SEO Expert Guide - Black Hat SEO - Activities to avoid (part 8/10)

In parts 1 - 7, you learnt how to develop your proposition, identify your key words and optimize and promote (for free) your site and pages on the world's search engines. You were also introduced to our mythical Doug (who sells antique doors, door handles, knockers, door bells or pulls and fitting services) in Windsor in the UK.

There are some search engine optimization and promotion techniques I did not cover, as they are unethical. In this part of the guide, I outline this techniques, so you can recognize and avoid them!

(a) Search Engine Ethics

Borrowing from the wild west, white hat SEO generally refers to ethical techniques, whilst black hat SEO is unethical techniques. Search engines are designed to help people find genuinely relevant results for the key words they enter, in a ranked order. Relevancy is a mixture of the "authority" of the site generally and the specific relevance of the page content to the search made. Anything which undermines this (ie. by creating false impressions of authority or relevance) is unethical because it undermines the key purpose of search engines.

Black hat practitioners tend to see search engine optimization as a war, and search engines and SEOs as the enemy, to be beaten by means fair or foul. White Hatters tend to view search engines as friends, who can help them get business.

(b) Hidden Page Text

Blackhatters create hidden text in page code (not intended for humans). At a simple level, this could be white text on a white background. The text is generally hidden because it does not fit with the rest of the page content but does help with search engine results. This by definition means that - as a human searcher - you are likely to be disappointed by the result when you land on this page.

In their Guide for Webmasters, Google implore you to "make pages for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users, or present different content to search engines than you display to users. " The guide goes on to specifically recommend you "avoid hidden text or hidden links". If you want to avoid being blacklisted by Google, then I would recommned you pay attention to this advice.

(c) Buying Inbound Links

In their Guide for Webmasters, Google ask you to "avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, 'Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?' ".

You can find on the web links from PR8 sites on sale for $200. From our earlier exploration of PageRank, you'll understand why such a high price can be supported. As you can imagine, Google and others frown on this activity, as it undermines the whole principle of democracy that underpins PageRank. Buying votes? Unethical!

The consensus in forums is that Google look out for unnatural linking patterns, including substantial cross linking, sharp growth in backlink numbers and same anchor text in most links. I would advise you avoid this sort of activity altogether!

(d) Use of Link Farms and IBLNs

In their Guide for Webmasters, Google say "don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or 'bad neighborhoods' on the web as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links."

In practice, Google identify 'bad neighbourhoods' by devaluing back-links from the same IP subnet. Where a site is simply a link farm site (that lists loads of links to other sites, in exchange for links back or money) Google will eventually identify it as a 'bad neighbourhood' and remove the links from it's index.

Independent Back Linking Networks (IBLNs) are a network of sites that all directly or indirectly link back to your site in such as a way as to promote it through the search engine rankings. The way IBLNs get around Google's IP monitoring is by using a completely different web-hosting plan for every site you want to link back directly to you.

This is very time-consuming and will cost you a lot of money. It is also not fool-proof and (if detected) can lead to Google simply wiping out all the direct referrers from their index (the sites they find flagrantly built simply to link to your main site) or, worse, dropping your entire IBLN - including the main site your were trying to optimise for. Don't be daft - keep it clean!

(e) Use of Cloaking Pages or Sneaky Redirects

In their Guide for Webmasters, Google recommend you "avoid 'doorway' pages created just for search engines, or other 'cookie cutter' approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content."

When Doug reads this, he begins to understand why fails to rank higher in the search engines. That domain simply redirects to a different site (with a regular business name) which also fails to rank well in Google. This poor business-owner has clearly become an unwitting and almost certainly innocent victim og Google's policy to catch out Blackhatters.

He also understands why having his content on will be preferrable to redirecting people to a domain based on his company name (Doug Chalmers Limited).

Next we turn to tools you can use to monitor your ongoing optimization effectiveness...

Navigate the guide

Previous : SEO Expert Guide - Paid Site Promotion (Marketing) (part 7/10)

Next: SEO Expert Guide - Ongoing Monitoring of Results (part 9/10)

About the author:

David Viney ( is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at or the Intranet Watch Blog at

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