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July 22, 2014

Who Wears a Black Hat on the Wild Wild Web?

If you have been working the Web for any length of time, then you know the search engines frown on what is known as “black hat” techniques.   This technology has been used to exploit search engine algorithms since the first search engines appeared. The reason black hatting used to be so popular was because it could move your website onto Page 1 in a hurry.

Before the turn of the century, black hatting was practically a requirement since the practice was so prevalent.  However, during the past few years, search engine operators have designed their spiders to search and destroy anyone employing black hat techniques.  In fact, the past half dozen updates on Google have been designed specifically to crack down on sites that are still employing these techniques.

While tricking the search engines into giving your site a higher ranking than it deserves may work in the short-term, once the other shoe drops and the search engine spiders catch on, there most definitely will be repercussions.  Many times it results in a site being either downgraded or even delisted.

The problem today is that most people still don’t know where the line in the sand has been drawn when it comes to black hatting. And the line keeps getting moved.  So to make it easy to understand what is considered black hat SEO, I have compiled the list below. (By “hidden text” I am referring to a technique of writing the text in the same color as the background so that no one with the exception of the spiders is able to read them.)

Keyword Stuffing relies on inserting repeated keywords within the text, hidden text, title or meta tags in order to generate increased relevance for a pate.

Spamdexing, like keyword stuffing, involves repeating unrelated phrases, to manipulate the relevance or prominence of resources indexed in a manner inconsistent with the purpose of the indexing system.

Doorway Pages are Web pages created specifically for spamdexing.  Also known as bridge pages or jump pages, their purpose is to redirect those who click on the page onto another website.  If you have ever clicked on a search engine listing only to be redirected to a porn site or a spam site then you have hit a doorway page.  Doorway pages are relatively easy to identify becausee they are designed for search engines and not for people.  They redirect the reader so quickly that it is virtually impossible for a human being to even see the original page.

Link Farming doesn’t involve the swine industry, although the search engines tend to treat perpetrators of the technique as swine.  What link farming does is create numerous backlinks for a site by generating an increasing number of fake sites that link to your own.  Back in the late ’90s and into the first few years of this century, paid link farms proliferated like weeds online.  Since links indicate popularity to the search engines, these businesses did quite well until the search engine spiders became savvy enough to determine real links from the farmed kind.  Today relying on fake links is one of the quickest ways to get delisted.

Cloaking does not have anything to do with the series Star Trek, although it works for websites much the same way it worked for Klingon Birds of Prey.  Cloaking involves hiding the presence of Flash animations, by displaying a text-only version for the express purpose of getting the search engine spiders to ignore the fact that you are employing Flash (which Google hates).

Duplicate Content on Multiple Sites is an SEO no-no.  Many people try to game the system by creating clones of sites with different URLs to generate top ranking.  The problem is that once the search engines catch onto to this tactic (and they always do), all of these sites will wind up delisted. Better to create unique content for each landing page (which is not a carbon copy) to go after the SEO high ground.  They can have a similar skin, provided that the guts are different.  (This is called a landing page and is a legitimate way to work the Web.

Automated Content Generation is becoming ever more popular with website owners.  Everything from page generation to autoblogging has become all the rage.  The problem is the fact that automated systems are still not sophisticated enough to take the place of a human being and the spiders can tell the difference.  In fact they regard the use of automated content generation for the most part as cheating.  So if you ever hope to win the war for keyword dominance, this is not a technique I would recommend.

What happens if you get caught black hatting?

If you or anyone in your employ is caught using black hat SEO, the penalties can be severe.  Not only will your websites start disappearing from Page 1, depending upon the infraction, you may never be able to get back on top of the heap again.  Google especially has a long memory.

Case in point: We were hired by a client with two physical locations and corresponding websites to help them conquer the search engines.  What the client failed to mention was the fact that they had previously hired an SEO pro to promote one of their two sites.  This pro had then used black hat technology to get them onto Page 1 of Google.  This worked for about a month, then they disappeared from the world’s most popular search engine altogether.

They hired us a few months later and failed to disclose this fact.  After about four months we had worked their sister site onto Page 1 of Google, Bing and Yahoo.  However their site worked only on Bing and Yahoo.  After questioning the partners they admitted that they had indeed hired someone whom they knew used black hat SEO on this site.  So poisoned had the well become that not only did it affect their main website, but it also put the brakes on any other landing page attached to their physical address.  This is due to the fact that Google Maps and Google Local linked any landing page connected to their address with their previous black hat infraction.  As a result, the only ways for them to generate page one results were either to move their office or resort to pay-per-click ads on Google.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to cheat them to beat them.

The reason that I point out the previous case is to remind all of you that if you really want to start working the Web to win, then you have to stop looking for the easy out.  Instead of trying to cheat your way to the top, simply make a long-term commitment to produce quality content on a regular basis.  Sure it can take a few months to see the results, but it is worth it.  As an added inducement when the search engines alter their algorithms you won’t be whipped around and forced to start from scratch.  Plus you will never run the risk of being either delisted or blackballed by the search engines.  Remember, the good guys always wear the white hats.

If you want to learn even more SEO tactics, Carl Weiss and Hector Cisneros have just published their Working the Web to Win book on Along with detailed online marketing tactics the book covers everything you need to know in order to start generating online success.  The eBook version is just $4.95.  If you want to learn how to start working the Web to win, this is a sure bet.


Carl Weiss has been working the web to win since 1995 and has helped hundreds of companies increase their online results. He is president of W Squared Media and co-host of the weekly radio show Working the Web to Win which airs Tuesdays at 4pm Eastern on Click here to get his latest book "Working The Web to Win: When it comes to online marketing, you can't win, if you don't know how to play the game!".