For a report I wrote recently, I did quite a lot of research into black hat SEO and the negative impacts it has on businesses. Especially on businesses that are abiding by the rules, and are losing rank to other sites that are exploiting black-hat tactics.
Before we get onto how to report black hat SEO competitors, lets touch on what it is you need to look out for, and what you can report.
What is Black Hat SEO?
The term “black hat” is common computer term used not only to determine the type of SEO someone is using, but also to determine what type of hacker someone is. To label someone a “black hat [insert term here]” means they use malicious, unethical, and often illegal practices to achieve a certain goal.
Search engine optimisation on the other-hand, is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.
Put simply, black hat seo is the usage of aggressive SEO techniques designed to manipulate the search results for a given search query. This is done in an effort to make a website look more relevant in a way that is inconsistent with the search engines’ guidelines.
There are various black hat seo techniques that people can use to manipulate search engines.
Notable Examples of Black Hat SEO
is the practice of literally stuffing loads of keywords into your content. For example, if you post an article targeted towards people looking to read about a “carrot diet”, then an example of keyword stuffing would be writing “carrot diet” excessively throughout your article. As Google doesn’t publicise their algorithms, it’s a guessing game as to what sort of keyword density people should be aiming for. Most experts recommend between 2-5% keyword density. But even then, the same keywords in rapid concession is a solid example of keyword stuffing.
Duplicating content: is another SEO sin. Reposting the same content around the internet, especially with a link back to your main site, is not just black hat, but spam. Many people “spin” articles and repost the the new “original” articles again. Article spinning often involves the use of software to create new “original” copies in an attempt to avoid duplicate content issues. While it does produce physically “new” content, is often used to mask plagiarised content.
Excessive backlinks with optimised anchor text: will most likely get your ranking, especially if they’re legitimately acquired. But this is often a product of using paid links, or spamming forums and weblogs with spun comments using software such as Scrapebox or xRumer. You’ll see a beautifully awful example of excessive backlinks with optimised anchor text next.
There are many many factors termed as “black-hat SEO”, but the above three are the main pointers in my opinion in pinpointing a black-hatter. If you’re unsure whether a competitor is using black hat techniques then here’s some more black hat SEO examples.
How to Check if Your Competitors are Using Black-hat SEO Techniques
I recently a wrote an article on buying youtube views. After doing some research into my potential search engine competitors, I stumbled upon a fantastic example of someone using excessive backlinks with over-optimised anchor text. The article I wrote was optimised to target the “buy youtube views” query, as you can probably fathom.
The top result for “buy youtube views” on Google is a site called QQTube.com. This is my main competitor. Of course the other links in the results are my competitors too, but this website in particular caught my eye.
So I did some research into their backlinks profile with Majestic SEO.
The site has 1/8 million backlinks, of which 11% of the anchor text linking into the site was the term “buy youtube views”. Seem’s legit right?
Well, aside from the over-optimisation of “buy youtube views”, they also had a bunch of other desirable anchors: payday loans, buy viagra, by viagra online; none of which are related to their website.
That’s when I decided to take a further look into some of the backlinks they had, just to make sure that they weren’t official. So I went to one of the backlinks that Majestic had found for me. The backlink was from SpeedAndDesign.com, a blog primarily about cars, in an article entitled “Can You Get A Faster YouTube Site If You Buy YouTube Views”.
At first I assumed there was something wrong, but a quick Ctrl+F brought-up the search tool in chrome, and I searched for “QQTube”. Sure enough, it was there, in all its glory. Lurking in amongst a farm-load of manure. Sat on a blog about cars.
I didn’t bother lurking through the other rubbish, if there was one BS backlink, there was a tonne more. So next I’m going to show you how Google penalises black-hat SEO. After that I’ll show you how you can report your competitors so that they’re given penalties too.
How Does Google Penalise Black Hat SEO?
There are many reasons why Google might penalise your site. The two that I’ll be focussing on are using manipulative methods and providing a poor user experience.
Penalties tend to be made by their search algorithms because they’re scalable, but there are times when it’s done manually.
The algorithm that catches sites using spammy practices, such as QQTube, is called Penguin. As we’ve already seen from it’s rankings, Penguin has failed to detect this site.
When Google penalises a site for black hat seo, it can go a few ways, it can be completely removed from the SERPS or it can simply suffer lower rankings.
Penalties are extremely difficult to recover from, but it is possible. The easy way to avoid this is to simple avoid black hat SEO in the first place however.
There’s a famous example of when Google penalised the car-manufacturer BMW for using black-hat SEO techniques. Additionally, although it may have been a negative SEO attack, Expedia was penalised and lost 4% in share price.
Reporting your Black Hat SEO Competitors to Google
So far you’ve learned what blackhat SEO is, you’ve seen how I research one of my competitors to find out if they’d been using black-hat SEO techniques and you understand that Google takes action on these black-hat clowns.
Now you can put all of your new-found knowledge into action.
Let me present to you, Google’s “report page”.
- Paid links
- Something else is wrong
- or use the Report Webspam death button
Here’s the Google documentation for reporting link spam.
I would advise you provide as much evidence as possible to your reports. By using Majestic SEO–the tool I used previously to analyse competitor back-links–you’ll be able to get a good grounding for the things you can pick out. You should highlight the vast amount of back-links and talk about the anchor optimization. In QQTube’s case, there’s a fantastic grounding for reporting ‘link-spam’.