Search Engineers Are Hackers & Criminals

60 comments

In a recent episode of GoodKarma, Matt Cutts equated SEOs to hackers and criminals:

Now there is a bright side. Like at the point when SEOs become illegal hackers. Like when they really start to break the law. And well you could argue if you're signing a ton of guestbooks really fast, or you're doing a ton of trackback or referer spam, you know that almost does get towards the denial of service attack, but this is the first time where you could actually go to a court of law and you can say, "look, here's my account, I got hacked, here's all the stuff."

And on some level, it is almost kind of a silver lining, in that for the first time you could go, and you know, you could actually get an SEO convicted of doing something like this.

Sheesh...why don't you tell us what you really think Matt?

Matt continued his voracious attack on SEOs, stating

There is kind of this tried and true way of link baiting, which is to pick on someone who is bigger than you. ... Threadwatch will come over and pick on me.

Dave hasn't posted on his weight loss blog in over a month. With my current weight, I would argue that many of us are far bigger than Matt.

Just look at how spammy Google's SERPs are. Matt has to be spending way too much time in the gym.

Comments

so scraping the copyrighted

so scraping the copyrighted material of the world and putting paid ads next to it is a lesser hack?

quote

"The way to become famous fast is to throw a brick at someone who is famous." - Walter Winchell pre-link bait ;)

Let's be honest

Geez Matt you have really been de-mystifing a lot of things I have had trouble understanding lately. So basically I can go out and spam 200 000 blogs with some guys URL and he's an illegal spammer. Cool.

I still don't understand why someone hasn't had the balls to do it to Matt's blog. C'mon russians and pols, get out there and show us what your really made of!

Good for Matt!

Would be great to see blog spammers behind bars! YEAH!

>>Would be great to see blog

>>Would be great to see blog spammers behind bars! YEAH!

meanwhile some old lady got clubbed to death near me and they cant find the perpetrators :-/.

Sorry Jill, it is hardly a crime against humanity and I have a blog. I dont blog spam by the way.

It was hacking, look for

It was hacking, look for yourself: http://www.seomoz.org/blogdetail.php?ID=1308

Greg Boser attacking Bruce Clay was funny though, isn't Bruce Clay a sponsor of Webmaster Radio? Oh yeah, I get it now...

Is Threadwatch a blog? ;)

Be fair to Matt here,

Be fair to Matt here, although the words above are correct that isn't quite the way I heard the intent from Matt on the show, although I am sure that if all the SEOers around the globe were in clink it would make his job easier.

When i listened I inferred it was to do with the Donald Trump's business diversification and silly spammers (not me, I am stupid, not silly) who commit the equivalent of a Denial Of Service when they link spam. Personally I'd sugest a working link spam target is kept under the radar to the owner and not over abuse but i also think (in UK law at least) that it is hard to define a computer, under the instruction of a spamming program under the instruction of a person (Blog Spam) compared to a computer program, under the instruction of a human (surfer) as different

Nice Try Aaron

Matt also said something about little dogs linkbaiting by trying to bite pieces off the big dogs.

/popcorn

hmm

I don't think he should be using SEOs and all those other things in the same sentence. Those who practice white hat seo (which there isnt anything wrong with) are not doing those techniques.

..of course, i didnt listen to the mp3 so maybe this is all kind of out of context,, did he say good things about SEOs as well?

But at the same time as my

But at the same time as my above comment, Matt also said we at TW like picking on Matt, so GAME ON imho :D

(( ..of course, i didnt

(( ..of course, i didnt listen to the mp3 so maybe this is all kind of out of context,, did he say good things about SEOs as well? ))

LOL...nuff said! ;)

buzz

What does that mean buzzbox? I asked a question.

Another braindead witch-hunt in the offing?

Nothing particularly original let alone new about this. These things tend to come in shoves and waves, so here we are, apparently witnessing the next round.

Another recent example:
http://www.isedb.com/db/articles/1510/1/Defend-Against-Black-Hat-SEOYour-Web-Host-Can-Help/Defend-Against-Black-Hat-SEO-Your-Web-Host-Can-Help.html. Here, "black hats" and criminals are blithely equated, no holds barred.

While this particular piece wasn't authored by anybody even remotely attaining to Matt's professional caliber, what it does go to show is yet another cheap bash at poisoning the overall atmosphere.

Some community wisdom, perhaps: Tolerate hysterical badmouthing of "nefarious black hats", and it'll be all SEOs (i.e. you, too) next, self-perceived white hats included. You can safely bet the farm on that one.

No point in complaining after the event, only because you thought you were "different" and even willing to chime in when the lynch mob was initially rounded up ...

erm soory

You do know where the blackhat tag comes from.

By defination a blackhat is a hacker - and does ileagal things - its been used to label types of SEO - and some what weakened - a black hat hacker by defination does do ileagal things.

But soory people who hack to do seo are criminals and matts right - don't shoot the mesenger espesialy one as usefull as Matt

I'm normally sympathetic to

I'm normally sympathetic to SEO's and hostile to most of the disinformation that comes out of Googlieland, however, I have had numerous comment spam-bots and submit bots camp out on various websites literally, for hours - spamming away tirelessly and burning up an incredible amount of bandwidth (not to mention my time,) if that does not equal a DOS or web vandalism then I don't know what does. All done in the interest of link pop, of course.

I don't care what the rationalization is, it's every bit as wrong as Google putting links on someone else's web page, if not more-so.

I don't consider blackhat SEOs to be criminals.

They're TERRORISTS!!!!

MattKP, you'll want to

MattKP, you'll want to listen to the MP3 to get the context. We were talking about people that illegally hack websites, which is a really sucky thing to do. I was pointing out that there was a silver lining: if someone whose site got hacked (say, Donald Trump) wanted to hunt down the people responsible for defacing their site, they'd have some leverage, because hacking into someone's website is actually illegal.

We also talked about a lot of educational stuff during the show, from handling accented characters to Google's crawl dates shown in the cache and how we're changing them. But those don't have quite the same punch for Aaron to make linkbait from. ;)

Now in a little while, I'm going to make linkbait about Googlebot crawl dates in the cache, using only 1) a video camera, 2) a white foam board, and 3) some multi-colored candy.

BTW, the mp3 is here: http://media.webmasterradio.fm/episodes/audio/2006/GK083106.mp3
and the show with Vanessa Fox and Danny Sullivan is here: http://media.webmasterradio.fm/episodes/audio/2006/GK082406.mp3

thanx

Thanks for the clarification.... but I prefer colored candy with no more than 2 colors ;)

I should point out

that a lot of those who practise 'black hat seo' aren't using those techniques either.

Matt and Linkbait

Matt since you're firing up the camera why not do an A/B test.

Do your normal thing which I can almost guarantee will turn out to be linkbait, in fact at this point you throwing a dirty tissue in the garbage pail would be link bait to the legions of cuttlets.

In the second video wear a mask and disguise your voice kind of like the masked magician did a few years back. Give out essentially the same information, and see how many links you get.

Sometimes it's just a wee bit more than 'create great content'.

Threadwatch = a den of thieves

Threadwatch = a den of thieves. ;)

Just kidding guys, don't linkjack my sites. :)

They aren't SEO's - Their old school hackers

MattKP , MattCutts,

People that break into other's servers, for whatever the reason.. are not SEO's .. they are doing the same thing that others have done for the past few decades.. they are breaking into another computer for personal gain.

20 years ago, for example in the movie 'wargames' he broke into the school's computer to change his grades.. IE: personal gain

A few days ago, someone broke into Donald trumps's servers to get some 'viagra' links.. IE: personal gain

What is the diffrence between these two situations... Nothing.

It's not a freaking SEO that does that.. it's not anything at all related to SEO .. what they did is criminal breaking into a computer... there are laws against breaking into machines.

So in short, it's not an SEO that did that.. it's a criminal that did that.

Hmm I'm not sure this is a bad thing :)))

Quote:
Some community wisdom, perhaps: Tolerate hysterical badmouthing of "nefarious black hats", and it'll be all SEOs (i.e. you, too) next, self-perceived white hats included. You can safely bet the farm on that one.

To a certain extent the more bad press we SEOs get the happier I am. It keeps people out of the industry :)))

blanket thoughts

....like racial profiling on airplanes and trains...

Kali

"To a certain extent the more bad press we SEOs get the happier I am. It keeps people out of the industry :)))"

And scares perspective clients from doing business.... and then I feel like I have a black hat of shame hanging over my head.

MattKP

If you do a good job for your clients most of your business will come through referrals. You can also use the negative image as a particular selling point for your business, selling your white hat nature and the fact that you don't use those headline hitting black hat techniques on your clients' sites.

oh believe

oh believe me we do get alot of referral business, however, its not a great business plan to rely on. Plus, I would love to just see this industry grow and have respect. Im sure we all arent putting years into this just to be called "lawyers" or "insurance salesman" in 10 years...

..come to think of it. We are almost like insurance. You do need us :)

"most of your business will come through referrals"? Not!

Not in any big league environment, it won't. Far too competitive.

Nor will clients in the "black hat" field own up to it in public (and we for our part certainly wouldn't advise them to!), let alone towards competitors.

Matt also said we at TW like

Matt also said we at TW like picking on Matt

Well, somebody has to ;-), especially when in print it sounds like he was sniffing the bubbles off the top of his Sprite.

But...it proves my golden rule: In a blog-like environment you always have to trackback to the source to read or give a listen yourself.

Again, that's not to say that sniping at MC can't be fun upon occasion.

I sooo called it!

I sooooo called it!

Predictive 2008 story:

The raid marks the 200th arrest based on the “Cleaning Up the Internet Scum Act” singed into law into law by President Schwarzenegger in February of this year. National Security Director and former Google Employee Matt Cutts has since spear-headed a Global crackdown on spam that included the extradition and arrests of 38 High profile U.K. search engine spammers in accordance with the 2006 Cybercrimes Treaty.

Man, i have to stop making predictions . . .

predict this

Quote:
I have had numerous comment spam-bots and submit bots camp out on various websites literally, for hours - spamming away tirelessly and burning up an incredible amount of bandwidth (not to mention my time,) if that does not equal a DOS or web vandalism then I don't know what does. All done in the interest of link pop, of course.

Hey Brad, it might have been for links, or perhaps practice. I had 2 young gentlemen in black suits come to my door a few times this month, looking to chat me up about the Bible. They knock on my door (interrupting my processes) and then use up my bandwidth (and my time). Was it vandalism? A DOS? There were two of them... does that make it a DDOS? So I asked him... some guys came last week and I told them I was (insert fanatical non-christian religious sect here) but these guys came back from the same organization. Why?

He admitted they were new at this door to door thing, and they had to practice.

I would but a NO TRESPASSING sign for the lawn, but it sends the wrong message to the public... they are generally welcomed. Especially the Paul Revere's of the world. Maybe it's just me, but I think taking the time to address such issues on there merits is a citizen responsibility.

Would be great to see blog

Quote:
Would be great to see blog spammers behind bars! YEAH!

Oh honey. You just need to shut up.

grnidone

...owes me a new Coke and a new screen. The old ones met each other in a volcanic eruption after I read her blast.

Word

Word

link bait

{now that im listening to the show}
More importantly I think we should be discussing from the radio show in question -

"everybody likes to go watch some man wander naked around a traffic circle.."

Scoreboard:

glad to make you laugh.

>>perhaps practice ...

>>perhaps practice ... merits, et al.

John, I don't get the point you are trying to make. The reason for the vandalism does not matter, it still causes damage and increases the noise on the web. Of course it's not illegal but it is an abuse and an infringement on the rights of others to peacefully go about their business undisturbed by others.

Seems to me there is a difference between a human that directly visits a site and drops a link in a comment and a bot that posts hundreds of comments on the same thread in an hour. The difference is one of degree to be sure. And I don't particularly care if they are SEO's, religious wackos, marketers, vandals, hackers, right wing nut cases, granola chomping Birkenstock wearing liberals or somebody else with only one oar in the water the end result is the same, we now all have to live behind so many web based locked doors, membership barriers, captchas and voodoo totems that it makes it nearly impossible for average everyday legit posters to actually post in order to carry on an intelligent conversation.

"And I don't particularly care if they are SEO's"

which is the whole point about this debate. No disagreement in principle - waste of time and resources is just that, and nothing to justify it, period.

But focusing on "black hat" SEOs in lieu of plain run-of-the-mill criminals and simply equating them - THAT is the issue here. (Plus, obviously, if - or, rather: whether - it's an official Google representative doing it.)

Else, The Founder has really said it all.

As for this:

we now all have to live behind so many web based locked doors, membership barriers, captchas and voodoo totems that it makes it nearly impossible for average everyday legit posters to actually post in order to carry on an intelligent conversation.

One damn nuisance, no doubt about it. But that's basically the same as everywhere else in the real world: unsolicited cold call marketing, people pestering you with their leaflets in the city and generally making a nuisance of themselves, commercials blaring from your neighbors' radios, muggings, stalking, robberies, etc. etc. Nothing nice and comfy about it, to be sure, but that's simply how it is.

Don't see why the Web should be any different, it's merely a mirror of meatspace, after all. In any case it's pretty unrealistic to expect otherwise.

And: You can actually do a lot about it - pre-edit blog comments, protect them with captchas, make registration mandatory, etc. Sure, it takes an effort others are basically imposing on you, but let's not confuse mere inconvenience with utter helplessness.

I totally agree fantomaster

If you walk around in the 'meatspace' as you put it - you take certain precautions.

If you walk around in cyberspace why should you stop thinking that the same precautions apply.

Lock the bible thumpers up too

Quote:
I had 2 young gentlemen in black suits come to my door a few times this month, looking to chat me up about the Bible. They knock on my door (interrupting my processes) and then use up my bandwidth (and my time).

Yeah...they should be locked up too! ;)

Seems that Jill

simply likes to lock up things. :)

Denial of Service?

Like when Googlebot hit my server 5 times a second for 2 hours last week?
Yeah, its a crime! Lock someone up!
;)

(Yes, it did. I hate that :( )

For Googlebot...

...be sure you throw away the key too!

Hackers aren't crackers!

While this is a very common public misconception (which includes about 99% of the media people), it's been an ongoing battle of terms since the early 80s.

Hackers will insist (and I fully agree with them) that they are involved in exploring the fineries of IT, including - but eminently not limited to - hard- and software security issues. Of course, it's always the latter that will hit it big in the sensationalist media outlets, but let's not forget that there's quite a serious market for this particular type of talent and expertise within the (entirely bona fide) corporate world, e.g. to check companies' security setups, to develop programs and strategies against DOS attacks, etc., to name but a few.

However, when any given hacker resorts to illegal activities (like cracking someone's computer system without prior permission), he or she arguably transmutes to a (criminal) "cracker". In any case, blanket terming them all as "criminals" is neither factually correct nor particularly meaningful.

It would be analogous to labeling all gun collectors and sports marksmen as "killers" - potential cluelessness aside, that's simply demagogic.

Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with Matt pointing out that crimincal activities are just that, and I don't think anyone on this forum has, either.

But flatly equating "black hat" SEOs with "criminals" isn't just indicative of sloppy language and a sore defect in terms of intellectual differentiation, it's blatantly discriminatory. What's next: the "Axis of Evil SEOs", maybe? So how corny can you get?

As to where the term "black hat" originally derives from, that's up to the professional linguists to explore. While there's a curious correlation of the tag popping up in tandem with the huge success of the Harry Potter books and movies, this supposed genesis may or may not prove to be merely a red herring on closer inspection.

Linkbait

Great linkbait but it's getting to be like tabloids lately. The covers are totally misleading. The original post was out of context and neglected to mention that is was about sites being totally taken over, not guestbook spamming.

who's going to try sueing for discrimination then?

>>But flatly equating "black hat" SEOs with "criminals" isn't just indicative of sloppy language and a sore defect in terms of intellectual differentiation, it's blatantly discriminatory. What's next: the "Axis of Evil SEOs", maybe? So how corny can you get?

yep, the amount of times people say "is it illegal" when they mean "is this against the webmaster guidelines" is astounding. Its really important to seperate the two. I break the webmaster guidelines (sometimes, purely in the interests of research and only involving fully consenting adults of course). I do NOT do illegal things (except sometimes drive too fast). Emotive language makes good headlines but when it brands people as criminals its very dodgy ground, and Matt I'm sure didn't mean it that way but when you have a strong sheeple following you have to think what your words will be interpreted as, not just what you technically did or didn't say.

Hats

The white hat vs black hat convention has been a staple in movie imagery since the silent movie days of Hollywood, and the good-vs-evil symbolism is much older than that.

In the old silent movies, good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black hats. The convention carried on through the B-movie cowboys and lingers to this day.

From a Washington Post article about the death of Roy Rogers, a cowboy movie star:

Quote:
And of course he always wore a neckerchief tight about his throat and a white hat unstained with sweat. He rode a magnificent palomino, a horse so golden it could have come from an argonaut's dream, and he commanded it -- Trigger, "the smartest horse in the movies" -- atop a saddle as magnificent as a king's, festooned with silver as well. And when he rode, he was sentimental poetry in motion, with that easy Western authority, posture rigid yet flexible, standing in the stirrups, the wind battering him but never blowing that white hat away.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/movies/features/royrogersdeath.htm

Going back considerably further than that, there are many references in the Bible that use white and light to symbolize things that are good and wholesome, and darkness to symbolize not-so-good things.

>What's next: the "Axis of

But flatly equating "black hat" SEOs with "criminals" isn't just indicative of sloppy language and a sore defect in terms of intellectual differentiation, it's blatantly discriminatory. What's next: the "Axis of Evil SEOs", maybe? So how corny can you get?

Exactly. And great posts as always Fantomaster. The people who want to say it is tablody do not realize that I was using absurdity to point out how absurd it was for Matt to do that.

And the same way that Matt and Adamxcl would refer to this as linkbait is the same way a media outlet may refer to something as propaganda. The goal is to simply marginalize institutional analysis. Change the topic or kill the messenger if you do not want to discuss the message.

But that tactic only proves how correct my thesis was.

I own BlackHatSeo.com and WhiteHatSeo.com. Right now they are both being sorta wasted....I am sure they could be put to far better use.

Maybe BlackHatSeo.com could analyze some of Matt's posts and comments, how Google was caugt cloaking, how Google doesn't use NoFollow when they buy links, how Yahoo! is a huge link seller, how Google sells preteen pornography ads, how Google and Yahoo! both display ads on Warez sites, how Google adds links to others websites without permission, etc etc etc...

Maybe we should rebrand black hat as being associated with another group? If they want to be in close with the definition maybe they just need to be a part of it.

Hurt semantics

Gurtie: Couldn't agree more on the "illegal" vs. "non-compliant" issue. (Same applies to that worn old placeholder "ethical", really.) People would be well advised to distinguish carefully between the two, especially when using them in an exposed public and/or formal capacity.

Buckworks: Sorry, I should have been more specific here - what I actually meant was usage of the term "black hat" in regard to SEO, of course.
This said, I think you're quite right in pointing out that old Hollywood convention. While not having undergone a terrible lot of formal linguistic training myself, from what I do know I'd assume that it'll probably be a pretty strong contender for the genesis of this usage.
Of course, these days you'll normally find "black hats" being sketched as sorcerers'/warlocks' headgear, pointed and all, which does speak for the Harry Potter craze as a possible impulse as well. Whatever.

Aaron: Thanks for the kudos, and you're quite right in resorting to a bit of exaggeration of absurdity in pointing to the real issues at hand here.

Personally, I find that "linkbaiting" contention a mite tiring now: it's gone pretty stale, seeing it's being flaunted all over the place whenever anyone seems to do just about anything calling for public attention. So why not get over it: Blogging is about linkbaiting, so are forums, etc. etc., ok - so what? Discarding every post as "mere linkbait" effectively stifles the discussion or dumbs it down and only diverts people from assessing the actual content presented, if any.

So who ever claimed that "content is king", heh!

u left out

...and you left out how TW and Webmasterradio.fm uses adspace to market text link ad sellers...

Don't worry. Every time I

Don't worry. Every time I see another web designer advertising "seo services" and Google employees teaching "seo" I am reminded that pretty soon there will be no more SEO. There will simply be Internet firms that get results, and ones that don't.

In a Cheating Society*, it doesn't take long for the cheats to become accepted behavior and eventually required for survival. With Google, it seems to be accelerated. That's one reason my own website is about competitive webmastering, and not SEO per se.

* I read the book, don't endorse as a great read, it and don't have anything to do with that website, but recognize it carries an interesting and important message.

Lock Gurtie up too...

Quote:
I break the webmaster guidelines (sometimes, purely in the interests of research and only involving fully consenting adults of course).

What color handcuffs would you like, Gurtie? :)

Well Aaron, But First...

There was this little exchange:

Matt: "It's kinda scary because this larger trend is the first time I've seen where SEO kinda, clearly crosses into something that's illegal."

Vanessa: "Yea, cause that's not search engine optimization."

Matt: "That's just hacking."

Vanessa: "Yea, that's not optimization that's just like hacking in and, and uh... yea."

Matt: "Yea, you could phish and, and steal somebodies paypal account and earn money that way too and that wouldn't be SEO."

Vanessa: "Right."

Matt: "That's not playing it the right way."

So, while he seemed to get a little carried away with the thought of being able to lock up SEOs, I believe that he has in mind the more nefarious type that would go to any lengths, and happen to do so with an understanding of SEO, and who use the end-result of successful search engine gaming to monetize their illegal activities.

IMHO, Matt probably meant something closer to: you could actually get an individual convicted of doing something like this for the purpose of gaming search engines (SEO).
-----------------------

Later,

Matt: I'm just kinda waiting for somebody to follow the money trail, go to some of these links they're going to..."

Me: "Heh, you can probably send the cops along with their UPS club delivery."

Fine...

Quote:
So, while he seemed to get a little carried away with the thought of being able to lock up SEOs, I believe that he has in mind the more nefarious type that would go to any lengths, and happen to do so with an understanding of SEO, and who use the end-result of successful search engine gaming to monetize their illegal activities.

Oh all right, I guess Gurtie shouldn't be incarcerated after all...

well I'm in good company

I'm sure I heard somewhere that Danny S was watching Matts back during some kind of aspirin deal, so I'll have interesting cellmates

p.s.- white of course - to match my halo ;)

Since When Did Black Hats

..get so f*cking paranoid? (BTW this thread reminds me of Everquest, with fantomaster as a level 11 dark elf necro that goes around ks'ing newbies and Aaron Wall as a level 10 wood elf bard)

Take a deep breath.

Not everybody is out to lock you up and throw away the key. Matt Cutts isn't out to get your ass arrested, and the FEDs aren't busy kicking in your door, even if you enjoy cracking into pair.com and injecting cloaked porn links into Matt's home page.

Crying wolf with no wolf in sight just makes you look paranoid.

Since When Did Everquest

...become a bad thing?

FPS is better

BOOM HEADSHOT! asdhfajsdfhasdrofl

Crying wolf with no wolf in sight?

Never heard of wolves in disguise?

Not sure how many political dictatorships you've experienced first hand - myself, I've had my share of a few. Including cops kicking at my door and ransacking my house because they mistook me for someone else, and no compensation let alone apologies ever offered, duh. Not that I really expected them ...

I've also known political persecution and learned basically everything you conceivably can regarding the social mechanics of witch hunts - again, first hand i.e. the hard way.

Nothing too dramatic compared to all too many other people's far more dire fate, to be sure, but it does tend to make one a mite wary if not vigilant in terms of trusting just about any powers that be. Or, at least it should.

So there's a lot to be said for the view that you actually can't be paranoid enough these days ...

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