Since its earliest days, SEO was rife with methods and techniques that cared nothing about benefiting clients and building up business credibility. Their proponents claim that they bring fast results unachievable by any other means. In reality, despite possible short-term benefits, they are disastrous for one’s business reputation, never pay off in the long term and are not guaranteed to work – Google is constantly refining its algorithms, which means that these black hat techniques are usually more trouble than they are worth. So, which are the most widespread methods of this type?
1. Private Blog Networks (PBN)
As backlinks are among the most important factors in how high a website ranks with Google, an obvious way to play the system would be to create many backlinks to your money-making website from seemingly unrelated resources. These sites are known as PBNs – networks of authoritative websites linking to the target site without referring to each other in any way. Why are they authoritative? Because SEOs usually buy off expired domains linked with other authoritative websites and riddle them with links to the resource they want to promote.
A more clean approach would be to eliminate the middleman – i.e., the expired websites themselves – and try to get links that originally led to them. For that, you will need to analyze these links, figure out what kind of content they had, replace it and get the owners of the authoritative site to link to you. This strategy is neither easy nor quick, but, unlike PBNs, you won’t have any problems with Google.
2. Spam Comments
These are the comments to blog posts that a) have a promotional link in them and b) have nothing to do with the topic of the original post. Basically, it is a way to get a free backlink. Obviously, their follow rate is close to zero (people are so used to them now they simply don’t acknowledge their existence), which means their value from the SEO viewpoint is also zero. This, however, doesn’t prevent it from being one of the most widely used black hat techniques, probably due to the simplicity – one doesn’t even need to leave these comments manually as there are enough automated tools for that.
A legitimate alternative would be, naturally, to leave genuine useful comments linking to your blog. This, of course, requires time and effort to follow the discussion, contribute to it and actually read the blog you comment upon, but it will help you establish useful contacts, bring visitors and really improve your SEO.
Cloaking means that a website has two sets of content or URLs: one is shown to search engine bots (usually it is nonsense content chock-full of targeted keywords), and another appears on request from a human visitor. As a result, a website receives a higher ranking that it has any right to. Such an approach can be useful in a short term, but if Google ever spots it, it will lead to a tremendous backlash of penalties your website may never fully recover from.
There are no legitimate alternatives to cloaking. The only thing one can suggest is to avoid using it and concentrate on generating content that would genuinely attract people while being optimized for search spiders.
As you may see, black hat techniques are diverse and quite inventive. Nevertheless, while they aim at defeating the system, in the long run, they are either ineffective, risky or involve much more work and expenses than they are worth. You will be better off using white hat techniques only, without exceptions. In the long run, black hat or white hat isn’t a question of ethics or morals – it is a question of high and low risk, high and low efficiency, long or short term benefits. Stay tuned – soon we will cover some completely legit, white hat methods that offer a much more stable and reliable return on investment.