The Dirty Little Secrets of SEO & How Information Travels

I was browsing the new posts list of one of the busier seo forums this morning when a title caught my eye. The poster was asking if it were true that a certain technique/tactic got results.

It was true, but it's also one of the dirtier, more tightly held secrets out there at the moment and until then, as far as I know, had not been exposed to the masses. So im in a dillema: Do i go straight to Threadwatch and post it as the grade A information it was or...

Follow the title link above for the full post.

I ummed and ahhed for about 3secs before sending the poster a polite pm asking him if he would remove his post in exchange for finding out how that technique actually worked and what the deal was. He was cool about it and I kept my promise.

Tough decision, if I came back here with it a lot of folks would have been very happy, but equally a lot of folks would have branded me for the devil i beleive I would have been for killing a good trick. The fact is that should that little secret become common knowledge, the SE's would soon do somthing about it and that would ruin a nice little earner for those that have discovered it or have been told about it in private through the seo underground.

I think I did the right thing. It would have made a very cool headline but the usefulness could have been very short lived.

The SEO Underground Network

If there is such a thing im not privvy to it, but it does make for a catchy headline huh? What i mean by seo underground is the way that the good stuff travels.

Most of the real information is either kept for oneself, or passed through email, forum pm systems, closed forums populated by friends that trust eachother or any number of more land-bound means. The good stuff just doesnt get posted out in public.

I was priveleged to be asked if i'd like to join one such small network of trusted friends sometime back and can tell you that a) it's not that uncommon an arrangement and b) i've learnt more their about real seo than i ever have on a forum. I'd encourage any group of friends that regularly chat in some fashion to think about setting up such a network as it's the only way these days of aquiring good information without those nuggets being misused or overused by every tom, dick or harry that happens to read a post on a board.

This isnt anything particularly new or shocking for most. As far as i know these types of arrangements have existed for as long as seo has and have their roots in (gasp, shock, horror!) Freemasonry - For some the very idea of secret groups of seos sharing information is probably horrifying, for others desirable, but for me personally it's just about being mates, and being able to talk about stuff without eavesdroppers.

...and guess what? It Doesn't Scale!

There are quite a few public forums out there that have private forums - areas set aside either for the invited, or those with the cash to join. The problem as i see it, in my admittedly limited experience, is that once you start to top a certain number the information flow dries up. This kind of thing only really works if everyone trusts everyone else and if there is an answer to the scaling problem i've not heard about it, so do let me know :-)

One such example was the wmw supporters forum. Im not certain Brett intended it to be such but when it first launched there was a huge buzz about the good stuff being posted back there. In fact, toolman posted an absolute killer thread entitled "Confessions of an SE Spammer". To say it was an eye opener would be to sell it short, it was a real cracker. But, short lived, the supporters forum over at wmw is a payed system, and as such, anyone can join so unsurprisingly enough GoogleGuy showed up in the thread with just one line: "Interesting thread..." and that was the end of that.

Not knocking the payed model, monetizing a forum is tough from what i've been told (ive never tried it..) and that's a fairly established way of getting some income from signed up members/supporters. It does illustrate the fact that even in situations where the flow of information is semi-closed-in it's still tough to communicate freely and openly with ones peers.


The other way information flows of course is good old face to face, and away from the hubub of sessions and handshaking with the suits, preferably at a bar, information flows plentifuly and freely. Ive only been to the wmw ones, the one in london in 2003 (i think) and then Boston later that year? - London was ideal, all of the talk was at the hotel bar and much was learnt. Boston, a little less, and as the gig began to take a more corporate road i kind of lost interest.

Im looking forward to making the seoroadshow next year, and I know that their are some invite only smaller ones in the UK with no name as I managed to make it to one such gathering this year but, I'd really like to hear where you think the best information is coming from these days....? Is it behind closed doors as I've suggested, is it at conferences, over IM - where?

Oh, and one more thing, if anyone over at the wmw conference happens to tune in here at some point, please tell us how it's going! There's a thread right here that would work just fine :-)


>Search Engine Optimization f

>Search Engine Optimization firms tend to hold back the solid info... no facts here, but plenty of anecdotes

For seminars targeting the SME market, I'm a big fan of unloading the entire bag of techniques and simply overwhelming them with too much information. I've seen some client-trolling forums owned by SEO firms use the information overload technique pretty well, too.

Info wants to be unfree

Info wants to be unfree: "Nick W" says that Search Engine Optimization firms tend to hold back the solid info... no facts here, but plenty of anecdotes. Interestingly, another article referencing this now apparently has no text. [via Diane Vigil]...


The disappointment comes, I think, in that they were somehow expecting SEW to bring its SES type of event management to reestablish a professional SEO forum.

Well, i know danny wants sew to be open to "all levels of experience" so that would put sew on the curve i would think, upward for now sure, but on the curve. - i saw the first gmail invite post the other day so that's a little sad.

For the moment however, it still has some of the best discussions. I just wish they'd get this damn spam report policy nailed down..

Moving on...
While this isnt a forum, you know i appreciate your views on these things so do let me know in public or private if you think we're drifting off track here RC - it would be appreciated.

We now haver our brand of foo but im hoping that people see how to use the various recent posts links, the rss feed and the homepage to keep the signal to noise exactly to their liking. Im also betting that the blog style of this place and the "this is not a help forum" policy will prevent me from having to remove too much chaff - only time will tell...


>Was there a theme to comment

>Was there a theme to comments

Basically, the pros are beginning to see a larger bell-shaped curve that spans many forums (and events. and organizations.) within the industry. The disappointment comes, I think, in that they were somehow expecting SEW to bring its SES type of event management to reestablish a professional SEO forum.

In one variation or another the term "(SEO)Professional FOO" came up a few times.


Among the pros I know, the SEW forum is not getting good reviews (and WmW far, FAR worse). This topic was brought up spontaneously (and repeatedly) while I was in Vegas. I am sure that everyone had been wishing/hoping/praying that SEW would somehow recapture the war-like hum that WmW once had.

I've made the odd comment on SEW here, i'd like to know what the deal was with those you spoke to though RC. Was there a theme to comments about how SEW is doing?

IMHO, basic SEO is well cover

IMHO, basic SEO is well covered in general forums. WmW still does the best overall job *IF* one is willing to spend the time doing the requisite deep-reading. Subscriber forum membership descriptions seem to be about evenly split between "joining to pay back the community" or what amounts to "Paid Foo" --in short, chit-chat without all the noise generated in the free forums. SEO tips and tricks, if and when discussed, are still pretty basic.

Among the pros I know, the SEW forum is not getting good reviews (and WmW far, FAR worse). This topic was brought up spontaneously (and repeatedly) while I was in Vegas. I am sure that everyone had been wishing/hoping/praying that SEW would somehow recapture the war-like hum that WmW once had. After the above-mentioned Toolman episode and others that followed, I don't think any forum is going to be able to achieve that. SEOrs now realize that they are no longer protected by obscurity, there is high demand for any technique that works and news of it travels fast.

Saerch Engine Secrets (and keeping them so)

Do Search Engine Marketers keep the best secrets of Search Engine Marketing to themsleves and away from forums? The Search Engine Watch blog has picked up on this interesting theme in an article entitled Keeping SEO Secrets. The article is

Forums are a great way to meet like minded people

You're definitely not gonna read all the good stuff on the forums but they are a great place to network and meet like minded people who you can swap ideas with privately.

I'm with Rob - you really shouldn't tease us with the hint of gold - only to produce some coal. ;-)

Not That Bad..

I dont think it' all that bad really.

There is some great stuff out there on the boards. I wouldnt spend so much time trawling through it all and publishing it here if there wern't :-)

Its only the 'black' stuff that gets talked about in private really, and that's probably best as those kind of techniques are not best suited to everyone. I get most of the good stuff from the public boards if the truth be told, what i learn in private is how to really maximize those same public techniques as in private people speak more freely and are not busy looking over their shoulders.

There really isnt that much mystique to it, it's just a conducive way to discuss seo in a paranoid world :)

Sorry for the teasing title rob hehehe....

I just wish people were a little more cryptic

Nothing worse than rumours of secret tips that subsequently fail to make the cold light of day...;)

I hear the sentiment though, I always think its a bit of a shame when someone publically posts a little nugget or suggests some killer idea, because at the end of it all, you can bet that some SE engineer will be reading it and taking steps to marginalise. That said, if people like that didn't post the things that they do, then we'd be left with nothing other than clinical observation, which, in terms of inspiration is just so much more boring.

Although, if anyone wanted to pm the 'little nugget' I might just listen, mind you, I'd just listen you understand, wouldn't dream of implementing such fly-by-night-short-term-BH-SE-transience on ANY of MY domains...;)

Thanks for the write up Danny

Regarding Danny's post
I'd like to add to that, for those that dont know me well, that pesonally i like to follow a mix of the schools of thought Danny suggested. I ride at a steady pace for most of the time, but i do like to stretch out and sprint every now and again :-)

Keeping SEO Secrets

Nick from Threadwatch has an interesting post today about how the real "secrets" of SEO never make it onto search forums. I agree, but it's not a reason for most to panic. Nick puts himself out there by discussing how...

Forums are great for learning

Forums are great for learning the basics and that might be all most people ever need. Occasionally someone will reveal something that’s not common knowledge but that often goes unnoticed or is written off by others. Hard to spot these gems if you’re not constantly browsing the forums –something i no longer have time for..

I’ve revealed some things i really wouldn’t want my closet competitors to know, not rocket science but i know they are unaware of these things. Not sure what i would do if i discovered a new way to manipulate the serps, be nice to share with the people who have helped me so much, but at the same time i wouldn’t want my closest competitors or the search engine reps(the enemy) knowing.

Some file sharing groups I’ve used in the past have a good solution, basically they have closed forums which are invite only. The group then shares releases amongst themselves. Which is all well and good if you’re lucky enough to be in the group. :-)

I wanna start a secret club!

I wanna start a secret club! I'll share my secrets if you'll share yours!

Seriously, if anyone ever wants to chat SEO or link building off the boards, AIM me (ChowYunFatND) - I DO have some helpful lists.

little blighters get everywhere don't they?

Adwordsrep at SEW

A very large number of Googlers read this, btw

Just so ya know...

We have two SE Reps registered here (that im aware of). Im not sure how much they actually visit/read, but they're registered.

To think that what you post in public forums might go unnoticed might be considered a little naive. Remember, if you work at an SE you're a search geek almost by default :-) Which would mean that you'd probably have an interest in SEO from one perspective or another.

Like I hinted at in the blog post, if you really want to discuss the good stuff, public boards just arent the best places. Not that you cant learn an enormous amount, just that what you do learn tends to be well known already, some threads (hopefully the ones posted here) just put a finer edge of understanding on some well known concepts.

Having said that, you hardly need cloak and dagger techniques to rank well, it's just that it can be fun and educational to discuss knowing noone is potentially listening :)

I respect your choice

But, I have to disagree. I think it's great how open and helpful the SEO world is and I'd like to see it remain that way. Maybe this particular trick was just too good to let slip...

You did the right thing

Although I've been building websites for years, I'm the first to admit that I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to SEO. I don't know what technique you're talking about, but you did the right thing. There's no point in letting the secret out of the bag, as then no-one would have been able to profit from it. Anyone going to the public forums hoping to just pick up the results of everyone else's hard work is kidding themselves. I bet GG reads and learns a hell a lot more than he posts, too - at least he was kind enough to remind people of the fact that anything posted at wmw can and will be read by Google/Yahoo.

I find that I can pick up useful snippets by reading between the lines, but there are no real shortcuts. I get the basics and the methodology from the public forums, and then build the skills and knowledge myself.