Black hat SEO specialists, as the name implies, are akin to sorcerers who will use any method, good or bad, to push a website to the top of the search results. Black hat SEO specialists have no regard for the terms of service of the search engines which outline behaviors that are permissible and those that are not. Without regard for the “Rules” a black hat SEO can push websites to the top very quickly for phrases both relevant and not relevant to the actual web page. These pages are referred to as web SPAM, and like email SPAM are considered to be the trash that dirties web search results just like email SPAM dirties inboxes.
Black hat SEO specialists are so common that search engines have departments exclusively focused on removing SPAM pages that their search results, both manually and automatically, identified through continuous improvements to their algorithms. Websites found to employ black hat techniques can be penalized to rank much lower in the search results, and or completely removed from the search engines index. Once a domain name is labeled as a SPAM website, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to rank the domain name in the future.
When you’re considering hiring an SEO specialist, it is critical that they do not participate in black hat SEO techniques.
The Promotional Goods Sales Company
In 2010 one of our long time clients referred an old friend to us: someone they had done business with 20 years ago, whom they had stayed in touch with ever since on a personal level. Our client had related to them how working with us had changed their business. Once they had sent sales people out to meet with prospective clients, who were mostly found through trade related print publications. We started with this client back in 2004, and since 2006 they handle most of their business over the phone. Their top-ranked site has brought them more new business at a higher ROI (Return On Investment) than the outside sales force did, and they could no longer justify the high salary cost of their outside sales force.
The Promotional Goods salesman called, and after relating the tremendous referral we had received, asked if we could offer the same success for his website. I explained that it would depend on many factors, not the least of which was the actual amount of business for his goods that was being done online. He related that he had another friend in the same business that was doing very well, he wanted a website similar to theirs. He wanted it to use all of the same product images and descriptions as theirs. I explained that he would need something different if he wanted to compete in the same market as his friend His website had to be unique if he wanted customers to find him through the organic (free) portion of the search engines.
At that time we were offering a website and target market analysis as a separate service, which our excited new client quickly purchased; he was in a rush to start selling. When we began our research what we found on his pre-existing website is a bit hard to describe for an SEO specialist who has only ever offered white hat SEO. The website was terrible: old design optimized to work on small 800 pixel PC monitors, and completely overloaded with SPAM. Every one of the website’s images had their alt image tags (those used to describe what each image was ) stuffed with over 200 words of keyword SPAM. It gets worse: every image had the same stuffing: even those that didn’t display to the visitor. Images were simply used as spacers, in this type of old website design. Every page of the website had the same keyword stuffed paragraphs at the bottom, not so much descriptions or explanations about anything as just lists: lists of keywords. It goes on and on, but you get the idea.
We found other websites hosted inside the same hosting account (not separate accounts) that were also the epitome of the work done by a Black Hat SEO specialist. We researched the websites’ link popularity, and found while the domain had some links, they were mostly from low-quality unrelated websites. Many were from Asia, and many from porn sites. The domain had a Google Page Rank of zero, and was getting zero referral traffic from the search engine.
I explained to our new client the situation with his domain, and informed him that it looked like he had a Google penalty (I say “looked” because at that time Google would offer no indication whether they actually penalized a domain, unless of course you were a large international corporation like, for example, BMW. that might draw negative press to Google if they behaved in their traditional secretive manner. I suggested it might be best to start with a new untainted domain. The client insisted that this was his domain and he liked it and would continue to use it. I proceeded, uneasily.