Clarifying our position on “hats” in SEO

I believe in the web. I believe in organic citations. I love inbound marketing.

We have built our business by believing in the flywheel and I desperately want that to be how our clients and conference attendees build theirs too.

Some misconceptions have arisen following our link building conference last week and I just wanted to set the public record straight. This is especially important in light of the fact that we are taking the show on the road to New Orleans this Friday.

When programming this event, I wanted the focus to be on tips and tricks that real SEOs could take away and start using immediately and I coached our speakers to bring their A games and deliver on that promise. I personally took away loads of tips that I am going to start using immediately and I'm not the only one.

In the process of building a remarkable program of subjects and speakers, we included a session entitled "Lessons from the dark side" that explicitly set out to show riskier tactics that we would never use or recommend under any circumstances but from which I believe white hat marketers can learn a great deal. Some similar ideas and thought experiments were shown in other presentations as well.

The message that you should absolutely not do this was in various pieces of written material and said by the speakers themselves. Nonetheless, some write-ups of the event didn't include this crucial piece of information and gave some people who were not there the wrong impression. I would therefore like to state, as clearly as I can for the record, that we believe the only value that black hat tactics bring legitimate agencies and brands is to learn what competitors are doing and to find genuine ways to market via new channels. I don't want to put words into our speakers' mouths on such a sensitive topic so I'll just let you read what Russ and Martin have to say on the subject directly.

I believe our speakers were amazing and the feedback I have seen shows that our attendees agree with me. I have seen preliminary numbers showing ~94% would spend the money to come again. I have never seen such high scoring presentations. I also have seen no negative feedback from people who were actually there about the shady tactics mentioned. In the past, if a speaker has mentioned these things, we have heard about it in the feedback, but this time around we appear to have done a good enough job of explaining and disclaiming that the attendees understood the purpose of these sessions.

It's also worth saying that there was a strong theme throughout the day of brilliant purely whitehat ideas and numerous whole sessions from influential speakers on very positive and clean themes. The issues arose as ideas were tweeted or blogged without the surrounding context triggering upset from people who weren't there but assumed these were presented as recommendations. We'll be thinking hard about how to make sure the external impression matches reality more closely. Watch this space.


It'd be crazy of me not to mention at this point that if you want to see these presentations that were rated so highly, you can register to buy the video.

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About the author
Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. For the...   read more