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High Rankings Advisor: Black Hat - White Hat - Issue No. 119

November 3, 2004

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Back in the Country

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Black Hat/White Hat

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   Tampa Seminar CD - Half Price
---->   SEO Copywriting Combo

*Guest Article:
---->   Handling Discount SEO Requests

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   How Do We Make Robots Read Languages?

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   Beware of Marketers Bearing Browser Keyword Programs

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Stockholm Photos

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey all! It's great to be back after a week out of the country.  I've
got lots of great info for you today, so let's get straight to it! -

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Black Hat/White Hat++

With Halloween behind us, people are putting away their witch hats and
brooms in order to get ready for the next big holiday (Thanksgiving in
the US).  I'm wondering if maybe it's also time for SEOs to put away
their hats.

For those who haven't heard, for the past year or two some have
labeled different forms of search engine optimization by different hat
colors.  Those who practice what some refer to as "ethical" SEO are
the White Hats (like the good guys in the movies), and those who some
refer to as "sp@mmers" are the Black Hats (like the bad guys in the
movies).  Those who are not quite as pure as the driven snow but who
aren't quite as... umm... aggressive as a full-fledged "search engine
sp@mmer" are sometimes referred to as Gray Hats.

But are these labels helping anyone, and do they really mean anything?
Certainly, the SEO methods I use would put me into the White Hat
category.  Lucky me. Does this make me better than those in the Black
Hat category?  I guess the question would be, better at what?  It
doesn't make me a better person, nor does it necessarily make me a
better SEO.  It might make me better at not getting a site banned from
the search engines, but then again, most Black Hats know that their
sites will eventually get banned and have figured that into their
business model. So it's not really a question of good or bad, like the
hats seem to imply.

I've had the unique opportunity of meeting SEOs of every hat color in
forums and in person.  For the most part SEOs are all just regular
people trying to run their businesses, hoping to make some money, and
trying to do what's best for their clients.  What I've noticed,
however, is that even though we may all call ourselves SEOs, our
clients and our business models are truly like night and day.  So
instead of having a different word for what we do, it has been easier
for many to use the hat thing to differentiate ourselves.

I have the luxury of picking and choosing my clients, and I simply
won't take a client that will have to compete with tons of sites that
use Black Hat SEO techniques to survive.  You know the types I mean,
they're the kind you see in your email trash folder every morning.
Basically, if they sp@m you by email, you can pretty much bet they're
sp@mming the search engines as well.  The reality is that there is a
TON of money to be made if you can figure out how to get high rankings
for those types of sites.  Some can make hundreds of thousands of
dollars a month using their Black Hat techniques for their sites.
That's pretty impressive, and it's also big business.  Some of the
brightest minds in the industry are Black Hat sp@mmers and proud of
it!  They don't even mind being called Black Hats or sp@mmers.

What those guys do as SEOs, however, really has nothing to do with
what I do as an SEO.  Sure, we're all trying to bring targeted search
engine visitors to our sites, but that's where the similarities end.
I don't have to keep up with every tiny algorithm shift, or the latest
technique that the engines haven't caught onto yet.  It's completely
irrelevant to what I do.  In my biz, I simply have to be aware that
search engines exist, understand how and why people use them, and fix
my clients' sites so that there's a good fit between the site, the
user, and the search engine.  White Hat SEO is about 1/3 science and
2/3 art, whereas Black Hat SEO is probably the other way around.  The
art for White Hatters comes into play by finding the perfect balance
between user and search engine.  The art in Black Hat SEO comes into
play when dreaming up new techniques to use in the engines, when the
current one stops working.

Both White Hat and Black Hat SEOs have their place.  Lots of people
are indeed looking for the types of products and services that Black
Hatters specialize in.  There is a huge demand for their black magic.
As much as I hate lousy search results, as long as the Black Hats are
doing their thing to the types of sites that I wouldn't be seeking out
anyway, then it really doesn't bother me; it's the search engines'
problem to get rid of it.

The important thing to note, however, is that most sites don't need to
resort to Black Hat SEO.

It all depends on what the Website owner's goal is. Do they want quick
fixes and throwaway domains for the chance of a temporary big payoff,
or do they want a stable business that takes a lot of time and energy,
but which pays off handsomely over time?  Neither one is necessarily
right or wrong -- just different.  It's just like the stock market or
g*ambling in many ways.  If you're willing to be extremely aggressive,
there's a chance you'll make a ton of money.  However, there's usually
even more of a chance that you'll lose a ton also.  It really comes
down to how much of a g*ambler you are.

For a company looking for long-term success, there is absolutely no
reason to g*amble with their site.  I cannot stress this enough.  When
I've written in the past on how sp@mming the search engines is bad and
unnecessary, this is what I'm talking about.  Most people don't have
Websites in industries that need to go the Black Hat route.  Those
that go to the "dark side" anyway often regret it later.  (They like
it while it's working, of course!)  But seriously, even though it may
take more lead-time, the White Hat method is a lot less stressful, and
quite frankly a whole lot easier.  I can take a look at almost any
site and know exactly what needs to be done to it to help it achieve
long-term success.

I think even most of the really good Black Hatters wouldn't even
recommend their techniques for most brand-name companies and the like.
It's simply not worth it, and in nearly every case it's unnecessary.

There's a whole lot more I could say on this subject, and I may do so
in another article in the future.  But even if I don't, you can watch
my colleague Alan Perkins and me duke it out with a couple of Black
and/or Gray Hatters on a new panel at the upcoming Chicago SES
appropriately called "Black Hat, White Hat and Lots of Gray."  You can
learn more about the conference and this session here:



Buy Now! Our Tampa Seminar CD - Half Price While Supplies Last!

Listen to the MP3 audio files of our Tampa full-day search engine
marketing seminar from last November -- was $279 now $139.50!

What is covered:
SEO Basics, PPC, Copywriting, Measuring Traffic and Conversions.

Also includes complete PDF presentations from the speakers.

~~~Guest Article~~~

++Handling Discount SEO Requests++

Today we have another guest article written by my friend and fellow
forum administrator, Scottie Claiborne.  Be sure to catch Scottie at
next month's Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago
<>, where she will
be speaking at a new session (which she dreamed up) called "The
Virtual SEM Company."

Here's Scottie...

Handling Discount SEO Requests
By Scottie Claiborne

It's a sticky situation that most of us have experienced. The
potential customer on the other end of the line has just made a plea
for a discount. Your workload is fairly light and you want the
business. Do you offer a discount or not?

Do You Really Want This Client?

More often than not, clients who start out haggling over price and
trying to "grind you down" over fees will ALWAYS want a discount.
When you give in and offer them a discounted price, you are doing just
as much work for less money.  In my experience, the people who are
most concerned about the price rarely feel they are getting what they
paid for and are difficult to satisfy. You often end up giving more to
the people who are paying the least!

Another thing to consider is that when you discount your services,
many people assume you must have been gouging them in the first place,
otherwise you couldn't afford to discount!

Knowledge-based services are a tricky thing to sell, because you are
selling your expertise.  Don't sell yourself short!

Here are a couple of strategies for dealing with bargain hunters:

"Sorry, We Don't Offer Discounts."

This is the stand to take when:

* You are already turning down business.
* The project is complex and likely to expand.
* They really want you to do the work.

Explain to the customer that you simply don't offer discounts. You are
selling your time more than anything else, and you have a limited
supply. Many clients feel they ought to ask for a discount, just in
case.  When told no, most will still retain your services.

Often however, there is a guilt card thrown in, such as when it's a
church, school, or charity with no budget. If that's the case, try

"Please Apply for Our Community Service Program."

Set a specific number of projects you will handle for deserving
organizations. Create an application and a timeline.

A sample plan:

* 4 charitable projects a year for half price or some other discount.
* Applications are accepted quarterly
* Use each new charitable project as an opportunity to send a press
release to the local and online media.

Your company accepts the applications and selects the ones that will
bring the most exposure and meet other criteria, such as a cause that
touches the owner personally. You set the timelines according to
current workloads and utilize downtime by building your image and
helping out a good cause.

A charitable project program shows that you aren't just a heartless
mercenary out to make as much money as possible, but in fact a
dedicated member of the community with an organized outreach program
to give back.

It allows YOU to choose the programs that make sense for you to donate
to, and prevents you from having to make snap judgments while under
pressure from a client.

Offer Something Extra

"I can't offer a discount but I can add a directory submission program
for free."

Take a hint from the cosmetic companies -- they don't get into pricing
battles amongst themselves. They fight it out with extravagant gifts
with purchase. For a $20 purchase, you get a free gift worth $50! Who
wouldn't buy?

This strategy keeps you from eroding the value of your services
through discounting while offering clients a reason to choose your
service instead of a competitor's.

Consider separating your services into an a la carte menu: you can add
on additional services that don't take much time (or might normally be
included) at no extra cost.  By setting a dollar value for each
service you provide (as opposed to a flat fee for "optimization") you
can create "packages" of services that include some specific items for

"But Your Competitor Is $300 Less..."

Whatever you do, DON'T start badmouthing your competitors. And don't
give in to this tactic. A higher price can actually work to your
advantage. Simply state the facts -- whatever it is that makes you
different and better.

* We've been successfully optimizing websites since 199x.
* Our service has a proven record; feel free to contact our clients
for a referral.
* Optimization is a knowledge-based service.  We are confident our
service is well worth the fees.
* Company ABC will probably do a fine job for you, if your budget is

Why would you recommend they call the other company? Well, if they
really wanted to hire company ABC, they would have already done it!
Instead, they are calling you back to try to get you to meet the
other's prices...because they want to hire YOU, not them.

Many will call your bluff and hang up to call the competitor. More
often than not, they'll call back and book you.  If they really are
shopping based on price alone, they'll book the competitor and leave
you free to work with other clients.

Be Prepared

Sometimes a discount is appropriate and makes sense, other times you
just need to be able to turn the request to your advantage. However
you decide to handle discount requests, be prepared with a ready
answer before they ask.  It will prevent you from getting into
projects that aren't profitable while ensuring that you get to work
with clients who appreciate the value of your skills.

Scottie Claiborne
The Karcher Group:

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~~~High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week~~~

++How Do We Make Robots Read Languages?++

Forum member "Strateman" asks: "We also have German and French
languages available and some foreign sites link to us, but foreign
robots do not index our pages! Why is that?"

Read the forum responses here:

~~~Sound Advice~~~

++Beware of Marketers Bearing Browser Keyword Programs++

(This audio recording changes each week.)

~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's all for today.  I had a great time in Stockholm last week at
the SES conference! The weather was cool and rainy, but that didn't
stop us from seeing the city.  You can check out some after-hours
photos that a few friends took here:

Catch you next week! - Jill

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