I have a lot of questions today. And I’m lacking answers. This is a bit of a ramble without any conclusion. Read on if you don’t mind my unfocused ramblings.

Lately, I’ve been pondering about how us bloggers game the system. And what risks come with our gaming. Just like a game of snakes and ladders, there are ladders to help ascend your website’s rankings, but there are snakes lurking to send you back into Google’s page two graveyard and beyond.

What happens when a Google algorithm change sees a major shift of traffic and consequently revenue from your website? I’m not sure we even realise when we are gaming the system – what’s the difference between gaming the system and implementing an effective strategy?

It all started with Pinterest

Are you gaming the system

Let’s blamed Pinterest for my latest musings. The idea of gaming the system hit my radar last week when I heard about tens of thousands of legitimate Pinterest accounts being shut down. There are tools like Tailwind or Board Booster you can use to automate a pinning and repinning strategy. Even though these third-party apps comply with Pinterest’s terms of service, people using it might not be, resulting in their account ending up in Pinterest gaol. Yes, Pinterest gaol is a thing. I’m sure more than a handful of non-spammy people were rounded up with the masses, too.

This led me to start thinking about the things I do to game the system and what the risks are and consider whether I need to take more care. Rather than blindly following the masses and doing what everyone else does, maybe I need to find my own way, but within the confines of the rules.

How us blogger game the system

A game of Snakes and Ladders

There are so many things we do to improve our search engine ranking or drive traffic to our websites. Things like:

  • building backlinks through blog commenting, participating in a collaborative post, guest posting, link swaps, directory listings and grabbing links from any possible source
  • doing keyword research and on-page keyword threading to optimise a page or post
  • crafting metadata to entice users to our sites
  • using third-party software apps to curate and post on social sites on our behalf

Is this all white hat SEO or have I started to cross into grey hat SEO or even black hat SEO?

Truly white hat SEO deals with improving the user experience through a fast loading site, clear navigation, quality content and descriptive metadata.

White hat strategies rely on us operating within the terms of service of a service provider, whether that’s Pinterest, Google or gazillion others.

Things start going grey when it’s a matter of how you interpret the terms of service. Black hat is when you’re blatantly flouting the rules. Each comes with its own risk. That could be something like Pinterest gaol or at the very worst, Google de-indexing your website.

But even when Google updates its algorithm, and even if you’ve been following white hat strategies, you’re still at risk of your rankings being impacted.

The danger of relying on one successful strategy

Next, I started thinking of those bloggers whose Pinterest accounts were shut down and how they relied on Pinterest to drive traffic to their website and when Pinterest traffic was wiped, so was their income.

We should always be diversifying, spreading the risk across platforms and strategies so that if one takes hit, we’re not completely wiped.

What if Google or Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or Medium were to disappear overnight? Where would your business be?

Is gaming the system imaginative or lazy?

I don’t have an answer to this one. It’s something I’m going to ponder for a while. I still can’t quite articulate what the point of this post is. Moving on.

My digital projects

The federal government project I’ve been working on wraps up on June 29. That means there are only 2 weeks left to deliver what we said we would. Heads are in the guillotine. They will be lopped. But we won’t let it get to that. Of course, we’ll deliver. All of it.

That project ending also means I need to source fresh income.

I have one small job confirmed with an education provider. I love working in the education space, so this small web copywriting project will be a nice change from the complexity of my current project.

And then it’s time for a holiday. The Monsta and I are heading to Melbourne for an almost three-week visit. I can’t wait! Today I travelled 30 minutes by bus to an EMart so I could buy some cheese. Oh to think I’ll be able to eat cheese at any time in Australia.

I’m organising a Great Melbourne Blog-In for when I’m in Melbourne, too. That will be fun, too. Maybe even better than cheese in every dairy case.

Over to you. Are you gaming the system?


Also published on Medium.


    2 replies to "Gaming the system"

    • Dean Mackenzie

      Hey Sandra,

      I saw this post the other day and it gave me pause, as I’ve been thinking about my site’s SEO (or lack of it) lately.

      My question is: how do we know if we’re gaming the system? Optimising your site experience is an important angle, but it’s only one of many. Building backlinks through engagement on blogs, keyword research and and social media curation all can be done with SEO in mind, but for a lot of business owners, it doesn’t end there. Creating quality content and promoting it smartly is a sound business strategy, and if you don’t cross the “Ts & Cs” line, would seem a valid approach.

      On a kind of related note, sometimes it’s very hard to know if you have crossed that line, because companies like Google, FB, Pinterest et al. often have horribly worded policies. Often we can dabble in term violation without even realising it. (and yes, that’s ultimately on us, but the point still stands).

      (Actually, I looked up Facebook’s: https://www.facebook.com/terms.php. They’re pretty well worded, but it’s still a fair bit to get to, and good luck remembering much of it 10 minutes later!)

      Anyway, thanks for this thought-provoking post, Sandra!

      • Sandra

        How do you know if you’re gaming the system? Great question!

        If you think you are, you probably are.

        Although, sometimes we often blindly follow the advice of others, especially those new to the online game. If something worked well for someone else, we’re prepared to give it a go, without thinking there might be negative unintended consequences because that act crosses those Ts&Cs.

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