There was a time when Black Hat represented everything that’s wrong with SEO. Agencies or Google-sanctioned gurus would talk about the benefits of long term gains through content and relevancy, while everything else was seen as risky or destructive. The main takeaway was always: don’t even think about it. In truth, it’s now painfully obvious that Google would happily to do away with any notion of SEO. Since they’ve been chipping away at organic SERPs over the last few years, they’re clearly looking to sort the internet as they see fit. It’s 2018 and Google still recommend promoting your site through snail mail as a top strategy for gaining visitors According to Google's "SEO starter guide". Yeah, and maybe we can go door to door and hand out flyers too. “Have you heard the good news? We have a new Blog about Crypto-currency.” The white hats are coming. White Hats used to be Google’s chosen ones. They played by the rules. They checked all the boxes, followed the guidelines, read all the blog posts about content being kingly, schema’d their content down to the last comma and cleaned the code for max site speed until everything’s green. Months of hard labour might win the #9 spot on a long tail SERP while their competitors dominate the rest of the desirable keyword slots. Where can they go from there? I suppose they can always keep on writing content, make some ads, spend a small fortune, and hope it works out. Or. Maybe they can stop listening to advice that replaces actual marketing strategies with toothless checklists and calls for conformity. Which is happening. The dark side is starting to look real good. Agencies are peeking over the black-white divide much more nowadays. They understand that competition is fierce and there’s plenty of strategy left off the table because it’s been vilified as Link Building or spam. It’s dawning on the industry that Google is not a level playing field and the mainstream is getting ready to fight for it’s right to rank. What a Ranker. However, we shouldn’t expect the newly bi-hat-curious to be out and proud anytime soon. There’s still plenty of stigma attached, but more and more mainstream pundits are admitting that a Link building strategy is crucial for ranking. It may still be veiled talk about partnering with schools and governments, but they do dip their toe in for a quick rank job and tout it as part of their holistic outreach strategy - or some such euphemism. You know, baby steps. They’re discovering what black hat marketers have known for a while – that Google’s SEO advice is designed to keep their engine running clean, whereas we old-school Digital Marketers recognize that SEO is about finding opportunities. The same opportunities that White hats are becoming desperate to find. It’s the tortoise and hare story, except the black hat hares are getting the job done while the tortoises are getting sick of SERP scraps. More and more mainstream white hats and in house SEO’s are coming to UnGagged looking for the latest Black Hat Tactics (Let’s not refer to it as Grey hat, it’s ethical black hat that recognizes with great power there must also be great responsibility). One of the most popular sessions in Las Vegas last November was about “How To Cover Your Link Network’s Ass & Find Your Competitors Hidden Links”. Heady stuff for agencies with big brand clients. For example, take Jono Alderson’s upcoming talk: “Black Hat Analytics – When Your Data is Working Against You” This is the return to wild-west SEO that digital marketers can really sink their teeth into and makes one feel like we can SEO like it’s 1999. He’ll be touching on subjects that make mainstream SEO’s blush. Much of this is old hat for BHW members, but the notion of PII Injections and Charset Masking really makes white hat heads spin. And with good reason, this is the stuff they hope their competition isn’t doing. It’s hard to go back to “Content is King” after swallowing that shiny red pill. From these recent shifts, it’s easy to see how Black hat is going to be the new A-game. Google’s remaining good will is steadily eroding and Marketers are looking fondly back at the old attitudes where they could tame the SERP according to their strategic needs. When it comes to SEO, if you want to be front-row center, you don’t have to settle for a place in the cheap seats. The kids are learning. We’re changing the face of SEO conferences. Join us in London this June, and as a Black Hat member, you get an extra 15% off your ticket. It’s practically a red carpet. See You there! Get your Early Bird Tickets, use discount code BHW and save an extra 15%!