Sunday, 15 December 2013

Huffington Post bans 'Black Hatting'?

Following my post about making money out of One Direction, I got a few more commissions from clients eager to see their own websites plugged on Huffington Post.   One guy even sent me some suggestions of how to write it as the subject matter was so boring I couldn't think how to make it interesting.  As I wrote in that last piece, I thought this was a way that everyone could benefit from an idea like HuffPost.  They still get their content free, the client gets some exposure and, most importantly in the internet age of everyone expecting to get stuff for free, the writer gets paid.

Except HuffPost spotted I was posting paid for features and sent me an email telling me to pack it in.
Here's the relevant part of the T and C's:
  • Disclosure: In an effort to be as transparent with our readers as possible, HuffPost bloggers should disclose any financial conflicts of interest related to the issue they are writing about. If a blogger receives payment or income from a company, organization, group, or individual with a financial stake in the issue he/she is weighing in on, that information should be disclosed at the bottom of the applicable blog post.
Black Hatters load the deck
So that's the end of that.  I was also warned against something called 'Black Hatting' by a savvy tech writer I know.   As I understand it from surfing a few Google results, black hatting is a way of rigging content with keywords that link to a certain web page.  There's a famous example of the words 'black dress' on a site about nuclear engineering linking to the US department store JC Penney.  Essentially this fucks with Google's algorithms and loads search engine results in favour of the business that is paying to have these links in place.  Google doesn't like that and it seems, Huffington Post doesn't either.

I wasn't sure I was black hatting - I thought the context was relevant.  Say to someone, 'You should read this article about insurance, it's really interesting' is a sure fire way to turn them off the idea.  But if you say 'Just read this amazing story of a downhill skier who totally wrecked her knee two years ago but is favourite for the gold medal at Sochi', you're likely to have hooked their interest.   That feature might well mention an insurance company that got the best doctors involved and paid for the best care so they'll get a discreet plug.

So how do you know if you're black hatting?  When writing content, it's all about context.  People reading about nuclear engineering probably aren't there to buy dresses from a department store.   Are people who are reading about a skiing accident thinking about insurance though?  I think it's just about relevant, but I'm not sure.  If anyone can offer a guide, I'd love to see it.

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