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Why Black Hat SEO Still Works (Sometimes) – Here’s Why #62

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We reckon it don’t seem fair. Sometimes the bad guys win. In search, Google has made bodacious strides toward wipin’ out so-called black hat SEO, but we still see cases where a dastardly spammer or link manipulator is rankin’ high. Tarnation!

In this episode of Here’s Why we’re gonna learn you good about why that happens, and why it still don’t pay to be a rustler or poker cheat!

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Transcript:

Eric: Mark, you said it in the intro, even though Google has done a lot to clean cheaters and spammers out of its search results, we still see some of them ranking well for some queries.

Mark: Right, Eric. For example, look at this result page shown in a recent search engine land article.
Spammy Google search result
The second through fifth results look like they would give the searcher a PDF with the information he or she is looking for, but clicking those actually redirects you to a sales page on a website.
Spam sales page redirected from a fake PDF search result.
Eric: That’s a Black Hat technique known as “cloaking.” The Google Search bot can actually see the PDF which does exist, but a hacker got access to the page where the PDF resides and inserted a sophisticated script to redirect the users to the sales page you saw. By the way, you can read more about that example in this article by Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Land.

Mark: Now, that search was done back in July of 2015. It’s interesting to note that doing the same search in March 2016 turns up only two PDFs at the top of the results, and both of those lead to 404 pages, pages websites display when the linked-to page no longer exists.

Eric: It’s possible that those sites discovered that their PDF pages had been hacked and took them down. The Google Search bot simply hasn’t discovered that yet.

Mark: So does that mean when it comes to Google, crime pays? I mean, will Black Bart always win in the shoot out at high noon?

Eric: No, because I don’t think that pursuing Black Hat SEO is a good idea at all. If you have any interest in building your business for the long term, it just isn’t going to work for you. Even where spam or link manipulation does slip through, Google is getting better all the time at detecting it and dealing with it more quickly.
I’ve written about what I think will be one of the best weapons in Google’s arsenal for the war against Black Hat SEO, and that’s machine learning. For more on that, read my article on the Moz blog.

Now, Google uses machine learning for a lot of things other than fighting spam, but the incentive to try to manipulate search is high because there’s so much money in it.

Machine learning, I believe, will be a valuable tool for Google in helping them keep ahead in that never-ending arms race. In a nutshell, machine learning will probably enable many anti-spam algorithms to quickly find patterns that usually indicate spamming or manipulative behavior. Since a Google machine will always be able to think faster than human spammers, this will help them out-pace them and help the search quality keep getting higher all the time.

[Tweet “Machine learning will be a killer weapon in Google’s arms race against spam. Find out why at””]

Mark: And even though Black Hat SEO used to be a lot easier, you’ve always insisted on White Hat SEO strategies for our Perficient Digital clients, isn’t that right?

Eric: That’s right, partner. The sheriff always knew that the right side would win, long before the final reel of the western.

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Thoughts on “Why Black Hat SEO Still Works (Sometimes) – Here’s Why #62”

  1. Link networks still work incredibly well in certain spaces. It takes a manual action in these cases. I dont believe that Google gives a rat’s ass about some organic results.

  2. Bob, I think at least two things are more likely than “Google doesn’t give a rats ass.”
    1. Since, as you note, squashing link networks is probably still largely a manual action, Google does have to prioritize which ones it goes after first.
    2. In a recent Hangout, Googler Andrey Lipattsev told us that in some verticals and languages there is a dearth of good results. Google still has to show something.

  3. Your first point is saying the same thing, just politely. Some spaces just dont make the cut. Real estate is one such example. Google is happy with the major portals dominating literally every result, and the intended consequence of driving most everyone else to PPC.
    I would be happy to share an example, just dont want to publicly out anyone.
    Your second point doesn’t really apply because if there was such a dearth of results for Google to display, then one wouldnt need a network to rank.

  4. Yes, Google does have to prioritize which one it goes after… Which means it when it’s left to people like me, it can’t do anything, or it can do a very limited amount of things.
    If you use a private blog network, you set it up correctly and go after some medium competition Amazon affiliate niche it’s unlikely Google will ever clock on to you and only takes 15 – 25 links to get you to the top anyway, a quick look on Empire Flippers will show you sites doing this on a lot bigger scale that end up selling for up to (and sometimes over) a million dollars.
    Link networks like SAPE, SERPZilla and MainLink still work ridiculously well even though Google “penalized” SAPE 4 years ago.
    Most of the best black hats have caught up now anyway, they use black hat links (that look white hat) with white hat content and there ain’t a damn thing Google can do about it.

  5. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Most of the time people who sell these services prey on those who are looking for quick results. The sad part is when a business relies on their synthetic ranking to fuel their business. Once they get caught they lose a large chuck of their revenue. Sadly I have seen this happen to many great businesses who were confused by seo.

  6. It’s all about understanding the ranking mechanism and working harder than the search bots.
    Black hat was working, is working and will work.
    Although Google is taking strong action against link builder, PBN owners, and shady backlink techniques, but marketers are smarter than the bots.
    This is a never ending battle. 🙂

  7. Google is “penalizing” SAPE every month 🙂 according to some people the network is dead. So much BS about what works and what doesn’t work.

  8. Black Hat SEO still works. In fact, I was presented with such an opportunity by an SEO firm and they presented results from their previous successes.
    It seems some people are far smarter than Google bots and will go any length to prove this.
    Maybe there will be a next major update from google, but for now, Black Hat still works for the few who utilize it.

  9. As we said in the video, it still works sometimes, but not always, not nearly as much as it used to, and rarely for long term results. I would not support a blanket statement that black hat “still works.”

  10. Hi,
    I’m planning to start a blog in this month and I’m new for this industry. Some are saying to apply black hat techniques for my Blog, but I read trough search engines that black hat is completely a false technique. So can you please determine the problem and provide a suitable solution for this?

  11. I think we answered this in our video. Yes, black hat techniques can still be made to work sometimes, but they are high risk, and getting more high risk all the time. Google is getting better and better at detecting them and eliminating the value. In worst-case scenarios, you could end up with your entire site banned from Google’s index. In our estimation, the risk is not at all worth any potential short term gains.

  12. Hello Mark,
    Thanks for the reply and yes I checked the video. It is really interesting and by watching this, anyone can understand the concept easily. With your permission, can I share your video?
    Cheers.

  13. Wise words indeed. Honesty and truth will in most cases finally triumph. More so nowadays as Google and friends work hard to catch the bad guys.
    It amazes me to see some bloggers spamming other sites with useless and unrelated comments to the content of the post. I have at the moment thousands of mostly spam comments that I have to go through.
    I have this year committed myself to getting only natural backlinks and to let the quality of my posts speak for itself other than buying some fiverr backlinks and comments.
    Once again thanks for your wise words

  14. I think it’s better to pursue a good path even though the Black SEO sounds easy but can get your website blocked from indexing as Mark suggested and you lose all of it in one go. Try doing the stuff thats right so that when the yield comes you are happy and contented. Nice video. Shares 😀

  15. Black Hat SEO works! I’ve personally tried it once and It has worked awesome for me. Bythway, I will not suggest anyone to do this. It can harm your blog too much!

  16. We would never, ever say something “works” that “can harm your blog too much!” In our way of thinking, that is the antithesis of “works,” since we only recommend to our clients strategies and tactics that achieve long-term, sustainable gains with little-to-no risk.
    I know the title of our video says it “works” but we add the qualifier “sometimes,” and make clear in the video that even though such tactics may sometimes yield SEO gains, they are such high risk they are not worth it if you care about your brand. Eventually, Google will discover what you’re doing, and the resulting consequences will often cost you more than the short-term gains from the tactic.

  17. My advice is to assume it doesn’t work anymore. Even if you can get it to work for you, it will eventually backfire on your site and business, and it’s not worth it.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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