What the Heck is Black Hat SEO? Should You Use It?

25 replies
  • SEO
  • |
I originally posted this on my blog and wanted to hear what the Warriors think.

----

The phrase 'black hat' originates from old western movies where the good guys were differentiated from bad guys by wearing 'white hats'. But I think the term when applied to SEO is misleading since it portrays an image of someone that lacks morality or ethics. 'Black hats' don't go around stealing, committing cardinal sins or defrauding the state. What they are doing is attempting to game the search engines by using techniques that are frowned upon by search engines and some industry folks. They are impatient and want to increase their traffic and rankings, now.

I am not endorsing black hat techniques nor am I implying that you should use them, I just wanted to touch on the some of the most common ones:

- Buying an old well-established website or expired domain and using it for backlinks to your own site/s

- Hiding text and links in the same colour as the site's background colour

- Using cloaking scripts which serve one thing to search engines and something different to humans

- Link farming which involves creating lots of websites with low quality content and linking them together

- Spam commenting on blogs using automated software like Scrapebox

- Stuffing keywords into Meta tags is probably one of the oldest techniques

In my day to day travels around the web, I have seen plenty of anecdotal evidence which shows that some black hat SEO techniques do work. So the question you should be asking is not whether they work or not, but will they still work tomorrow? Instead of playing a game of cat and mouse with the search engines, its far better to build a solid long term strategy, with no concerns about whether the next algorithm will penalise your website or not.

Finally, I think its relevant to mention that in his dishonesty research, Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational found that most people WILL cheat in small ways if they believe it can go undetected, and SEO is no exception!

What do you think about black hat SEO, or are you more of a grey hat
#black #hat #heck #seo
  • Profile picture of the author E. Brian Rose
    Originally Posted by Saleem Yaqub View Post


    What do you think about black hat SEO, or are you more of a grey hat
    I think that running a business based on dishonest tactics poses a great risk to your business and your soul.
    Signature

    Founder of JVZoo. All around good guy :)

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892098].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author SaleemY
      Originally Posted by E. Brian Rose View Post

      I think that running a business based on dishonest tactics poses a great risk to your business and your soul.
      I'm not sure if black hat = dishonesty or that it poses a risk to ones soul But Google would probably agree!
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892130].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Benguy
        Black-hat is a relative term. Why do you think some people stretch the term and call their actions grey-hat? It's nonsense, they just don't feel guilty and don't want to admit gaming the system lol. If it seems to be sketchy or unethical to you then it is black-hat. My advice is don't build a house of cards.
        Signature
        Skepticism is a hindrance to ignorance; learn what is right not what is learned.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892201].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author 101millionAds
          Taking into consideration the competition there is within internet marketing these days i think people are willing to do whatever it takes to get results.

          And i can`t blame them
          Signature

          It's official: Instant Article Wizard 4.0 (IAW4) has launched!

          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892218].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author SaleemY
          Originally Posted by Benguy View Post

          Black-hat is a relative term.
          Could not agree more. For example you can hardly call buying a text link ad from a reputable site that also happens to flow page rank unethical or dishonest. Although the line is quite blurry, it ultimately depends on the techniques used.
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892220].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
            Originally Posted by Saleem Yaqub View Post

            Although the line is quite blurry, it ultimately depends on the techniques used.
            Actually, it depends on what you are thinking.

            When you buy that text link ad, it's perfectly okay with Google if you are thinking "this text link will bring traffic to my site." But if you are thinking "this text link will improve my ranking on Google," oops! You just went black hat.

            But once you buy the text link - i.e. you've crossed the border - you can think about its impact on your rankings all you want.

            However, if you decide the traffic isn't worth the price of the ad but the ranking boost is... you can't buy that ad at that price anymore.

            So the waters get pretty muddy around this, because it's not what you do, but what you are thinking. If you read the AdSense terms of service very, very closely, you'll find additional oddness - specifically, that you're required to join AdSense for the explicit and exclusive purpose of "being paid by Google," and not for any other reason.

            Google basically requires you, as a condition of using their services, to think about those services in very specific ways. Otherwise, you're not allowed to use them.

            And if you don't immediately flash back to George Orwell's 1984 and the concept of "thoughtcrime," you probably haven't read it.
            Signature
            "The Golden Town is the Golden Town no longer. They have sold their pillars for brass and their temples for money, they have made coins out of their golden doors. It is become a dark town full of trouble, there is no ease in its streets, beauty has left it and the old songs are gone." - Lord Dunsany, The Messengers
            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892782].message }}
            • Profile picture of the author SaleemY
              Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post


              And if you don't immediately flash back to George Orwell's 1984 and the concept of "thoughtcrime," you probably haven't read it.
              Great book, a scary one too. Perhaps Google should call itself the Ministry of Search

              Their monopoly on search is not good for anyone, advertisers, publishers, users or agencies, and I hope the playing field will level out over the years ahead. Bing has some nice features, and the search alliance between Bing and Yahoo should be interesting.
              {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2895347].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author ladida
    Black hat strategies work (till you get caught, at least) - there's no doubt about that. The issue is A. how long before you get caught and B. is it ethical?
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892118].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author culpetm
    I'm convinced that b*l*a*c*k*h*a*t techniques will eventually come back to haunt you. The Google algo gets smarter and smarter every year. If you do your SEO with b*l*a*c*k*h*a*t techniques, you're making yourself vulnerable to a Google algo change. One little tweak to target a b*l*a*c*k*h*a*t technique could hit your websites pretty hard. It's not worth the risk.
    Signature

    Visit Domain.BUZZ for all the latest domain name news, tips, and opportunities in the domain investing world.

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892209].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author DireStraits
      If you use "BlackH4t" (banned / frowned-upon) SEO techniques on your website, Google is likely to de-index your site, or severely penalise your rankings (probably the former).

      Utilising "BlackH4t" (or "grey-hat", which all backlinking manipulation is, I guess) off-site techniques, is a different story. They can't really penalise people for building links (even if they're spamming or what not) to their own sites, in an attempt to raise their rankings, because they cannot prove (and do not know) if it's the website owner him/herself who's doing it.

      People could easily disable their competiton if it were that easy.

      That said, if you're paying out for link-wheels, mass backlinks, or whatever, and leave an obvious "trail", Google could discount those links and you'll have effectively wasted your time and/or money.

      Just do not use on-site BlackH4t techniques, unless you're fine with the guarantee of losing it all in the very near future.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892233].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Marcel Pamphile
    Google labels anything it cannot control, measure and tag as black hat.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892215].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author SaleemY
      Originally Posted by NicheDiary.com View Post

      Google labels anything it cannot control, measure and tag as black hat.
      Nicely said, and that's my problem with the way some people classify black hats.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892250].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author orvn
      Originally Posted by NicheDiary.com View Post

      Google labels anything it cannot control, measure and tag as black hat.
      Yup- bingo.
      Signature
      Orun Bhuiyan[@orvn] [linkedin] See what I've been doing lately by visiting my marketing agency's site. SEOcial specializes in content marketing and integrated optimization. We create conversions for businesses by gracefully connecting the realms of design, development and marketing.

      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2904021].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author chrisscott
    Originally Posted by Saleem Yaqub View Post

    So the question you should be asking is not whether they work or not, but will they still work tomorrow? Instead of playing a game of cat and mouse with the search engines, its far better to build a solid long term strategy, with no concerns about whether the next algorithm will penalise your website or not.
    Saleem you already mentioned why black hat should not be used in above quoted text of yours.

    In my 3 years of SEO world I have seen different phases of search engines maturity levels.

    Days have gone when same algorithms exist for a long time and allow to use these techniques easily.

    Now search engines are so much mature and advance and become like an agent that can act so deeply and quickly that these techniques can't sustain for a longer period.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892223].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author SaleemY
      Originally Posted by chrisscott View Post

      Saleem you already mentioned why black hat should not be used in above quoted text of yours.
      Absolutely Chris, just wanted to hear what others think. But I think there are some techniques that Google does not like, but that does not make them unethical.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892244].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Mike Anthony
    Problem with the question is how people define black hat, Lets take the first example

    "Buying an old well-established website or expired domain and using it for backlinks to your own site/s"

    Now people call that black hat but when Microsoft buys out a company and uses the domain name and of course puts links to their other enterprises is that black hat? So if I buy a website I can't link to my other sites? does it just become wrong when its just a domain?


    Now if it involves spamming then thats one thing but buying a domain or for that matter even a link? Of course google will call it black hat but they'll buy a company and link to their site from the pages too (although they don't need to for SEO)

    and they'll spam the life out of the searchers intent of finding quality content by plastering adwords all over pages that you thought were going to give you great content.
    Signature

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892263].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author SaleemY
      Originally Posted by Mike Anthony View Post

      Problem with the question is how people define black hat,
      Lets see if we can define this more clearly:

      BLKHAT

      keyword stuffing
      spam commenting
      cloaking
      link farming

      GREYHAT

      buying links from reputable sites?

      WHITEHAT

      publishing valuable content
      asking others to link to you
      seeding on social media

      What else can we add to these lists?
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892279].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author LetsGoViral
    Probably using spam tools like Xrumer and Autopligg. You could use it if you know how. When you see "buy viagra" forum profiles ranking on the first page of Google, then it is a fine example of black hat done right.
    Signature
    Time of thinking is over.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892283].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author HerbM
    Blackhat techniques don't do well in the long run, Google changes their alogorithms to mitigate such practices over time.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892287].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    BL4CK HAT

    ILLEGAL
    UNETHICAL
    AGAINST TOS

    GREY HAT

    TECHNICALLY LEGAL
    NOT specifically unethical
    Technically within TOS

    WHITE HAT

    TOTALLY ABOVE BOARD

    SO....

    HACKING, USING OPEN RELAYS, IMPERSONATING OTHERS, LYING, SPAMING is BL4CK HAT, since it is ILLEGAL!

    Using the same color for background and text, on Google, is BLACK HAT, since it violates their TOS.

    You could argue that the type of "JV" where an unspecified adhesion contract "allows" another to harass a prospect is GREY HAT. It may be TECHNICALLY legal and within TOS, but it is NOT above board.

    As for relative, the ONLY thing about bl4ckhat that is relative is its relation to TOS. So a technique may be bl4ckhat on google TODAY, and NOT on facebook, and tomorrow it may be on facebook and not on google.

    Steve
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892458].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Michael Meaney
      SEO only becomes black hat the moment Google says it's naughty. Until then, experimenting and finding new ways to improve things is fair game

      Fact is, black hat built the SEO industry in the 90's and as a result of the experiments (that worked), the search engines didn't like it too much and changed the rules on us. Until that point, there were no rules that marketers had to obey.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892536].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author DireStraits
    Originally Posted by Chris Kent View Post

    But these days most people call it grey hat, because they put mass backlinking in that category maybe it's to make themselves feel better about it
    "If the hat fits" (the colour is of little consequence).

    Or something.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2892633].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Marketing Ignite
    ya they can work but why work in the short run when you are looking for long term business profits. Its like going to the store and steal a little hear and there and hope you will not get caught....Educating yourself of what is black hat is so important or it can ruin your business..I have seen websites going down doing it....
    Signature

    Digital Marketing Consultant since 1998. Contact me for a free consultation.
    https://www.marketingignite.com

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2896153].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author yardsignshouston
    Banned
    Yea i think black hat techniques are unethical and yes they work but only short term, so chances are you'll lose your website.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2903919].message }}

Trending Topics