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Happy Grinchmas! – The 12 Days of Blackhat SEO
Posted By Grant Simmons On December 18, 2012 @ 5:19 pm In SEO | 3 Comments
2012 has been quite a year for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and for SEO at The Search Agency itself.
To celebrate, we thought we’d tip our white hat to the Google Spam team with a little ode entitled:
12 Days of Black Hat SEO (Play Me!)
On the 12th day of Black Hat, my spam team gave to me…
12 Sites A Cloaking…
Showing different content to search engines and people is a big no-no, but there’s still a few black hat aficionados who take some joy in “fooling” the Google bots. With stealth bots (ones that don’t identify themselves as bots) and human review, it’s never been a great practice.
11 Doorway Pages…
With Google’s Panda update looking at page content quality through engagement, page segmentation, human input, social signals and the content itself, doorway pages offer a way out of SEO success. Once touted as long tail keyword magnets, some companies even built tools and business models around them, but Panda-proof they were not, and their efficacy and a few businesses have waned in the process.
10 Schemes A Linking…
If the “100 links for $100,” link wheels, reciprocal linking, or “I promise you 1,000 twitter links for $25” schemes actually worked, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? In fact, a lot of people were, and Google didn’t take too kindly to obvious and visible link schemes. As a response, they introduced additional layers to their algorithm and the Penguin update to address these shady ploys., The SEO community of ‘elves’ were left to report the more obvious of schemes.
9 Directory Submissions…
Matt Cutts, the Google Spam Grinch, noted earlier this year that directories have little value as a link build tactic unless the directory is a relevant, legitimate authority negating at least 100,000 of SEO’s favorites. Our advice for directory submissions? Be careful, be selective or just stick to Yahoo!
8 Hidden Text Blocks…
You can run but you can’t hide! Believe it or not, users can’t read text that’s close to, or exactly, the same color as the background. Google can automatically recognize when you’re trying this classic SEO tactic of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. If you want to see a “great” example, search for an old-time SEO company, visit their homepage, select all and look around… You might see a text block or two appear at the bottom of their page IF you can survive the flashing animated GIFs!
7 Crappy Blog Posts…
With all due respect to writers outside of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, English-targeted websites require content that has value to users. The Panda update bought an end to many Content ‘Farms’ whose focus was on volume over quality. Grammar counts to users, therefore it counts to the most discriminating user, Google.
6 Keywords Stuffing…
What do you keyword mean by keyword stuffing of keywords in content about keywords? Beyond the pain of ripping my eyes out over content that attempts to incorporate keyword density factoring over readability, stuffing content no –no’s transcend to in code infractions too. Who wants title tags that have multiple repetitions, meta descriptions that rarely roll off the tongue, and use of the meta keywords tag to add in a ‘kitchen sink’ based approach to optimization. Better to write for the user with keyword and keyword-related inclusion considerations than risk an over optimization
5 Paid Links…
If you’re looking for a holly jolly Christmas, forget the paid linking presents under the tree and focus on creating more meaningful relationships. Although linking is the SEO gift that keeps on giving, buying links, or linking for manipulative purposes, is a big Google Guidelines gotcha that could have you crying on Christmas morning when you get a penguin rather than the pony you’d been hoping for! Although the Penguin update didn’t uniquely target paid links, some of the attributes of paid links – keyword laden anchor text – do appear to be part of a Spheniscidae spam trap, one that’s likely to ruin anyone’s Christmas if paid linking is your primary strategy.
No EMDs aren’t a new branch of medicine, they’re “Exact Match Domains,” made popular when domains were cheap, and readily available as any phrase you cared to optimize around. Not 100% a Black Hat tactic, as often an EMD represents a company or brand well, BUT is goes a bit crazy when a site about entertainment lawyers in Dallas, Texas shows up at bestentertainmentlawersindallastexas.com or even better best-entertainment-lawers-in-dallas-texas.org
Google decided to “de-weight” some of the rankability of EMDs this year, but that doesn’t mean EMDs lead to an automatic penalty or don’t have the ability to rank, just be careful!
Redirects do one thing. They redirect a user to another site that may be less savory or more lucrative for the black hat spammer. Just as doorway pages create a less than optimal user experience, redirects offer even less of a high-quality user experience. The ranking page – the page search engines think is a relevant search result – often only displays for seconds before a user is taken to somewhere else – normally far less relevant. Probably one of the most annoying black hat techniques, search engines are pretty smart about finding landing pages with redirects, devaluing or de-indexing them quickly.
2 Google Warnings…
Not a black hat technique at all, but something worthy of the spam team’s melody, the Google warning has become a wakeup call for sites employing black hat techniques, link schemes or – in the spirit of a better web – site fixes Google would recommend. Not a replacement for savvy white hat experts, but an indication of a) Google’s push for more transparency, and b) insights into just how much Google is seeing.
…And a reconsideration request!
Although reconsideration requests are an SEO-penalty of ‘last resort,’ they’re also little gift from Google engineers whose (often) cryptic and brief issue explanations can help fix & improve your site.
With that “good tidings to all webmasters” thought in mind, we’re wishing for another year of Google transparency and support for those on Google’s naughty list!
Happy holidays Google spam team.
The Search Agents
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 Grant Simmons+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/104453345228305878509/posts
 A Lesson on Google’s Webspam Guidelines: http://www.thesearchagents.com/2013/03/a-lesson-on-googles-webspam-guidelines/
 SEO Quick Tips: http://www.thesearchagents.com/2009/06/seo-quick-tips/
 Google Penguin Update Continues Assault on Black Hat SEO: http://www.thesearchagents.com/2012/05/google-penguin-update-continues-assault-black-hat-seo/
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