Black hat SEO

The SEO methods explored earlier are methods that adhere to the search engine’s own guidelines. Generally referred to as ‘white hat’ SEO, these techniques are seen as legitimate optimisation of a site to align it with the needs if the site visitor and simultaneously make the site content accessible and easy to index by the search engines.

But there is another side to SEO – an altogether darker and more sinister side, where less ethical practitioners attempt to exploit every trick and loophole they can find in order to ‘game’ the engines, increase their rankings and drive traffic to their sites. Dubbed ‘black hat’ SEO, search engine spamming or spamdexing (spamming the indexes) when discovered, offending sites are quickly banned from the search engine index.

But the black hat SEO isn’t worried by bans or penalties. For a black hat, banishment from search engines comes with the territory. They are not interested in building quality sites with sustainable high rankings – they’re looking for short-term gains from high-traffic to ad-laden sites. By the time one batch of sites has been banned they have been banned they have already moved on to next. Black hatters typically have many sites running on many different domains across a variety of hosts, all exploiting loopholes in the system to artificially boost their ranking and generate advertising revenue.

Why should you care about what colour hat these guys wear? On one level, you shouldn’t need to. The battle that is raging over artificially inflated rankings in the SERPs is between the black hatters and the search engines. It is up to the Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft of this world to wage that war.

Whenever there is a system in place you will find people – often some of the most innovative and resourcefull people out there – attempting to exploit that system for their own gain. You will also have some equally resourceful people on the pther side trying to stop them. It’s human nature, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Essentially, black hatters are simply taking the principles of SEO – creating a list of keywords, building pages, getting links – and pushing the boundaries to the extreme. Instead of manageable selection of keywords for which they can create unique and engaging content, black hatters typically create lists of hundreds or thousands of keywords and stuff their pages full of keyword-rich bunkum created by automated content-generation tools. Instead of building links naturally, they use automated ‘bots’ to spam posts stuffed with links into blog comments, guest books, forums and wikis all over the web.

Black hats typically are not interested in you or your site – unless it’s as a possible repository for link spam in your blog, guestboom, forum or wiki (and that can generally be avoided by implementing security features on your site that require human intervention to post). What is perhaps more significant is that by pushing their spammy sites up the SERPs they are artificially pushing down more legitimite sites like yours, making them less visible to searchers and potentially affecting your traffic and revenue.

Adapted from

Ryan, D., 2016. Understanding digital marketing: marketing strategies for engaging the digital generation. Kogan Page Publishers.

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