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?