The antagonism between black hat and white hat strategies has been going on for years now. These strategies have been around since the existence of SEO. It seems they aren’t obsolete. On the contrary, they’ve persistently lingered around the SEO world and seem to be fruitful even in 2014.
We do not endorse or recommend the usage of these techniques. This blog post’s intent is to show how black hat SEO works in 2014. Some of the techniques presented below are not only black hat but also “crap hat” which is illegal.
Even if Google tries to update it’s algorithms as best as it can, to cover all grounds, and provide users with pertinent and valuable information in search results, black hat SEOs seem to always adapt and find ways of ranking high. The strategies that I will present below, aren’t exactly new, as you’ve seen them work in the past, in some version or another, but apparently they are still kicking and punching in 2014. We’ve seen these black hat techniques used by small or big businesses, but one thing is for sure: sooner or later you’re going to be spotted by Google. It’s your choice if you plan to rank fast and stay up in the SERPs only for a short period of time( hours or days), or build a strong link profile that resists the test of time.
Let’s look at how the famous “buy viagra” SERPs look like nowadays and what techniques were used to get a top ranking there.
1. Parasite Hosting
This approach refers to performing SEO techniques that revolve around generating pages on high authority domains that rank very good in Google. These pages point to a certain site they wish to promote, boosting their position, based on the host’s ranking. Basically they steal some of the attention the parasite site gets to enjoy its already earned authority in Google. As you can see in the picture below, the hacker placed the “canadian viagra” page on a Hotel’s site. The two topics, “hotels” and “viagra”, aren’t related whatsoever, so it’s clearly not a naturally generated page. Another fact about parasite hosting is that the owner of the host has no idea about this, and the page was created without his knowledge. Let’s see a quick case study on what techniques are working in the pharma area.
There are those that work hard and create a strong authority and there are those who parasite!
Going for super competitive keywords means a lot of effort and a lot of resources invested. In the picture displayed below you can see the blatant competition that’s going on over pharmaceutical keywords – from 10 results displayed on “buy viagra”, 8 of them are ranking using parasite hosting. It’s interesting how, after all these years and all the algorithm updates, these type of parasite pages can still rank pretty high in search results.
It proves to be a very productive strategy for Black Hat SEOs in 2014.
Some people would call this technique as being part of a category named “crap hat seo”, due to its illegal nature. This is because these people hacked the sites and hosted their own content there.
2. Google Bombing
It needs to be stated from the beginning that it’s not as life threatening as it seems, and you won’t see any explosions on your screen. We’re going to move from one strategy that has been around for some years now, to another one. The first time this term was mentioned was in 2001, by Adam Mathes. But since it’s first appearances, it slightly went from being a form of prank to a form of boosting pages onto the first positions of Google. It seems black hat SEOs can still exploit this technique by using consistent anchor text when linking.
We have a clear example of Google Bombing so you may understand how this black hat strategy works and how it affects a site’s ranking. If you’ll take a look at the screenshot below, you’ll notice that there is no historic data for this URL, meaning it’s a brand new page. The big link velocity spikes from the last days and there is an abnormal amount of links created just after a couple of days this page was created.
On the other hand, if we look at the whole domain on which the page was created, we can clearly see it’s not created with black hat SEO intent. The link velocity graphic for the whole domain shows a consistent link history that goes back to 2008, meaning that the site was steadily building links creating a solid authority. You can also see that for the last days, there are new link spikes that are very big and look suspicious. This black hat strategy may ruin a trustworthy domain.
Without that newly generated page, the domain is performing very well and looks very natural. If you’re wondering just how many links are created to sustain the pages on a victim’s site, you can look at the image below. A lot of parasite doorway pages are created in order to redirect visitors to the final landing page.
A lot of black hat SEO’s use automated software to generate lots of links on numerous sites, blogs, forums and web directories. Pretty much any place that accepts a text to be inputed on the page. These type of tools make spamming more effective, but only for a short period of time. These type of strategies won’t work on the long-term, since Google poured a lot of effort into creating an algorithm that identifies and dissolves such link schemes efficiently.
3. Cloaking & Redirects
By crawling your site, the GoogleBot scans your site and validates the data to be indexed and displayed in the search results. A website is considered to be using cloaking when it displays one page to the search engine spiders and another page to the users that click on the link from the SERPs. You can sometimes find yourself clicking on links only to find out that they have little to do with the description displayed in search results. Usually, those that are using cloaking and redirect strategies create multiple pages, all optimized for a certain topic using specific keywords.
Matt Cutts, the head of the Webspam department at Google explained cloaking in this video released a while back. This is important as it depicts how Google sees cloaking and how they classify it. It clearly states that:
There are no forms of white hat cloaking strategies that you can use for your site.
It’s made with the purpose of deceiving users or to present users and search engines with different types of content. When you’ll click on the link displayed it will take you to a page created to send traffic to the viagra selling site, or it will simply redirect to the site.
A lot of websites that have used cloaking and redirecting in the past couldn’t hold on to their site’s ranking for a long time. This tactic is still used in the present and you can clearly see an example in the picture below. If you’ll be curious enough to see how Google see’s the page, you can just click on the tiny triangle next to the link in the search results and then click on “Cached. That way, you’re going to be able to see the crawled page through GoogleBot’s “eyes”. To further understand how these techniques of link manipulation are still viable in 2014, you’ll have to learn how they work. In a nutshell, cloaking the site will have a script that scans search engine robots on one hand and human visitors on the other hand and classifies them after their IP address. If it’s decided that the visitor is human it will be displayed the content you wish to display. But if it’s GoogleBot, it will be set to be directed to an optimized page in order to pass as high ranked and valuable. Below you have a screenshot on the site it redirects after you click on the link in the search results.
Parasite hosting, and his close cousins Google Bombing, Cloaking and Redirects are among the select types of black hat strategies that are still being deployed successfully in 2014. Since they don’t serve any purpose other than manipulating a site’s ranking and they offer no real value to the user, they have a rather short life span. I need to mention the fact that, left isolated, any of these black hat techniques could not make a site rank too high. The real power is harnessed when they are used together.
I want this post to act as a notice for the ever-growing SEO landscape, that Google is still an algorithm that is still exploited by the Black Hat SEOs. Even if Google greatly improved its algorithms in order to better to detect unnatural links and find shady patterns, I do believe that there is still work to be done when it comes to super competitive keywords such as the one presented here.Photo credits: 1