I’m going to show my age a little bit here, but one of my favourite scenes in Beavis and Butthead occurs in the very first episode when Beavis slices the tip off of Butthead’s finger with a chainsaw and screams, “Breaking the law! Breaking the law!” which is an homage to Judas Priest.
That’s almost the extent of my rebelliousness right there.
By default, I’m someone that likes to understand the rules and wherever possible, stick to them. Sometimes the rules are stupid and unenforceable (Hello EU, VAT laws on digital goods) so it’s not so much that I break them as I just choose to ignore them out of indifference for their benefit and impact.
But as a rule… I like to stick to the rules.
When we were running our SEO agency, this became an awkward position for me on a number of occasions. Back in 2010, there were TONS of things that you could do relatively easily to manipulate search results and rank higher than you were probably entitled.
And let’s not mix words here, most of these things were against the rules that Google was trying to apply, so they carried some risk.
Candidly, I used to run a risk/reward calculation in my head and getting caught was a marginal inconvenience and the upside was huge.
Plus, Google’s rules are not laws, they are their private rules and they’re not transparent with how to go about ranking the “right way”, so they left themselves open to people trying to manipulate the results.
At least that’s how I rationalized it to myself and pretty much, that’s kind of still how I think about things like Grey Hat and Black Hat SEO.
The risk/reward ratio.
In my experience, the costs of being caught were elevated pretty significantly and being transparent, much of the actual cost of doing a lot of Grey Hat and Black Hat SEO now just makes them economically unviable.
For example, it is now cheaper to go do outreach over a longer period of time than it is to build a proper, well shielded private blog network.
We stick to White Hat stuff on our sites and in our content businesses we reject work that veers into those kinds of unethical and Gray Hat areas – if you want someone to write fake testimonials for you, that’s not us.
One area I always stayed clear of was scraping Facebook.
To me, that’s always been a serious personal privacy breach and Facebook treats it that way as well – they literally sue people who scrape personal information off their site.
I just look at it through a personal prism, I don’t want people scraping my name and picture then using tools to find my email address so that they can spam me with unsolicited email or create a custom audience and show me ads.
Am I against cold outreach for things like link building or guest posting? Not at all.
Am I against scraping private information so you can try and sell me stuff? Yeah.
Today, I was in an FB Group and saw people talking about a tool called Grouply that is designed to scrape groups’ member list. You then take that list, use an email finding tool and you potentially end up with thousands of email addresses.
I think that’s horrible.
And Facebook totally hates it with the passion of a thousand suns and they will ban you instantly if they catch you doing this.
These are the type of rules that just aren’t worth breaking.
For the most part, in your marketing, stick to the rules. Don’t buy software that “hacks” stuff or “scrapes” things that you shouldn’t be scraping. Don’t look at customers as if they are nothing more than wallets with feet.
Be ethical. Take the time to understand the rules and then stick to them.
When you behave this way, you’ll ultimately build a better business and you’ll get customers that know when they do business with you, they’re operating with a straight shooter.
And besides, sticking to the rules is just easier and we all like life to be easy!