Posted October 23, 2006 9:00 am by with 18 comments

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by Jeremy Luebke

I can hear the email programs firing up now “…just because I’m up till 5am link building and editing title tags in my underwear does not mean I’m a virgin…” Slow down, you can close your email client, you have it all wrong. A virgin SEO is one that has never had a site banned by a search engine. And like in real life, if you’re a virgin, you don’t know what your missing.

Method to My Madness

The first time I had a site banned, I was shocked and devastated. The second time, I was ecstatic like a kid on Christmas morning. No I’m not bipolar, I’m obsessive. I had to know why the site was banned, and the theories I received from my fellow SEOs were not good enough. I needed cold hard facts. I got them by creating a new site and methodically testing each theory until the second site was banned. It was like being back at elementary school and picking on the girl I had a crush on until she stomped on my foot.

Now I’m not suggesting you go out and dirty up your white hat, just buy a few different hats to wear when the time is right. The best system admins I know can hack a server any day of the week, and the fact they have that knowledge makes them 100 times more effective at securing their own servers. Search Engine Optimization Specialists are much the same way. To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy (Sun Tzu).

What’s in it for you?

In a single word, knowledge. John Andrews’ competitive webmastering philosophy sums it up best. Researching and analyzing all aspects of this art called Search Engine Optimization is what sets apart the good SEOs from the great SEOs. There are so many brilliant people in our industry that just blow me away with their knowledge (Rand, Todd, Greg, Michael, etc…). I am a very competitive person, and the idea that someone knows more than I about my passion and chosen profession leaves me sleepless at night. I am not saying I know everything there is to know or that I ever will, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying.

Where to Start

There are so many ways to approach a research project such as this. Some goals may be long term and others short term. The first item on your action list should be to head over to Syndk8 and join the forums. I’ve also heard good things about the forums at SeoBlackHat, but it’s a subscription only service and I haven’t signed up myself. I’m seriously considering it though.

After spending some time there you should have a good idea about the basics of black hat SEO. Now get out there and test, then test, and then test some more. You can’t learn to be a painter from a book and you won’t learn how black hat truly works from a forum. Make sure to create a new persona before you venture into the dark alley. The last thing you want is to host a shady website on your server with your other white hat domains. With how cheap domains and hosting are these days, it’s just not worth it. You don’t even need a new domain or host to embark on this journey. The ability to leach off an established domain by using a free blog service is something many black hats use. Mix it up a little and try out all your options.

Do not lie, cheat or steal!

There is a difference between black hat techniques and criminal activities. To me black hat is about competing with the search engines while white hat is about competing with your fellow webmasters. SEOmoz has an interesting debate on white vs black. If you are scraping someones copyrighted content, you are not learning the dark arts or doing research. You are stealing. With so many free content sites on the Internet these days, there is zero reason to scrape someones website. So don’t do it! Don’t let your little information gathering experiment turn into a lawsuit.

By now you’re probably presuming I’m a hard core black hat SEO when the complete opposite is the truth. My websites are white as driven snow. I have my own personal research projects but that is not what I do for a living or where I make my money. There is too much money to be made in the long run to risk a ban. I’ll also let you in on a little secret. Black hat SEO is a lot of work. It is not the easy path to riches as many would lead you to believe. The same 80/20 rule applies to the dark arts as to everything else in life. 20% of the webmasters will earn 80% of the money.

Knowledge is power. Now go get you some!

[The above article is a submission for Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If you’d like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]