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Don't put your Black Hat in the closet so soon

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by Hartwigm, Aug 24, 2012.

  1. Hartwigm

    Hartwigm Junior Member

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    I read yet another post today saying that black hat SEO is dead. It seems like a day doesn't go by that I don't read someone say that either 1) SEO is dead, 2)Black Hat SEO is dead or 3) that SEO is simply no longer economically viable. While I've posted my share on BHW and read far, far more, I haven't written a long substantive post yet. Well this issue has drawn my ire and it's time to change that.

    I want to put to rest all three of these myths that are being spread by so many.

    To put it plainly SEO isn't dead, it's just getting fun.

    Why SEO isn't dead:
    This is the simplest of the three to respond to. SEO isn't dead because Google still ranks sites. Google hasn't outlawed link building. They've made it harder and they've made it more expensive. But Google likes SEO. Even some of the SEO that goes against its TOS. In fact, Google stands to benefit from people being able to do SEO effectively. Google Adwords absolutely depends on competition within the search rankings. While Google makes a sizable income from small sites advertising through adwords, the vast majority of profits come from large companies advertising voraciously. And why do these companies invest so much into advertising?

    Because the return on investment for adwords is better than the return on investment for SEO. This is directly a result of the ability for small sites to legitimately compete for rankings against large companies. If SEO were dead, large companies would easily outrank small sites for whatever they wanted and only worry about competition from one another. While adwords wouldn't be dead, it would be less critical to their success. Competition within the rankings drives people to adwords. And competition within the rankings is primarily but not exclusively a result of our ability to do SEO. For concrete examples of SEO not being dead, just look at the BST threads. More on that in a minute.

    Google is, however, interested in making SEO harder and more regulated. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless you are lazy or obstinate. Google is interested in cutting down on spam sites, affiliate sites with bullshit reviews and sites with overall thin content. While this directly cuts at my own profits, I do believe this motivation is in the best interest of their user base. As a consumer, I am really, really pissed off when I've realized I've been gamed by a clever affiliate marketer into buying an absolute shit product. By making SEO harder, they make the return on investment for these types of sites much smaller and thereby diminish their appeal to enterprising web masters. Their success and failures in actually accomplishing this task are debatable (I argue they've not succeeded), but it's undeniable that this is Google's motivation.

    Why Black Hat SEO isn't Dead:
    Google has rolled out two sizable algorithmic updates with the names Panda and Penguin. These algorithmic updates are routinely refreshed with new updates added on nearly a monthly basis. As a result, most sites engaged in prolonged black hat SEO have been affected. Some sites still slip through the cracks, as neither Panda or Penguin were entirely effective in their stated goal. But with each update to Panda and Penguin more and more of these sites are being shown the reality of our changing SEO landscape. Rest assured, any site that has engaged in the black hat practices popularized between 2008-2011 and not done anything to address their back link profile will eventually be reined in by Google. Google is only getting better and smarter, not the inverse.

    So why is Black Hat SEO not dead or even knocking on death's door? To illustrated this, I'll point to my most recent site. I built a brand new website and lacking in time to run my own SEO campaign, I ordered two consecutive BST services. Within two months my site was ranked 2nd for my primary keyword. I made %2000 times the investment in the course of one and half months at the number 2 spot. The service I ordered, while claiming to be 'white hat', was thoroughly black hat. The content was poorly written and badly spun, the pagerank manipulation was transparent and the anchor text lacked much diversity. And yet, my rankings catapulted. Of course, I was brought back down to earth by Google's refresh of Panda. If this were the best we could do, the return on investment probably wouldn't be worth it. While I made a killing on this site, this was a rare case of a low competition niche with tons and tons of money making potential. If i were to follow this cycle for my career I wouldn't make nearly enough.

    When my site was hit my initial knee jerk reaction was to say F this and give up on SEO. But then, in my most contemplative state (on the toilet) I realized that the lesson to be learned here was that black hat seo still worked. My site did improve in rankings. The key to success was finding a way to couple that with protection from Google's rolling updates. I decided to drop a wee bit (read a ton of bit) on a certain companies API to do some serious research.

    While most SEO's have been looking at the sites that did black hat but avoided the penguin and panda updates I only looked at sites that did no back linking for pagerank manipulation purposes. I have a number of sites like this, but having the chance to look at a larger scale allowed me to see some interesting patterns. While the variation in back link profiles on these types of sites are dramatic, with enough data you can find the mean values for natural, organic back link profiles.

    Using this data, I've developed my own algorithm (I've got a nasty looking excel file for all the formulas) for creating a natural appearing backlink profile even while building loads of black hat links. This goes well beyond just varying anchor text and getting link diversity. Is it perfect, no not really? But I do believe that my sites are nearly indiscernible from a site not engaging in pagerank manipulation. And I think these sites will be very safe for a long time to come. Eventually Google may see through it, but I honestly don't see that happening for a very long time.

    So far I continue to do black hat seo on all of my sites and haven't had a single one hit by any of Google's algorithmic refreshes. If that changes I will delete this section. Until it does, black hat SEO isn't dead it's just gotten really, really fun.

    At this point SEO has become like Chess. Google puts us into check. Our knee jerk reaction is to sacrifice a piece. But if we step back, assess the situation, a cooler head will prevail. I've made my move and I'm so far satisfied with it.

    Why SEO is still economically viable:
    This is the hardest to answer as it depends on many factors. I suspect for some people, SEO isn't economically viable anymore. Specifically people who need to make money quickly with low risks and high return on investment. SEO isn't that game anymore. It's more calculating, more cunning and far more involved. But i've run the numbers on my own return on investment and it still beats my return on investment with adwords or other advertising methods by a landslide. I now have my own small SEO team which helps, but I do think that a solo freelancer can still make a good buck. Will you make millions? Not unless you have a great site that deserves to make millions. Will you make a living, very possibly. I am and so are tons of other people on BHW.

    Conclusions:
    People need to stop making exaggerated claims just because they've been meet with difficultly. I know many people got into SEO thinking that it was an easy way to make money. It's really not anymore. But it's a far more rewarding career at this point. I don't blast my sites with Xrumer and go play playstation. I analyze my sites, I correlate data and I build formulas. God I love that I paid attention in Math class! My biggest piece of advice when anyone interested in doing SEO asks me for some truth, is that Google is way ahead of you. They just haven't implemented it yet. So don't just focus on the current algorithmic updates. Pay attention to the patterns and progression Google displays. Large companies are often predictable. I don't know for sure what Google will do next, but I have a list of things I think Google will attack next. I've preemptively attempted to gaurd against those within my own algorithm. I hope you all do the same! If you are willing to put in the work and get creative, SEO is so alive and kicking. And it always will be. Until Google turns into sky-net. Then maybe not. I really do hope success on everyone reading this thread and I want to reiterate that our lifeblood ain't dead. It's kicking more than ever.
     
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  2. Adam718

    Adam718 Senior Member

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    Good read. The world of SEO has gotten more difficult, but as you said, it is more rewarding for those who are able to successfully rank sites now. Simply because the updates are making it harder for less experienced people, thus making the field less saturated.
     
  3. BottingWorks

    BottingWorks Regular Member

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    I'm just hoping Google doesn't turn into Skynet.
     
  4. Hartwigm

    Hartwigm Junior Member

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    Arent we all???
     
  5. CandyLand

    CandyLand Regular Member

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    Lmao at the skynet comment.

    It makes me feel happy inside when people think that blackhat is dead/doesn't work. It also makes me happy when websites think that adding a captcha is all that they need to stop spam, but that's another thread.

    I don't think Google's current methods of punishing webspam are going to last more than another year or two. They've made a lot of sacrifices regarding the quality of the SERPs, as well as reopened the doors to competitor attacks which will piss off more and more webmasters. So long as they have a link based model, there will always be spam and the more they punish it, the more control they give those who are willing to do competitor attacks. So, getting rid of the spam doesn't at all equal diamonds and gold in the search engine results. But in a few years they may not even care, since they've already branched out into so many other industries.
     
  6. deviatus

    deviatus Power Member

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    Exactly, if you've been in SEO for 6 or so years, this is actually a good time. The barrier to entry is higher. Ever since Panda I'm seeing niches that used to be clustered with low quality noob sites open up and I've taken advantage of that.
     
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  7. Hartwigm

    Hartwigm Junior Member

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    I definitely agree with your observations about the rather 'vanilla' search results. Google has, in the short run, worsened its SERPs by implementing the Panda and Penguin updates. Honestly, if I want Amazon, Wikipedia or ESPN I'll just navigate to those sites. I know how to use a browser. However, i don't think your conclusion from this observation is correct. Let me try and convince you:

    Google's Panda and Penguin were prematurely derived algorithimic updates based on Google's monolithic pile of data. Their intention is less to undermine web spam entirely then to simply scare the shit out of everyone so they stop doing it. The end game, for Google at least, must be to reach an algorithmic update that doesn't require refresh and that allows the spiders to simply ignore unnatural links. If they don't value unnatural links from the beginning, then there's really no reason for people to do black hat SEO.

    I think we are still a ways away from that, but this is the direction Google is moving in. There's some interesting speculation that Penguin is already a rolling refresh version of this whereby instead of penalizing sites, it is simply devaluing bad links. Devalue enough of these links and you'll have a drop that mirrors the drop of a penalty. If Google can legitimately develop an AI smart enough to tell bullshit links from natural ones right from the start, it just wont be worth the money to practice spammy link building tactics.

    And if that day comes, a million and one people will proclaim SEO dead. The rest of will realize that by killing black hat SEO, Google has made SEO experts all the more valuable. The harder SEO gets, the more people have to turn to professionals to rank their websites for them. I'm almost rooting for Google. But not quite.
     
  8. 67731

    67731 Regular Member

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    I'm with the other guy, everyone should this black hat and SEO are dead...

    And sale your sites to me while you can still make money! ;)

    Sent from my PG86100 using Tapatalk 2
     
  9. hatelovemisery

    hatelovemisery Junior Member

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    Thanks for the confirmation that black hat isn't dead and is still possible to use in the seo of a site. Cheers :D
     
  10. garrido

    garrido Supreme Member

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    I love this thread!
     
  11. Hartwigm

    Hartwigm Junior Member

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    Thanks!
     
  12. geezer466

    geezer466 Regular Member

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    I would concur with this view. The spiders now have the ability to tell a good link from a bad link. One of the sites I manage was almost exclusivity WH hand written articles published to ezine (less than a dozen, same on web2's (less than 6) but in both cases the content was both original and, provided the reader useful information. The only BH stuff if I can call it that was a bit of comment spam, and some directory submissions using various kw anchors but I was careful not to use all my kw in these anchors.
    Results....dropped to page two for the terms I used on the anchors down from spots 2 and 3. The kw I did not use the anchors on have actually risen in the serp. Where they were below the fold they are now spots 2 and 3.

    So for me the conclusion is easy google has learned what is a good link and what is a bad one.......
     
  13. Hartwigm

    Hartwigm Junior Member

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    I will say be careful drawing too many conclusion from one site! Both Panda and Penguin inadvertently hit some sites that don't necessarily display the characteristics they were after. If the one site you were looking at is one of these, you could reach some invalid conclusions.