Going From Black Hat To White Hat SEO Doesn't Mean Google Will Like You

Blogger loses about 3/4 of traffic after taking the brighter path

Going From Black Hat To White Hat SEO Doesn’t Mean Google Will Like You
Much of the discussion in the SEO community of late has been related to Google’s efforts to “level the playing field” for mom and pops vs. those with bigger marketing budgets, and comments to this effect made by Matt Cutts at SXSW recently. He indicated that Google is working on things that would make it so people who “over-optmize” their sites don’t necessarily rank better than others who didn’t worry about SEO, but have great content.
Are black hat SEO tactics worth the risk? Tell us what you think.
To a great extent, Google has been working on these kinds of things for a long time. The Panda update was certainly designed to make content quality matter more, but Google also regularly gives tips about how to optimize your site better and releases lists of algorithmic changes, which practically beg webmasters to try and exploit them. Google, of course doesn’t take this stance, but when they release the signals, people pay attention, and try to play to them. Why wouldn’t they?
Google knows this, of course, which is why they won’t release their entire list of signals, let alone talk about how much weight certain signals have compared to others, although if you pay close enough attention, you’ll sometimes catch hints at this too.
You might say Google sends mixed signals to webmasters. Danny Sullivan asks if Google’s over-optimization penalty is its “jump the shark” moment. He makes the case that it’s more about PR for Google to indicate they’re actively working on making results more relevant.
The whole de-indexing of paid blog/link networks plays to the whole making over-optimization matter less concept, but based on Google’s webmaster guidelines, it seems like doing so would have always fit into the company’s policy.
When you play the black hat, or even gray hat game, you’re taking a big risk of being dealt a damaging penalty. Google didn’t even hesitate to penalize its own site for violating guidelines (at least after they were called out on it), which may have even cost Chrome some browser market share.
Going white hat after playing it at a darker shade in the past isn’t necessarily going to help your rankings either though, as one blogger indicated in a recent post at SEOBullshit:
I did paid links, paid reviews, and never, ever did any shit like “cloaking”, “spam”, or “stuffing.” Hence, the “grey” hat campaign type. I had awesome content. I had a crawlable site. It was perfect in every way. I used paid links and reviews to scream at GoogleBot, “Hey, notice me! I’m right here! I have killer content and reputable sites link to it.” The results were great. The money. Terrific. I left the competition scratching their heads since my site was HTTPS, it was hard to reverse engineer as most link-finding tools couldn’t really find my backlinks.

However, the stress of running a grey-hat campaign eventually wears on you and you long for the peace of a white hat campaign. So, I hatched a plan to wean my site from grey and pray that the results weren’t too bad. I expected a 15-25% drop in SERPS and traffic which I could then recover by getting a big relevant, content piece linked up to the pages where I removed the TLA’s.

Fucking failure. Total and monstrous failure.
He continues on saying his total traffic drop was -72.5%.
Every time Google makes big adjustments to its algorithm, sites pay the price. Sometimes that price is deserved, and sometimes it’s not. I find that often, people tend to think they didn’t deserve to lose their rankings. Even with the latest Panda refresh, we had sites telling us about ranking declines.
The intro of a recent Entrepreneur article sums up the conundrum of the small business perfectly: “As a small business owner using the web to reach customers, you’ve surely been implementing search engine optimization tactics to make sure your site turns up high in web searches. But just when you might feel like you’re starting to get the hang of this SEO thing, it appears that search giant Google might start penalizing websites that are over-optimized.”
We understand that there are plenty of white hat SEO tactics that Google not only is OK with, but encourages. However, most people simply don’t know what SEO even is. Matt Cutts himself shared results this week from a survey he conducted, finding only one in five people in the U.S. have even heard of SEO.
It’s not surprising that sites would be tempted to go for the darker hat techniques. But as Google continues on this new (same) path of leveling the playing field, however, it may be more playing with fire than ever. And once you start, engaging in SEO’s dark arts, you may have a hard time returning to the lighter side, should you ever choose to do so.
Have you ever been helped or hurt by using black hat SEO tactics? Let us know in the comments (you don’t have to use your real name).

What is Vertical Farming

Before we dig into what is vertical farming, it is important to note that at this point, it isn't just unavailability of land that's inspiring research in vertical farming. Farming in itself, and more notably commercial farming, is not a very environmentally-friendly activity. For starters, farming involves consumption of freshwater for irrigation and the water thus used, is unfit for human consumption due to its interaction with fertilizers and pesticides. In addition, commercial farming involves the use of fossil fuels (diesel and gasoline), which naturally result in polluting emissions.

An Overview of Vertical Farming

Vertical farming is an urban farming technique in which multistoried buildings function as hi-tech greenhouse farms and everything is hydroponic (cultured in mindral solutions only without the need for soil) and therefore, devoid of environment polluting elements. The basic idea is to grow upward thus, saving space and helping the cause of soil erosion and urban renewal. So if you're one of those people who love to farm, but feel restricted by the urban environs being more serious about it than being satisfied with some veggie creepers in your apartment terrace, then this may just be your thing! Yes, there are some constraints and costs involved, so let us delve deeper into this urban green realm.

Any talk about vertical farming is incomplete without mentioning the guru and star proponent of the concept, Dickson Despommier. Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, Dickson taught a medical ecology course in 1999 that actually launched and grew the concept of vertical farms. Dickson talks about vertical farming as an idea for the 21st century for sustainable crop production and food supply and the resulting repair of our battered ecosystems. He talks in terms of huge skyscraper farms (farmscrapers) and enormous structures with transparent walls to let in as much sunlight as possible to help year-round production of floor upon floor of food that would feed thousands of people. Seems a little far-fetched? It isn't really, not to mention it may well, become the most plausible alternative when things get really tough with traditional agriculture!

Costs Involved in Vertical Farming

The building of multilevel farmscrapers is just the beginning of this futuristic and potentially expensive undertaking. Also, there's no comparable setup to help arrive at an accurate estimate. Vertical farming will obviously involve mimicking the entire natural, agricultural ecosystem. The urban multistoried structures must provide ample artificial light throughout the year, irrespective of the natural weather conditions. Obviously, an energy infrastructure would be a continuing cost in addition to the upfront cost of building the structure and creating the hydroponic environment. Experts believe that such a full-scale vertical farm would easily cost millions of dollars; one such estimate pegs it at $100 million. No doubt, vertical farming costs definitely seem astronomical!

However, when compared to the reduced carbon footprint due to reduced fossil fuel usage, negligible fertilizer usage, negligible spoilage, drastically lower transportation costs (as farms would grow closer to final consumer markets) and limited land use, etc., the long-term results look rather promising. The situation is slightly comparable to the use of alternate fuels for vehicles. Things are more on the design board and we're aware of the initial high costs, but eventually we have to go for it because, traditional gasoline and diesel are depletable resources.

Ongoing Research in Vertical Farling

You must be wondering, are there already such vertical farms in existence, at least on a research level? Yes, there are and more than one! Gene Giacomelli, Director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and his colleagues have created a semi-automated hydroponic facility called the South Pole Food Growth Chamber. And if you're wondering about providing sunlight to the plants in a glasshouse, you'll be surprised to know that the station is situated in the Antarctic where there's no sunlight through most of winter! Closer home, Valcent, a vertical-farming firm based in Texas, Vancouver and Cornwall, uses vertically stacked hydroponic trays. The trays move on rails to provide adequate sunlight to all plants. There are many such funded endeavors underway from a research perspective and hopefully these baby steps in vertical farming research should lead us to a happy place.

Visionaries like Dickson Despommier are on a mission that goes beyond research. Vertical farming is a concept that has its share of skeptics of course, but the tribe of Dickson is on the rise and many more researchers and even traditional farmers are opening up their minds to imagine a world where vertical farms will become the primary source of food supply to urban retailers and consumers alike. In the meanwhile, you might want to start attempting a hydroponic mini farm in your own terrace!

Portal 2 Theme Song Played in Second Laser Etching

Two different YouTube users follow up with a recording of "Want You Gone"

Last week I reported on YouTube user chjade84′s video of a laser etching the Aperture Science logo into stainless steel while also playing “Still Alive” from the Portal soundtrack. This week, YouTube user PhotoMachining has created a sequel, this time playing Jonathan Coulton’s Portal 2 theme song ‘Want You Gone.”
Portal 2 Theme Song Played in Second Laser Etching
It starts out a bit static-y, but a few quick adjustments bring the song out in fairly good quality. The sound created by this laser is different from the one last week. This one is a 250 Watt CO2 laser and is carving its pattern into ceramic. The YouTube description states that the laser is not actually making noise, as the laser in the other video did, but that the plume of ceramic debris thrown up by the laser is being recorded. “Same principle as a regular speaker, except I’m using tiny explosions instead of a vibrating cone,” PhotoMatching wrote
The video can get a bit blurry, but the image, of the two multiplayer-mode robots ATLAS and P-body, is beautifully detailed.
Meanwhile, chjade84 has followed up on his own video by recording the Portal 2 song as well. He uses two separate videos this time, one for both bass and melody. Here’s the combined result:
So, it appears we have a laser etching competition on our hands. Choose a side and take a seat; I hope we’ll be in for a fierce and creative competition. Place your bets now for who will carve the better Portal turret into their chosen surface while playing the turret opera ‘Cara Mia Addio’.

Anonymous Takes Down And Defaces Chinese Government Web Sites

The Who's Baba O'Riley Serenades Visits To The Site

All has been relatively quiet on the Anonymous front as far as defacing Web sites are concerned. That has changed today as Anonymous China has attacked and defaced a number of Chinese government Web sites to protest the country’s censorship of the Internet.
Anonymous Takes Down And Defaces Chinese Government Web Sites
A newly christened twitter feed for Anonymous China announced the attacks this morning and have been slowly taking down and defacing various government Web sites since. The page is like other defacements with ASCII text, a message to the government in question and other Anonymous trademarks. This defacement is far more entertaining than past hacks, however, because they autoplay The Who’s classic song Baba O’Riley.
Anonymous has left a message to both the Chinese government and the Chinese people this time. The message is in English, so I don’t know how effective it is to the Chinese people who can’t speak English, but it does have one Chinese phrase, “患难见真情.” According to Google Translate, it means “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
The message is as follows:
Hi all !

Message to Chinese government :
All these years, the Chinese Communist government has subjected its People to unfair laws and unhealthy processes. Dear Chinese government, you are not infallible, today websites are hacked, tomorrow it will be your vile regime that will fall. So expect us because we do not forgive, never. What you are doing today to your Great People, tomorrow will be inflicted to you.
With no mercy.
Nothing will stop us, nor your anger nor your weapons.
You do not scare us, because you cannot afraid an idea.
Message to Chinese People :
Each of you suffers from the tyranny of that regime which knows nothing about you. We are with you.
With you here and now. But also tomorrow and the coming days so promising for your freedom. We will never give up.
Don’t loose hope, the revolution begins in the heart.

The silence of all other countries highlights the lack of democracy and justice in China. It’s unbearable.
We must all fight for your freedom.
To add insult to injury, they provide a link on the defaced site that leads to a Web page Anonymous built inside the Chinese government’s Web site that shows Chinese citizens how to bypass state censorship. To be honest, it’s kind of funny and the kind of move we have come to expect from Anonymous.
As part of the hack, Anonymous has also leaked the account passwords of government workers for meda.gov.cn. Since I can not speak Chinese nor access the site, it’s hard to get a good grip on what sites were attacked. It does seem like the leak comes from one of the more important sites, however, since the sites’s innards posted to Pastebin indicate the site contained government research.
The Twitter for Anonymous China was started just this morning and has already announced five defaces and one leak. It looks like they’re not done yet either. This is a developing story and we’ll keep you updated throughout the day if there’s any change. China will probably not take the defacements very well so it will be interesting to see what their response is.