One of the best marketers I learned from is someone you will never know. 

Not because I am keeping secrets, but because he was a hacker, a hacker with no name. 

I have always been fascinated by hackers who test the boundaries and break the rules. This is where innovation happens. And a whole lot of fun. 

I talked about this during my talk at WordCamp US a few years back: hackers are playful and fun and we can all learn from them. And yes, I am willing to go to dark places on the internet: that’s where the best learning happens.

I wasn’t looking to learn from this nameless hacker, but I did. 

This guy’s target market was SEO professionals, many of whom were on black hat forums. He became a bit of a legend on a few forums, and was a prolific poster. 

He was edgy, he shared knowledge, he was arrogant and a bit condescending. He knew that black hat SEO guys were only going to respect him if he was a bit cocky and arrogant, and there were a ton of folks playing the same character to establish dominance and authority. 

This guy was a bit different.

He gave

He posted long posts and talked about how his strategies worked in exceptional detail. Every week, he wrote an intricate post in exceptional detail about how to game Google. And yet, a lot of the knowledge was basic SEO and site building things I already knew. But there was so much more.

And then the arrogance.

“If you come across a site that looks like a big brand but has a 95+ page speed score and is ranking better than your wildest dreams, it’s probably mine.” 

It worked. When he posted, people engaged. They asked questions, he answered. When he changed forums, people followed. 

Later, he launched a product that was perfect for that community and it did quite well. 

I learned a lot from him, maybe more from any other marketer. Even though he was black hat and I wasn’t going to follow in those footsteps, his tests on what worked and where the SEO vulnerabilities existed taught me a lot. 

More importantly, watching him build his brand in this community was a sight to behold. He was exceptionally clear on who he was, asserted his authority, answered questions, and when he showed up in a thread, you knew he was bringing the goods. 

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Give before you have an ask. He dumped so much knowledge to help people be successful with their sites before he ever launched a product. If he led with the product, it would have never worked. 
  2. Be confident. It will feel like arrogance, but if it is something you can really deliver on, toot your own horn. To your own taste, of course. 
  3. Be clear. Be yourself, and be clear about your expertise. 
  4. Learn how to write. Yes I know AI is going to solve all of your problems, and video is where it is at. If you can’t level up what AI gives you and if you can’t write a clear video title/description, you’re DOA. 
  5. Infuse yourself  into what you put on the internet. Whether video, audio, or the written word, you are your greatest competitive advantage
  6. Freely give away all that you know. People will pay for products or services that help them with implementation if you give away what you know. 
  7. Build your personal brand. This hacker’s personal brand was so strong that anything he recommended became was considered. Your personal brand matters as much as your company’s brand, maybe more. 
  8. Know your audience and what it is they are trying to accomplish. Help them succeed. 
  9. Answer questions and be available. Be of service without ever being a servant.
  10. Don’t make your audience work to understand who you are, or they won’t trust what you do.

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