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Black Hat Strategies for White Hat Companies

The response to the word “blackhat” is never the same. Some people seem maniacally interested. Others, terrified. Some think it’s a scam, a surefire plan for a Google ban. Others call it their bread and butter.

Perhaps the only thing we agree on is they just don’t mix well. What is the point of spending time and energy building quality sites and risking them with blackhat seo? And, if you are willing to use blackhat tactics, why not churn and burn?

It is true that Greyhat just isn’t a plausible solution for most companies. But, it doesn’t mean stripes of black and white are out of the picture. I would argue, that the chasm between whitehat and blackhat when it comes to services-offered by SEO firms has made whitehats less effective, and blackhats less ethical. Whitehats have little opportunity to experiment or push the boundaries on their squeaky clean sites, and blackhats have little opportunity to use their craft to improve rankings of businesses outside the adult, pharma, gambling and perhaps financial/legal sectors.

There are, however, very useful blackhat strategies that can be employed on behalf of whitehat clients. I discuss two of them below.

Real-World Keyword Analysis

Keyword research is a big-bucks industry in SEO. Clients spend hundreds if not thousands to be told which particular keywords to target to bring the greatest return on investment. In most cases, white hat firms peddle their own alchemy of backlinks, traffic, current bids, keyword density, and other SE metrics to create a competetiveness ranking of particular terms. In no short order, they are trying to create a pseudo-ranking algorithm compared to traffic in order to identify keywords and phrases ripe for the picking.

Meanwhile, blackhats just throw a bunch of **** and see what sticks. This is real keyword research. For example, lets say I intend to launch a whitehat site on Hawaii vacations. I would launch a SEPARATE blackhat site with seed keywords such as hawaii, hawaii condo, hawaii vacation, etc. Generating 10,000+ keyword optimized pages and then watching referer statistics, I let the search engine tell me what keywords to target. Then, writing good whitehat, useful content and accumulating quality backlinks, I can rank permanently for these terms on a white-hat site.

This is a far more efficient, effective method than the thousand-dollar research methods that speculate on what the search engines want.

Using Scrapers to Your Advantage

One of the most common methods of blackhat content creation is to start with a seedword – lets continue with Hawaii – run it through Overture’s keyword selector tool, and then create a page of content for each one of the keywords that comes out. The content for these pages are scraped search results. So, the content for a page on Hawaii Vacation Deals would have the top 10 results in Google for that search phrase.

How can whitehats use this to their advantage? Lets say that your site on Hawaii Vacations has a section called “Fantastic Explorations” listed on the home page. You notice that the site already ranks in the top 10 for Hawaii Fantastic Explorations in Google, Yahoo and MSN. So, as a whitehat, you need to get that term Hawaii Fantastic Explorations searched enough so that it becomes a top 100 searched term including the word Hawaii.

If you can accomplish it, then a month later, hundreds of scraper sites will pop-up with your backlink on them because they generated pages based on the top 100 Hawaii terms in Overture.

This is a simple method that is being used rather crudely in the Gambling industries but could have a similar impact in almost any industry.

Conclusions

The world of blackhat and whitehat could stand to gain a lot from each other. The “Ethical SEO” grandstanding is destroying an industry whose rebel culture is its lifeblood.

Black Hat Strategies for White Hat Companies by No tags for this post.

6 Comments

  1. Steve Gill
    May 2, 2006

    Thanks for a great post!

    I’m a little shaky on the first suggestion – chucking 10,000 pages onto a site at once, just because I’d be worried the SEs would notice and possibly penalize the site either by indexing altogether or, more likely, ranking those pages on the last possible page of results. :) (not to say it couldn’t work – you may know 1st hand that it does – but I’d be hestitant).

    However I can wholeheartedly applaud your second suggestion. :) I’ve been studying SEO and SEM for quite some time, and that’s one that never occurred to me for some reason (and I haven’t read elsewhere).

    It’s true that the “rich get richer” when it comes to organic rankings. I’ve seen people either manually add one of my site’s pages to a hand written article or blog post (simply because they did a google search and found me near the top and applicable to what they’re writing about) or, more recently, had many scraper sites add a link to my sites either due to high organic rankings or by scraping my sites’ RSS feeds.

    But your suggestion is a new one to me and one I’ll be sure to capitalize on in the future!

    Great blog, btw. I just stumbled upon it recently and it appears I’ve arrived just as you’re getting started – which is my good fortune. :)

  2. russ
    May 3, 2006

    Thanks. I apologize if I was not very clear in the article.

    You would do the content generation on a completely different site from your own. Get a separate domain, put the pages up, build some links, and see what sticks.

    Then use those referer statistics as a guide to what you should be writing about and optimizing for on your white-hat site.

  3. Steve Gill
    May 3, 2006

    It’s a brilliant idea. My only concern (or caveat) was that I’ve been haring the SEs will quickly sideline a website – especially a new one – that suddenly appears with 1000s of pages on it.
    They certainly know about autopage generating software, which usually consist of scraped junk, and have configured their alogorithm in some sense to red flag anything that shows up like that.

    A more gradual building of pages has a better chance of getting in under the radar but, for this practice, would take too long to give us the results we need t know whic keywords are best and most easily dominated in the SEs.

    But again, a great idea and worth trying for sure since there’s nothing to lose. :)

  4. Marc
    May 5, 2006

    There’s real whitehat value with the scraper suggestions you’re putting forward. Making Wordtracker, Overture and KeywordDiscovery work at the keyword research level is not a bad move, but having a real hands-on idea of which keywords work and which don’t is a marketer’s dream. There’s no way you can get that kind of data by running a purely whitehat site. Well there might be, it’ll just take you ages to create. Plus the AdSense revenues from the scrapers will probably pay for the entire operation at day 14 :)

    Very interesting blog Russ. More power!

    Marc

  5. Russ
    May 5, 2006

    It is really more about the number of items for directory. Generally speaking, if you keep fewer than 20 folders and 100 pages per directory, you can bypass that filter. Of course, the BH site will still get banned, but you are really looking for just a day or two worth of data. That is all you need.

  6. DaGrip
    Feb 16, 2008

    The keyword data you can get from using blackhat techniques to target every possible keyword is worth it’s weight in gold!

    Why not go all the way and use the sites to promote your products?! Obviously you need to use techniques to protect your whitehat sites but that’s easily done.

    Just think of the potential targeted traffic you can generate with an optimized page for every single possible keyword combination including thousands of longtail keywords and misspellings which it is impossible to target with whitehat techniques.

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