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A few years ago there was a trend to classify all search engine optimizers into three categories. They were either white hat, black hat, or grey hat. These distinctions, borrowed from old spaghetti westerns, are readily recognized as the good guy, the bad guy, and the guy in the middle, respectively.

Today, there is less of a tendency to discuss SEOs in these terms, primarily because SEO has become “content marketing.” I don’t care what you call it, it’s still SEO.

More or less, you can still classify SEOs into three distinct classes, but let’s dispense with the references to hats. We’ll call them withers, forers, and againsters. Again, terminology isn’t the issue. Call them what you want. The idea is that there are SEOs who work with the search engines, those who appear to be search engine cheerleaders, and then those who seem to actively work against the search engines – just doing what they want.

That last category is a little bit difficult to define because if you get the wrong idea, you might think they are the same as the black hat SEOs of five years ago. Not necessarily.

The “working against” category could include contrarians and SEOs who just do their own thing. They aren’t really concerned with best practices or following the latest trends. That’s not to say they don’t employ SEO techniques. They are more apt to write in a natural language style or use plain English rather than stuff your content full of keywords.

What’s the takeaway?

When you hire an SEO team to write your content for you or to plan your content marketing strategy, ask them what their search engine philosophy is. Do they work with the search engines or do they sound like cheerleaders? Or, maybe, just maybe, they are those maverick types who do it their way, right or wrong. You deserve to know.

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