What can I do if websites which rank above mine use Black Hat SEO?
I guess Black Hat SEO can be defined as techniques that are used to get higher search rankings in an unethical manner. Black Hat SEO techniques usually include one or more of the following characteristics:
- breaks search engine rules/terms of services.
- creates a poor user experience directly because of the Black Hat SEO techniques utilised on the website.
- unethically presents content in a different visual or non-visual way to search engine spiders and search engine users.
Simply put, using Black Hat SEO techniques can give you an unfair ranking advantage over other websites.
Even some of the biggest companies in Australia are up to no good. Jim Stewart highlighted Black Hat SEO techniques Fairfax Online Network use on dozens of their websites (like www.wedding.com.au). The Black Hat SEO technique used by Fairfax appears intentional, but it may be a developer error! Anyway, view Jim's very interesting exposé video here.
Smaller players also find it tempting.
Here's a site which is ranking number one at Google for its declared search term and has white on white text all over the home page, including keyword flooding. Visit the site, click somewhere on the page (which isn't a link) and Ctrl A (select all) – you'll see what I mean.
I mean this is the oldest trick in the Black Hat SEO book, and there's not a penalty within sight!
Seriously I could 'out' websites all day long...
But Black Hat SEO has a much darker side, as many thousands of British consumers discovered last week.
Scotland Yard shut down hundreds of websites selling counterfeit goods online. One example was counterfeit Ugg Boots, where 400 eCommerce websites were shut down almost instantly.
As I write this, about six of the top 10 sites listed in the top 10 at Google.co.uk for the search term "Ugg Boots" are inaccessible.
What's interesting is that the owner(s) of these websites were very well versed in Black Hat SEO and they used all sorts of dodgy Black Hat techniques to get their websites to rank highly in the results.
Some had even hacked or have friends who work within the Chinese Government and various education websites and obtained back-links to their website!
There are no visible links on this page for example, http://www.hztc.edu.cn/www/english/Introduction.htm but there are dozens hidden behind the main banner image.
In spite of repeated spam complaints that I've personally lodged with Google in the last three years, I have yet to see one single website using Black Hat SEO be penalised.
Putting it bluntly, if Google's so called web spam filters actually worked, then many thousands of British consumers wouldn't have been ripped off.
At the end of the day it comes down to trust perception. If the current situation continues, people are going to be less inclined to trust the Google results. And when that happens, people tend to start using different search engines.
I seriously think that it's got to the point where Google's run up the white flag, so it occasionally slaps a big branded website (like BMW Germany or Flight Centre) to make a high profile example. They then get some publicity as the media machine cranks out the free PR, which in turn sends a few shivers down the spines of smaller website owners, who in turn pull in their heads for a few weeks, before going all over again.
For you I have two recommendations:
1. DO NOT under any circumstances take the "if you can't beat them join them approach". You have to think that 'eventually' Black Hat SEO techniques website owners are getting away with at the moment might be banned at anytime as Google tightens the algorithm.
2. If you're got spare five minutes to waste, fill in the web spam complaint form.
Personally, I've stopped bothering.
For more Online Sales expert advice, click here.Chris Thomas heads Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.