makes the social media world go round. Lose that trust and you're done here.

nice article

I'm pleased to see you taking this on, Li, but I'm amused by this line from your post: "...I still do not get why people need to game social media." I'd add "...or cheat on their taxes or run red lights or cut in front of you in line at the movies."

There will always be black hats, which means all of us in white hats need to be more vigilant, more bold, more active in educating our clients and the public about the legitimate uses of media in generating conversation and interaction between businesses and consumers.

I was recently interviewed by our local business weekly about burying bad news in search results pages. I railed against the practice on both ethical and practical grounds, but my voice ended up only a small one in the published article. So in response I published my original notes to the journalist on my blog. I'm sure none of it is news to the readers of this blog, but it's another voice "for the good guys." http://parkandco.com/blog/?p=105

Hi,Choosing between Pay-Per-Click Marketing and Search Engine Optimization is not a matter of measuring return on investment. There are major differences between the two approaches and the choice between one or the other is based on different factors.

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