When it comes to following rules, there are certain things we know we shouldn’t do. Obeying traffic laws, paying your taxes, don’t steal, and the list goes on. While these things might seem obvious and have obvious penalties the SEO world isn’t always as clear. Luckily, most shady tactics such as hidden text, cloaking, and keyword stuffing are tactics that even a newbie can identify as black hat. Other tactics, that might have a positive short-term effect on rankings, might not be as obvious.
From time to time you might stumble upon tactics or hear about strategies that look appealing. Best of all, these tactics might work to quickly improve your rankings, at least at first. While these tactics might work in the short-term, beware. Black hat methods are not recommended for anyone to use and could get your site banned from search engines like Google.
It is much more profitable and recommended to use white hat SEO for long-term gains.
Before we discuss 3 black hat techniques you shouldn’t use that can help increase your rankings (at least short-term), I need to give you a quick disclaimer. First off, everything in this article is authored based on my opinions. Search algorithms are extremely complex and as marketers, we don’t actually know for a fact what does and does not work. Search algorithms are also constantly changing. It is NOT recommended that you do any black hat tactics discussed in this article. This article is for informational purposes only. In no way do I endorse or suggest you use any of these techniques. The purpose of this article is to educate you so that you know some tactics to avoid. Also, note that this is not a comprehensive list of blackhat tactics.
With that all out of the way, let’s have some fun and get started!
1. PBNS – AKA Private Blog Networks
When it comes time to get links to your site you might come up with all kinds of different ideas. Creating infographics, helpful tutorials, videos, and other types of link worthy materials. As you work through your campaign you may quickly realize how difficult it is to earn good links. You might even think of a way to make link building easier. Like maybe owning the sites yourself. You’re not the first to have this thought and likely won’t be the last. In fact, a number of marketers have come up with strategies to make link building easy by building out a private network of blogs or websites that they could leverage for link building purposes.
The private blog network or PBN is then used to try to control SERPs results in favor of the marketer’s money site. In some cases, these networks are offered to a group of paid subscribers and in others, they are exclusive to a specific company.
Here are some elements involved in setting up a PBN
- Find Sites. This might be done by purchasing expired domains, purchasing developing or established sites, or start a URL from scratch
- Use different registrars for domains
- Private WhoIs registration
- Different Hosting for each website on unique Subnet Ip Addresses
- Unique Content. A good PBN doesn’t use spun content and doesn’t post content that wouldn’t be published on a money site.
- Some of the top PBNs might consider only linking out to one money site once within content (contextual link), and avoid the use of sitewide links.
- Use best practice for on page such as 2 -5 outgoing authority links maximum per page, with some pages having no outbound links. A good rule of thumb is to keep it natural.
- Do not sell links
One of the benefits of a PBN is that, when done correctly, a user might be able to quickly improve a site ranking from the cheap seats in the SERPs to page 1 ranking. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is if you’re looking to build out a long-term strategy that doesn’t include your site to be kicked back to those cheap seats down the road. Or even worse, banned from the stadium altogether, then it is.
Costs of a PBN. Is it Worth it?
For those who own or run a PBN, ROI will likely be your top concern. Is this the best method to get a maximum ROI from your money? Is it better to be spending time and money elsewhere instead?
For myself, I feel that you could spend your money better elsewhere. Not considering the time you have to dedicate, these networks can become very costly. Let’s take a look at the costs associated with PBNs. Remember, the cost below does not include initial setup (buying an expired or developing, or established site, possible programming cost, your time).
- The yearly cost of the domain
- Hosting cost
- Cost of content
Let’s break this down and assume that you’re paying $13 per year for the domain, $3.95 monthly for hosting, and you’re adding 1 new article monthly ($60). That comes out to an annual cost of about $771.35 per domain. It’s unlikely you’re going to rank using one domain. Multiply that by the number of domains you feel you’re going to need and you have your annual cost to run a PBN.
Pretty expensive, huh? Consider how you could invest that same money every year to grow your business. As a digital marketer, there are so many other methods you can use to safely promote and improve your content. PBNs are not worth the risk.
2. Fake Clickbait
More and more SEOs believe that user metrics are an important factor in SEO. To help improve click-through rates from the SERPs some might participate in clickbait schemes. And from what I’ve seen it looks like some are continuously upping their game. The more outrageous the clickbait the better. After all, what good is a top ranking if no one is clicking on your listing.
Don’t get too excited. Fake clickbait isn’t going to give you the results you’re looking for. Here are a few reasons why, and what you should be doing instead.
Like a good PBN, clickbait may help increase your CTR in the short term, but in the end, you are sacrificing a few important SEO factors. First, you are giving up your opportunity to include your keyword in the title. Secondly, I would expect that fake clickbait will have an effect on your bounce rate. Google, Bing, Facebook, and others could measure the time between when a user clicks on a link, stays on the page, and then returns. This could be a negative sign if those user metrics looks poorly.
Does This Mean That Clickbait is Bad for SEO?
Don’t get me wrong, good titles that entice readers to click through to your article are great. They might be one of the most important things that a content writer can do. The basic principle here is that there is a right and wrong way to create clickbait.
Rule #1, DON’T create false or untrue clickbait.
Rule #2, Keep it relevant to your content.
Rule #3, provoke curiosity, hope, and grab attention.
Enough talk about good and bad headlines, let’s see an example in action for an article about the pitfalls of fake clickbait.
Good Headline: 6 Things Nobody Tells You About Fake Clickbait That Will Kill Your Campaign
Bad Headline: You Won’t Believe How This Couple Made Billions Producing Fake Clickbait
What’s the difference between the two headlines above? You got it. The bad headlines have nothing to do with the article. It makes the user frustrated as they search through the article for the non-existent content that was advertised.
3. Paid Links are Not White Hat
Paying for links has been a known strategy for some time. The problem with paid links is the same problem people face with other black hat tactics. It might work well in the beginning but it’s likely that you will reap what you sow. Paid links are a no-no in the eyes of search engines like Google. The best way to get links to your site is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity online.
Buying links to manipulate search results is against Google’s guidelines. Here is a quote directly from Google:
“The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
- >Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links, or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”
There are a few different paid opportunities/tactics that you might come across during your career as a marketer. The first is from link brokers. These are people who have a number of different sites that they can get you published on. Some will be small blogs and others might be well-known publications. You will likely be approached via email, or social media offering you placement on a site in exchange for money.
If you have ever received an email from someone advertising a list of sites that they can post your link for a price there is a very simple procedure you should follow. Step 1, hit the delete button. Step 2, empty your trash. Step 3, be grateful you didn’t purchase one of those spammy links.
The second tactics that I have come across involve outreach. To increase the number of sites that will publish your content with a link back to your website, some marketers might choose to offer payment in exchange for posting their link.
Marketers who participate in this type of marketing might take a few measures to help ensure that they don’t get caught by search engines as easily. While there are still many holes in this tactic, it does help to make it a bit more difficult to pinpoint the site.
- Use a generic email provider like Yahoo!, AOL, or Google
- Send an outreach letter that offers compensation for posting your article
- Don’t tell the site owner which site you represent. Include numerous different outbound links in the article you provide to ensure the site owner doesn’t know which website you are promoting/paying for.
While buying links seems like an easy way to quickly improve your rankings beware. This is another one of those dangerous tactics that could get your website banned from search engines like Google. Buying links to manipulate search results is against Google’s guidelines, and for good reason. If search engines were to allow marketers to buy and sell links for money links would no longer be a helpful signal as to the quality of the content. It can also mislead readers, making them possibly feel that a site is endorsing another website
Have You Been Scared Straight Yet?
While search engine marketing can be a challenging and fun job, it is good to know what tactics are tried and true best practices vs. manipulative black hat tactics.
If you have used black hat tactics I’d like to hear from you. Let me know your experience using these tactics and if you would have done anything differently if you had to do it again?