I used to read SEO blogs religiously and try and be as white hat as I could about 10 years ago. When I first got my first official 9-5 working in SEO (my first experience in SEO was back when I was 14 (16 years ago)). I worked at a small agency and tried to follow the rules however, pretty much all of my clients competitor websites were doing shady practices and getting away with it, which I was confused about and wanted to blame them for cheating.
Further in my career I was able to be inside one of the top 3 agencies in the world as well as work with the biggest agency in the world as a provider, I can tell you for a fact there were shady practices going on in all instances. But most shocking to me was when I worked client-side at a large retailer, and I came in after they had changed SEO agencies a few times and got to see the work of “famous” SEOs… Those ones that go on so much about being white hat and bla bla bla. I got an insider view to what was going on and I knew who exactly had done what.
The work done was shocking… None of them took their own advice. Either on the worst level buying terrible links or on a better level buying articles on large reputable websites. All done by the people peddling that this was the wrong thing to do and they’d never do it.
This is not to say that some of them didn’t follow their own advice as some did but with less results than ones that didn’t. The truth is that if something works in a world like SEO where having a slight upper hand makes a huge difference. People aren’t going to tell you how they do it.
I like to make the comparison that these “famous” SEOs are like gangster rappers. Sure, they all talk about dealing, killing, pimping etc… But that isn’t the reality of their own lives anymore (or maybe it never was). Of course, for some it still is.
Lesson being take everything with a pinch of salt. Use your own experience to see what works and what doesn’t.
Just so you know. I don’t sell SEO services or do them for anyone, anymore.