StayOnSearch

The Dangers of Black Hat SEO After Google Penguin

Dirk Reagle November 28, 2012

Since the Penguin was dumped by Google on the world of search engine optimization in April of 2012, numerous changes have become part of the SEO game and both Optimization service providers and DIY webmasters have had to adapt accordingly -or risk massive deranking in some cases.

Although Google Penguin has been heavily commented on, discussed and publicized all over the web, its real impact on the web was not as severe as many people might think. The bottom line is that Penguin was designed with specific anti-black hat parameters built into it and if a website didn’t fit those parameters, or only fit some of them in a minor way, it was either unlikely to be affected either way or could have even benefited from the search algorithm changes that have occurred. By way of example, the very first and most impactful Penguin update only affected some three percent of search results noticeably -nothing to laugh at, but also nothing too extreme.

The people most affected by Penguin were those whose SEO policies and strategies went against the grain of Google’s main policy. These are the same people who will continue to be affected and will be putting their websites in danger as well.

Google’s Goals

So, what are these Google policies? The main thing to keep in mind is that Google’s bottom line depends entirely (at least for now) on two main factors: the first of these is its continued dominance of the online search market and the second is the Adwords/Adsense advertising system that is mostly based off Google search and which provides the company with more than 95% of all its revenues.

Both of these absolutely depend on creating an environment in which the Google search algorithm delivers the most accurate possible results for the highest quality, most relevant content possible on the web. Google’s ad based revenue model depends on the quality and relevance of search results, and consumer preference for Google search -as well as using Google for advertising– also depends on the same thing.

Naturally then, Google is going to constantly work at building better and better search algorithms that root out as much as possible of the bad, low quality and spam based strategies that many webmasters use to manipulate the algorithm into giving them higher rankings than their quality, popularity and relevance would normally make them deserve.

The main way in which these webmasters tried to achieve higher rankings while going against the grain of Google was by using so called black hat SEO tactics like link spam, content keyword stuffing, link exchanges and other methods that simulate genuine site popularity or quality in an effort to manipulate the search engine bots which Google uses to index the vast landscape of the World Wide Web.

This is why Google started cracking down more heavily than ever with its recent algorithm changes such as Penguin (most recently) and others such as Panda before that.

The problem for black hat SEO practitioners is that while Google always disliked their craft, it’s now getting much better at detecting it than it was ever capable of doing before.

What does this Mean for Black Hat?

It should be obvious; search is becoming a much more hostile landscape to black hat SEO ranked sites. Google knows it won’t completely eliminate them from its search rankings with its efforts, but what it is successfully trying to do is raise the marginal cost of using black hat SEO to the point that most people simply abandon it and develop their sites in a way that fits Google’s aims for its search index.

In this, Google is steadily succeeding and will probably only continue to do so in months and years to come. The net result will be that black hat, although never fully disappearing, will become much more unsafe, unreliable and difficult to pull off. Instead, more and more people will simply decide that the effort isn’t worth it considering the risk of suddenly finding their site deranked. Instead, what many webmasters will likely decide is simply:

“If I have to put the same effort into black hat based success as I already would have to into white hat search optimization of my page, I might as well just take the white hat route and at least know that my site is safe”

This is exactly what Google wants to see happen thanks to its increasing of the marginal cost of doing black hat SEO and with this, Google is most likely going to diminish black hat dramatically over time.

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