Throughout my 5 years as a SEO and Internet Marketer, I have seen a number of tactics that were borderline unethical (depending on who you talk to in the industry). Even though people won’t admit it, SEO’s are using some or all of the tactics I am going to mention. I am not saying that I personally condone these tactics or that I even use any of them, but whether you like it or not, people are doing these greyhat tactics.
It should also be said that Google and the other social media sites have gotten much better at being able to detect these tactics and while I don’t promote using these tactics, use at your own discretion.
Probably the most obviously and heavily discussed topic would be people who pay for inbound links to their site. Rand for SEOmoz did a great test, showing the results from a paid link campaign he ran with three different sites. His results showed how buying links from an authoritative website with keyword rich anchor text, increased their organic rankings. Of course, they did this simply for testing purposes, but we would be naive to think that SEOs are not using this tactic to increase their organic rankings.
Watch the entire video that explains the entire test they ran.
Automated Twitter Accounts
Have you ever noticed the people with 50,000 twitter followers, except they only have 300 tweets? How do you think they are getting all of those followers? Usually its with some automated Twitter software like Tweet Adder.
Of course there are ways to target your Twitter followers by finding people with relevant profiles, but mass adding people can be considered unethical.
Automated Facebook Fans
Similar to mass adding Twitter followers, you can do the same with Facebook, by using software like Facebook Blaster Pro. Basically this will start sending mass friend requests in hopes of generating lots of friends that they can then send messages to and request them to be a fan.
Once they are your friend any messages you post on your Facebook profile will show up on their profile…helping to promote your updates and content.
Paying Social Bookmarking Power Users
Leveraging social bookmarking sites is a great way to drive additional traffic to your website or blog. However there are a number of ways that people manipulate these sites to push their content to the front pages. Especially with a site like Digg, some SEOs will pay what are called “power users” to help push their content. Typically power users have well established accounts and a large following that will help promote any content that power user diggs. If you pay a power user to digg you content, you can expect to see a few hundred diggs and a nice spike in traffic to your blog. As you can see how people would see this as unethical, others may think of this as just another way of advertising or marketing your content.
Unethical Link Exchanges
As we know reciprocal link exchanges are not very effective anymore, however there are ways around that. Back a few years ago at SMX West in Seattle, they had a session on greyhat tactics that you could use at your own risk. One of the presenters mentioned requesting a reciprocal link exchange and then adding a nofollow tag to the outbound link. This way the incoming link would be treated as a one-way inbound link.
Another way Internet Marketers are tricking the search engines into thinking their content is 100% unique is by spinning the article. This is where you take an article and using software like Magic Article Rewriter you can modify the content by replacing words with synonyms and similar phases so that the article is different enough, where Google will see it as unique. They will do this a number of times so that they have lots of 300-450 word unique articles that can be submitted to article submission sites.
Taking this greyhat tactic a step further would be to use an automated article submission tool like Magic Article Submitter to automate the process of sending your articles to hundreds of article websites.
Stuffed Website Content for Search Engines
Have you ever seen a beautifully designed website, only to be ruined with tons of plain text below the fold. Usually this text is only there for the sake of search engines and can devalue to entire site. SEOs will fill this area with keyword-rich H1 tags, bold keyword throughout the body and add the phase a number of times, just to try and fool the search engines into ranking that site higher. Luckily Google is much better at catching this tactic, and many SEOs have gotten away at doing this.
Manipulating Sharing Statistics
For sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit it is a little bit harder to manipulate the results because of their more complex algorithms. However for smaller social bookmarking sites like Sphinn, WebMarkingBlips, and BizSugar it is easier to get your post to the front page. Many people will submit a post and reach out to other members and tell them to promote their post. People also create multiple accounts so that they can promote the post from all of their accounts, instead of just the one.
Getting on the 1st page of even the smaller social bookmarking sites can earn you hundreds of visitors to your site, so you can see why some SEOs will do what it takes to get to the front page. I myself am guilty of asking people to promote a post I really want to market, because I think it is worthy.
*** The example above is merely to show what a social bookmarking example would look like. The person and company that submitted this is in no way manipulating the results.
Services like PayPerPost and ReviewMe allow advertisers to submit paid reviews to bloggers who will write a review on their website or product on the bloggers site. In return the advertiser also gets a link back to their site with the anchor text of their choosing. Professional blogger John Chow has been called out for doing various product reviews on his site that he gets paid to write. Personally I do not see this as a greyhat or unethical practice…just another form of advertising. Why wouldn’t you leverage the traffic and credibility you have built to make money?
These kind of things shouldn't be done. I saw a big thread on the prices website owners are charging for placing links on their sites.
However Google does have different levels of penalties My recent post Watch 18th October 2011 Hawan 18 October 2011 Episode
Well, usually I will not hold back my words even if the blogger is a top blogger like John Chow, but still it depends on how the argument goes My recent post Watch 6th October 2011 Na Aana is Des Laado 6 October 2011 Episode
Thanks for this post, I am planning a SEO campaign for www.polymood.com, any tips? The site is still under construction but in 1 year from now i need good traffic.... Thanks My recent post Recording…
EO is very popular now a days and it is useful for increase your business in a good manner. I love to hear some more points which are useful for SEO business. My recent post Watch Saas Bahu Aur Betiyan - 4th June 2011 Episode
Good eye opener, but charcoal gray, I'd say. Good to know about these things, but it's hard for me to picture folks doing them. My recent post Watch Aap Ki Kachehri - 29th may 2011
Great post - seems like the difference between grey and black hat is getting caught :) My recent post How to grow broad beans
I’m really doing some research on how to get my business more noticeable and this article left me with a headache. So much great information to absorb in one sitting. Great job, I’m bookmarking your blog. My recent post Shadi 3 Crore Ki 23rd March 2011 Shadi 3 Crore Ki 23 Mar 2011
Thanks to you with respect to a really wonderful blog! I can certainly think about countless website that doesn't deliver useful advice UNLIKE yours blogsite. Appreciate it!
Good eye opener, but charcoal gray, I'd say. Good to know about these things, but it's hard for me to picture folks doing them. On second thought, it's not. Hard to picture me or people/bloggers I admire doing it, though.
Mark I am missing some very important details to be able to tell if the test of Rand is evidence-based. For me his presentation is simply too weak. And what about this? Look at the testimonials of this page textlinkbrokers.com under the heading "What do the SEO Pros say?" Do you see any contradictions with his preachings? ;)
SEO is very popular now a days and it is useful for increase your business in a good manner. I love to hear some more points which are useful for SEO business.http://www.seocompanyy.com
Why do you say the test is not valid and accurate?It is funny how people say that paid links are bad, but then go and do it themselves. Rand actually is as white-hat as they come. Not sure about the whole Rand quote.Mark
Mark about the "Paid Links" subject. Thanks God I never needed them so far for myself and my customers. But I am just wondering what is Rand Fishkin talking about?1. That test as described cannot be valid and accurate.2. There is a testimonial of him on the homepage of textlinkbrokers.com: ""I've known Jarrod & the TLB crew for a long time. They've always had a great business that's provided value to their clients and partners."Am I probably missing something?
Digg power users will soon be a thing of the past with the new digg. It will turn out to be more like a stumbleupon. Which can of course sometimes send good traffic but it's more random and not very easily gamed.
Hey Mark,I did not even think for a minute that you were trying to tell that my company is trying to manipulate the sharing statistics. But two friends of mine saw this blog post and thought that it was your intention.Well, now things are clear and I thank you very much for the update!John
John,My apologies. I was simply using an example from Sphinn. I was not saying by any means that your company was trying to manipulate the results.I will make sure to add something in the post that states that this was simply an example for the post and not alluding that your company was manipulating the results.Sorry about that.Mark
Mark are you claiming that my company is "manipulating sharing statistics"? I ask people I know to check my articles and I tell them that if they like them they can give them a vote. If you added an image of an article I recently submitted on Sphinn just as a demo snippet of a sphinned article, it would be fair if you would clarify that above or beneath the image.
Yeah I think that is partially true. However Google does have different levels of penalties. Not that I test this stuff on a regular basis, but I have noticed that depending on how severe the tactic is, Google will sometimes temporarily bump your listing down in the results....remove the page for their index....or ban your site (has to be pretty bad though).
Yes, I wouldn't say that I practice any or all of these...but its important to understand them. There are probably 50-100 more tactics out there that black haters are using to be sneaking and gain traffic. As long as their are new websites, social networks and other avenues of driving traffic, there are always going to be people who try and take advantage of unethical opportunities. Its unfortunate, but what can you do.