Black Hat SEO: Why It Doesn’t Work

Why black hat SEO does not work, why it has given SEO a bad reputation and why it is time to embrace white hat, content based SEO.

black hat

I was inspired to write this by a review I read while putting together my post on why you should not buy Link Emperor. The review contained the following comment…

‘takes care of the dirty work of SEO’

And I guess that is how a lot of people think about SEO. A dark, murky world, with unscrupulous techno geeks doing underhand things to push their clients (or their own) poor quality sites up the rankings.

Doing all they can to ‘trick’ google into sending them traffic.

But SEO doesn’t have to be underhand, it doesn’t have to be tricky – at least not if you are doing it right.

Let’s take a look first of all at why SEO has developed such a bad reputation in the first place and delve into the world of the black hatter.

Black Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO is the term commonly applied to techniques used to manipulate google’s algorithm; primarily through aggressive link building.

The black hatter doesn’t care about how he gets the links, or where from, he just wants volume and will use automated link building software such as scrapebox to build thousands of links to his site through: –

  • Comment spam
  • Forum profiles
  • Social Bookmarks
  • Article directories (with spun content)
  • Wiki sites

Comment spam in particular is one of the biggest causes of the prevalent grubby perception of SEOs. Anyone who runs a blog site will be familiar with comments such as:-

‘Wonderful writings! I am wondering do you have RSS? I would like to share such wonderful contents!’

Or just comments that make no attempt to even trick the webmaster into approving it and are nonsense lists of keywords totally unrelated to the post.

Which is the reason for the sledgehammer approach.

If a program such as scrapebox sends out enough attempts, some of them will slip through the net and they will pick up links.

Link Wheels, Squares And Dodecahedrons

Another favoured tactic of black hatters is one of the main reasons for all the clutter on the web.

Supporting poor content with more poor content and supporting that poor content with even more poor content… like Quasimodo standing looking into a mirror with the reflection of another mirror behind him… an infinite regression of ugliness.

They set up a rubbish website with rubbish content.

Nobody in their right mind would link to it, so they set up a second level of rubbish websites with rubbish content (say 5 sites).

And nobody in their right mind would link to them, so they set up a third level of rubbish websites (or web 2.0 sites/pages) with rubbish content (say 5 linking to each, so that’s a further 25 sites).

So we now have 31 websites of rubbish.

Then they run scrapebox and other automated tools to set up forum profiles, blast comment spam etc to try and build up authority to each tier and eventually rank the top site.

And they do all this to save time…

Black Hat Link Building Doesn’t Work Anyway!

We all know that since google Penguin, all those thousands of poor quality links are going to get your site penalised right? We know that it’s all about quality and developing topical authority, not volume right?

Well hopefully you do, but it does amaze me how people continue to blast away, believing it is still the way to rank a site. It really isn’t.

You might get away with it for a day, you might get away with it for a week, but sooner or later you’re gonna’ get busted!

What’s The Point In Traffic If It Doesn’t Convert?

To give you another example, and move outside of link building for a second, another favourite technique which I would consider to be certainly on the darker side of grey hat is writing content for purely SEO purposes.

While doing some research for a client I was looking at a competitor’s site and had a good chuckle to myself after reading through his content.

He had a blog section and there were about 20 pages all with titles like: –

Keyword Paisley
Keyword Glasgow
Keyword Edinburgh

Each of these pages then just contained content which repeated the keyword/phrase and location over and over again in text that appeared to have been written by a 5 year old. In fact, sorry, that’s doing disservice to a 5 year old.

Notwithstanding the fact that they will probably get slapped by Panda for duplicate content, I can say for certain that any potential customer who does land on one of those pages will not be spending their hard earned cash. They will be clicking straight on the back button never to return.

Remember, it’s better to have 100 visitors who convert, than 10,000 visitors who don’t!

A Different Approach

Instead of spending all that time trying to artificially create your own authority by citing yourself and annoying the entire web by blasting spam everywhere how about spending the same time…

Creating something that is actually worth linking to.

And promoting it to people that will: –

a) care about it
b) share it
c) link to it

You see for me the SEO of today is much more aligned to a traditional marketing.

Sure it’s important to get the technical side of things right on your site, but beyond making sure you have a good internal link structure, use titles correctly etc, the successful SEOs are those who get influencers in their niche and their target audience excited about their website/product.

So if there is a ‘trick’ to successful SEO it’s about getting people excited. Not exactly grubby or underhand is it?

Isn’t it better to excite people than to annoy them?

And I can tell you with 100% certainty that focusing your efforts on this form of SEO will deliver the results you are looking.

Not on ‘autopilot’, not ‘overnight’, but the key thing is that once the traffic and success arrives it will stick and you won’t have to worry about the next google update slapping you down, like a virtual ASBO for the neighbourhood ned.

So, SEO doesn’t have to be a 4 letter word. Create great content, work hard, help others in your corner of the internet and play nice… and maybe in time we can turn our reputation around!

If you would like my help in creating a white hat, content based SEO plan for your website then please feel free to get in touch.

About the Author

I'm a web developer, programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Glasgow, Scotland, with over 15 years experience in the industry. When I'm not writing about marketing and SEO you'll find me strumming the guitar in my band or listening to Revolver on repeat. Follow me on twitter, connect with me on google+ and add us on facebook to keep up with all the latest trends in SEO and online marketing.

Brandon Bear - October 31, 2013

Agreed — Although I wonder if the reason blackhat seo is so prevalent is due to the complexity of google when it comes to small business/new “internet marketers.”

People see that search traffic leads to serious revenue, but then they realize it’s not easy to get traffic when you are new/starting out. So they look for the easy/blackhat ways to get some money rolling into their website, and that leads to all the spam online.

I mean, it seems like blackhat spam actually works really well (if you want to rank for a couple days), but for a real website it’s effectively SEO suicide. More people need to realize that.

    David McSweeney - November 1, 2013

    I think that is the problem – we live in a world where people expect immediate results and for sustainable SEO, which will deliver traffic in the medium term that’s not the way it works.

James H. - October 31, 2013

I certainly agree with you! Good SEO is not an overnight thing. People think that if they use black-hat tactics, they’ll rank higher faster, but that isn’t the case anymore. Google has now forced us all to adapt to organic strategies (and for the better).

I never understood why people think bringing in traffic by using black-hat tactics would actually work out for them in the long run. I agree that it’s annoying and cheap. Nothing makes me feel negatively toward a site more than being suckered in through some cheap, faulty links. It not only sours their reputation but it makes me never want to return to their site.

Why would you want to taint your reputation like that? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Anyway, thanks for sharing! I think you hit it home about not using black-hat tactics anymore.

    David McSweeney - November 1, 2013

    Unfortunately there is still a load of information out there teaching the spammy methods, and a lot of people making money off the back of doing so.

Rahul - November 10, 2013

Yeah i agree with you, “seo is not a 4 letter word” it more and more, About few years ago we can easily rank a site by performing black hat techniques but now they all are waste of time. We need perform white hat or just original content is enough to get the site ranked with few backlinks(natural backlinks of course).


    David McSweeney - November 10, 2013

    Yep, hopefully the days of cheap tricks are on their way out!

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