We will details some basic strategies and tactics used by 'black hatters' and, importantly, a selection of methods you can use to defend against it

Everybody is talking about Black Hat, but no one is talking about defending against it. We will details some basic strategies and tactics used by 'black hatters' and, importantly, a selection of methods you can use to defend against it.

Definition: Black Hat SEO

Let's start by defining what we mean when we refer to 'Black Hat SEO' or 'Black Hat marketing'. According to Wikipedia, Black Hat marketing, "involves SEO activities that are against the norms of search engines. It is difficult for the search engine alone to distinguish when black hat SEO is applied."

The prominent search marketer. Stephan Spencer, accurately defined what we term the 'black hatter' in one of his articles on He offered: "The black hatter is the ultimate pragmatist. He doesn't concern himself with the ethics of sparriniirig. He sees Google for what it really is—a global corporation looking to maximize its profits and its return to shareholders. Google Inc. isn't the government — their guidelines' are driven by profit motives not by ethics or by the rule of law."
For the remainder of the article, however, I want to work with my own definition of Black Hat which excludes illegal attacks on websites (which is another article in it's own right).

My definition of Black Hat SEO goes something like this: Black Hat SEO is the use of techniques which are in violation of the guidelines laid down by search engines such as Google. SEO of this ilk is considered 'Black Hat' so long as no law is broken - this would be deemed a crime.

Black Hat strategies

As you would imagine, Black Hat strategies differ from those deemed 'White Hat'. Their focus is on manipulating the search engines rather than on playing within the rules.

Short-term strategy

Due to the fear of being caught, any Black Hat strategy is a short-term solution, given that at any time, the search engine can de-rank or de-index sites that have been manipulated by techniques that violate its guidelines. Therefore, the main goal is to get quick results to reach a positive ROI as soon as possible.


To achieve their goals as fast as possible, black hatters are using automated systems as one of their main strategies. The more automated the process, the less work (and cost) involved for the black hatter.


Hiding what you do means that you can live longer in the shadows. Tactics such as hiding the referrer and cloaking the lifetime of projects all assist in reaching positive ROI quickly and anonymously.

Negative SEO: Google Bowling

This is a sabotage tactic that not only involves the manipulation of the black hatter's own website, but also their competitors' by provoking search engines to lower their ranking.

Black Hat techniques

Here are some examples of the techniques used by Black Hat SEOs to achieve their strategies:

Building fully automated websites

One example of 'automation' is the building up of websites with nearly no manual work. Imagine a tool where you merely add three keywords to cover the niche you want, and then the tool does the rest of the work for you, using:

i Scraping
ii. Spinning
iii. Automated website set-ups

Using tbe keywords you've inputted, the tool looks up content on the Internet, spins the words to make them into non-duplicate :: rue: i mi usmi a central tool, sets up a blag or html website that has information from all of your web properties.

Aggressive link building

By having multiple websites using the techniques described above, you nave to build up links and. obviously, in an automated way. This is where blog comment forum, bookmark, wiki and giiestbook spamming could come to the fore.

Both link sources - the owned websites and the spammed ones - could be used to rapidly build up links to competitors and 'bowl' them out of the search engine results pages.

The so called 'link hijacking' could be used to rob links from competitors or to build up links for money websites that outrank the competition. Link hijacking is the act of building up a similar website: when is the original website, the hijacker will build and communicate to all websites linking to telling them that the website has been moved to


To cower their tracks, black hatters often use techniques such as IP-cloaking and useragent-cloaking. These techniques provide different content regardless of the user-agent or IP: for example, if the IP is hum one of the Google bots, it will show different content to the crawler than it will to an IP of someone in the UK.

All these techniques can have very negative effects on your website's ranking. It can result in drops in traffic or ranking or, even worse, it can and often does incur penalties.

How to detect Black Hat attacks

Now we have assessed the impact Black Hat SEO can have on the ranking of your websites, one thing you can do to detect it is to monitor your statistics:

Google Alerts

Set-up Google alerts for your brand and your domain; this way you can monitor if someone is talking about you on the web or linking to your site. This might help to find massive link building or content scraping issues.

Link growth

Use tools to monitor your link growth. There are several tools available:

i. Majestic SEO
ii. SeoMoz Open Site Explorer
iv. Searchmetrics
v. Server log file checker
vi. Google Webmaster Tools

Each of these tools provides in-depth analysis of a certain amount of links. Using your server logs to find each new referrer who came to your website is a very good way to start.


Monitoring your rankings and those of your competitors allows you to react to new entries and any sudden changes. Build up a history so that you will not be taken by surprise. Some tools that could help you in this regard include:

i. Raven
ii. Advanced Web Ranking


Monitoring your traffic statistics gives you a good indicator of what is happening to your website. Connecting this information with your actual rankings is even more important - this way, you can see where exactly you are getting attacked. Tools that help monitor your traffic include:

• Google Analytics
• Server statistic tools like AWStats
• Piwik

Defensive strategies against Black Hat

Many defensive strategies are preventive measures. You have to do your homework first and have a good optimised website to make you less vulnerable to attack. If you are not an expert than hire one to check your website.

Monitor and build up a history of your stats and the statistics of your industry and especially that of your competition. Being fully aware of any movements in your surroundings will minimise your reaction time.

Build up trust to your website; if possible, build up a brand. This way, it is a lot more difficult to attack you on many levels.

Ultimately, be better than the black hatter; learn from their actions and react quickly and appropriately. Use the Google spam reporting tool if you are really sure that websites are cheating their way to the SERPs, and get them kicked out as soon as possible so to minimise your losses.
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