Anyone who has been bewildered by a backlink profile or who has had a difficult conversation with a client about why a competitor is outranking them, knows that the delineations between white, black and gray hats are not as clear as they seem. In the academic abstract, the good guys are easy to spot and right and wrong seem obvious. In the day to day knife fight that most SEOs find themselves, such concepts quickly lose their utility.
The pressure to deliver results, persistent fallacy of “seo secrets” and overwhelming evidence that some cheating works, tempt even the most puritanical SEO’s, at one time or another, into perusing strategies that stretch the boundaries of their ethics. When you combine this with Google’s increasingly punitive defense of their algorithm, the average SEO is left with a perilous proposition: Take too many shortcuts and risk Google’s wrath, take too few and succumb to the never-ending wave of sites willing cheat their way to the top.
I personally believe that the nature of this business prevents most SEO’s from honestly discussing their failures. “Why I’m a Horrible SEO” is not the type of title that’s guaranteed to keep the clients coming. If you have a thought about this graphic or want to cop to playing it too loose or too safe, let’s mix it up in the comments. We dubbed this a “contrographic”, so let’s make sure to spark some controversy.
Jarrod Wright is the founder and head artist at Subtle Network Design & Marketing, a small graphic design and internet marketing firm located in Clearwater, Florida. Find him on twitter as @subtlenetwork