In this week’s episode of the Extra Paycheck Podcast we’re talking about Black Hat Marketing

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Black Hat Marketing Strategies

When we say “Black Hat Marketing” in the online marketing world we usually referred to Black Hat SEO. In other words, using unethical or “against the rules” methods to get out content ranking high on the search engines.

I’ve done that several times and most other bloggers. content creators, website admins have been involved in such practices. I decided to create an episode to warm you against going the same path. I have tried such techniques several years ago (some time between 2008 and 2010) but I haven’t been doing anything like that since then. Every single blog that I performed some Black Hat SEO on eventually died. Search engines such as Google spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours perfecting their search engine algorithms. They really don’t want to be tricked into ranking content that does not deserve to be ranked. Whenever they catch you breaking their rules they warm you, punish you or block your website from showing up in their search results all together. It simply isn’t worth it.

Also for the past 7 or so years I’ve been advocating persistence and hard work. I often say that you shouldn’t look for a magic trick or a shortcut to success. The same applies to getting good search engine rankings. It requires time and effort. I don’t care how much someone is trying to find a “magic system to ranking #1” – it doesn’t really exist. Put in the work and enjoy the long lasting results.

I’d like to explain some of those (mostly outdated) strategies so you could understand them and stay away from them.

Buying Links and Exchanging Links

Google looks at number of links a website receives as one of the ranking factors. I believe this is still an important factor now and it will remain that way for a very long time (if not forever). However, it is againt Google’s rules to exchange or buy links.

Google and most other search engines feel that if your website is of high quality, other websites will naturally link to you. Of course these other websites need to be relevant to your own. It doesn’t make sense that a website about diets and weight loss links to a website that teaches you how to repair a car. In 2017 I acquire links by simply putting out good quality content.

Back in 2008 and even later many websites openly advertised that they will link to you for a payment. Eventually Google upgraded their algorithm and millions of websites involved in selling or exchanging links received penalties and saw their trust and rankings drop dramatically.

 

Comment Spam and Forum Spam

Although many websites stopped selling links, the importance of inbound links still remained. At this point many online marketers came up with a new idea. Why not acquire links without paying for them? This caused a new spam revolution. People would come up with ideas and algorithm of finding blogs that allow all comments through without moderating them. They started leaving comments such as: ” Cool blog, check out my website at www….”. Shortly after you could acquire software that would automatically find such blogs and post comments on them. You could leave thousands of comments every single day without actually doing any work. Just imagine all that spam! I tried that strategy and I am not proud of it.

Google figured this out as well and they started punishing websites that used such strategies. They also made a few other changes such as requiring “no-follow” attributes for links within comments. This way even if the spammers continued leaving spam comments the links within those comments wouldn’t be picked up by search engines.

Forum spam was very similar to comment spam. A software would create new accounts on forums then create posts within those forums. The link to your website would be included in both, the profile and the spammy post. This allowed you to generate thousands of new links within a few hours and without doing any work besides setting up the software. A lot of forums hated the sudden increase in fake member sign ups and they started implementing captcha in order to protect themselves. In just a few weeks (or month) you could find a “captcha solving service” that would solve about 90% of captcha without you being there. That service cost just a few dollars per 1,000 “captchas”

Needless to say that Google stop trusting forum links as well (or at least stopped giving them any linking importance).

 

Article Spinning

We all know that search engines love new and original content but who’s got the time for that, right? There were hundreds of different services that offered to alter your content just enough so Google would think it’s original content.

You would write a simple 800 words article and then spend some time adding synonyms to (almost) every word in that article. Then a simple click of a button would “spin” that article and create hundreds if not thousands of copies of the same articles. Because it wasn’t a word-by-word copy paste it worked (for a while). More sophisticated software automatically posted that new content to your blog. When a human being read such content they would simply think it’s of poor quality however search engines weren’t capable of doing that. They simply saw that your website is coming out with 10 new articles every single day and they rewarded you with higher rankings for all that “work”.

This methods also created a lot of “gurus” that will teach you how to do that properly. They will tell you that you shouldn’t post more than a certain number of articles per day and that you shouldn’t post anything on Sundays and so on…

Of course in the end the search engines got smarter and fought this increase of thin, useless, spun content. Remember their goal is to provide the user with high quality, relevant content. Of course article spinning could not produce anything decent. With time most blogs with such content lost their rankings and many got completely banned from Google and other search engines.

 

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing was another popular shady strategy that actually worked for a while. Keyword stuffing means exactly that: stuffing your main keyword inside your article as often as possible. Back in the day Google looked at your blog post and thought: “Wow, this article used the keyword phrase “How to lose belly fat” 78 times! It must be very relevant, let’s rank it high!”

Naturally a lot of very specific theories came out from that strategy. Use the main keyword in the headline, then in the very first sentence of your article. Then make sure you have it repeat after every 100 words of text. Also make sure to have it at the very end of your article and so on.

Of course these were all theories (and not proven techniques) that were suppose to make your content look more natural and more real.

Obviously Google caught that one too. Stuff all you want, it isn’t going to help you rank better. As Google and other search engines are moving into machine learning, they will be getting smarter and smarter. Have you noticed how sometimes you search for a specific keyword phrase and the first search results is the exact information that you’re seeking. Yet, that result doesn’t contain your searched keyword a single time? That’s machine learning and it is the future.

 

Black Hat SEO in 2017 and 2018

Since I am not looking for any tricks or shortcuts I am not 100% sure of what’s popular in this industry these days. However, I do know of 2 strategies that are still being used right now (and many people swear by them). In my opinion there will be an end to these strategies as well, it’s just a matter of time.

PBN

PBN stands for Private Blog Networks. This is when you build a bunch of independent blogs and then link out from those blogs to your main website. Of course there are a bunch of strategies on doing that properly. Each of these blogs needs to be hosted on completely different hosting accounts. Each domain name needs to be registered to a different person. There are also strategies on buying “aged domains” for these blogs and so on. Basically you need to make sure that there is no way to prove that all these blogs belong to a single person (or company). You can also buy an already existing blog network (or rent one).

I believe that there is always some kind of a footprint and eventually search engines will figure it out and destroy all websites that try to use PBNs in order to increase their rankings. The lesson stays the same – if you try to outsmart Google you’ll eventually get burned.

Scholarship Links

Educational domain names (.EDU) are more trusted by search engines simply because only accredited educational platforms (such as universities) can own them. Naturally all of these websites have a high authority.

A while ago I was doing a research on one of my competitors who has good rankings. It turned out they had a few links from different college and university websites. I dug deeper and figured out how that was possible. Many schools offer you the opportunity to create your own scholarship. Let’s say you call your scholarship “The Weight Loss Scholarship” and you pledge to give a $500 scholarship to the students who loses the most weight in a year. Of course if anyone actually signs up to your scholarship you will probably have to pay the amount that you agreed upon. The interesting thing is that you will get a link to the site of your choice from that WhateverUniversity .edu website.

I was completely amazed when I discovered that some schools had thousands of these scholarships listed on their websites. Some were linking to gambling sites, make money scams, mlm pyramids and other very shady websites.

I believe that these schools will eventually realize what’s going on and stop this madness. However I think that search engines will figure that out even faster and do some sort of a clean up.

On the other hand if you’re a student you should check out the list of scholarship on your school’s website and apply to all of them especially if they are called “How to lose 20 lbs in a week scholarship” or “How to make million dollars with 3 easy clicks scholarship” …  😉

 

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– Alex

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