Skip to Content

From Black Hat SEO to Quality Content Production Powerhouse

5 min read

The sting of Google’s penalty is an excruciating experience. It requires a significant amount of time and effort to redirect one’s strategy and regain lost traffic, especially after relying on specific tactics for an extended period.

Numerous content marketers, including James Dooley, have encountered this setback. Dooley, who embarked on his SEO journey 14 years ago, initially resorted to cutting corners. It proved to be a winning strategy…until it wasn’t. Now, he has shifted his focus to enhancing content quality and establishing topic authority, resulting in sustainable growth.

How does one transition from trying to outsmart the system to becoming Google’s closest ally?

Take a glimpse into the mind of James Dooley, the founder of PromoSEO, as he shares invaluable insights on:

  • How to avoid catastrophic failures that are challenging to bounce back from
  • What not to do when it comes to link buying and topic coverage
  • How to harness the power of clusters and brand building for optimal results.


This is a Fireside Chat with Jeff Coyle, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Market Muse and James Dooley, Founder & CEO, PromoSEO. In it they discuss James’ transformation from black hat SEO to quality content production, with a focus on recovery from Google’s algorithm updates.


This chat covers the following topics:

  • The journey from black hat SEO to quality content production.
  • The importance of testing in digital marketing.
  • The role of quality content in recovery from Google’s algorithm updates.
  • The use of AI in content production and optimization.
  • The value of investing in distressed digital properties.


Content optimization is key to successful SEO and digital marketing

Considering the evolution of artificial intelligence and the growing emphasis on content quality, SEO expert James Dooley emphasizes the importance of smart content optimization strategies during his discussion with Jeff Coyle, the co-founder of Market Muse. Dooley shares how SEO practices have evolved over the years, with less focus on generic, keyword-stuffed content and more on well-researched, quality articles that truly serve users’ needs.

Dooley states, “Now you… got to make certain that you’re looking to do quality content not just on a single page but topical authority and having lots of different topics all being covered in a nice format clustered together very nicely.” He also highlights the role tools like MarketMuse play in achieving optimal content optimization, adding, “The topical modeling system of what (MarketMuse) use(s) is not just copycat content… it’s not just doing correlation of content which does not work…Google (has) done a good job of clearing out a lot of copycat sites.”

He further encourages businesses to invest in quality content production and stressed that recovery of penalized sites is possible, but not easy. He advises, “If you’ve got a site that has been hit and it was earning some good money… go and get the Inventory set up with MarketMuse… run it against the whole domain… then go and optimize your least optimized pages that MarketMuse is saying.”

Prioritize the user experience and be authentic

Dooley stresses the importance of prioritizing the user experience and being authentic in content production. He advises businesses to consider the user’s perspective first and ensure that the content is valuable, concise, and well-structured. He also emphasizes the need for businesses to have a unique voice and provide differentiated content that stands out from the competition.

He explains, “We try to think for the reader and the user first…we try to make certain that we don’t play hide-and-seek with our content that we’re very, very concise in giving the answers. It doesn’t need all the fluff just to get keywords on the page.” On being unique, he adds, “If everyone’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight are all the same…be different; don’t just do just solely do AI content; make certain you’ve got a tone of voice and the brand voice that you’re going to kind of give your authority.”

Be at the forefront of innovation

Dooley also advises businesses to stay at the forefront of innovation and continually invest in research and development. He mentions his focus on artificial intelligence and its potential for content generation. He also highlights the importance of having a robust testing framework to ensure strategies are effective and optimize returns on investment.

He shares, “I feel that the opportunity if you know what you’re doing is better than it’s ever been ever because there’s so many people now at present that’s got uncertainty and…wasting money because there’s two things I… hate…wasting money…wasting time. I…need to make certain my testing team are testing…for what’s working so I can move forward, be at the front of innovation with regards to what’s working with SEO and then it allows all my different businesses to grow.”

Interesting Insights

  • Quality content is key to recovery from Google’s algorithm updates. Over-optimized, generic content does not work anymore.
  • There is a need to differentiate content, offering unique angles and insights that others are not providing.
  • AI can be effectively used in content production, especially in creating unique images, videos, and data sources.
  • Having a proper brief for writers, with the right context and desired outcomes, can improve content quality.
  • There are opportunities in investing in distressed websites, especially if one has the know-how to create high-quality content.

Featured Guest

James Dooley

Entrepreneur, PromoSEO 

LinkedIn Twitter

James Dooley is a British serial entrepreneur, SEO, investor, and philanthropist. He currently serves as the CEO of PromoSEO, founder of FatRank and a few other privately managed companies.

PromoSEO is a leading lead generation agency. James is regarded as one of the best search engine optimisation specialists in the world.

James has been mentioned in several media outlets for his contribution to the corporate sector, such as Entrepreneur, Washington Times, Dail Record, Yahoo Finance and many others.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.