HOW TO DEFEND AGAINST BLACK HAT TECHNIQUES


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 searchengineland.com. 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.

Automation

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.

Obfuscation

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 domain.com is the original website, the hijacker will build domain.org and communicate to all websites linking to dnmam.com telling them that the website has been moved to domain.org.

Cloaking

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
iii. SISTRIX
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.

Ranking

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
iii. SISTRIX

Traffic

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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EUROPE BY NUMBERS


top-level data for the iGaming markets in France, Italy and the Netherlands


This issue's instalment in the Europe by Numbers series will detail and analyse top-level data for the iGaming markets in France, Italy and the Netherlands. This data is publicly available from Google Insights and Google AdWords and also takes into account information that I come across in my daily activity as an iGaming SEO working across international markets.


IN THE LAST issue, we looked at the UK. Germany. Greece and Spain. This time we're going to focus on France, Italy and the Netherlands. I think it's important to state right now that my area of expertise doesn't extent to iGaming regulation and regional law.

My area of expertise is UK and international iGaming natural search. This expertise will assess the opportunities in these three markets which may influence your affiliate strategy and help you avoid obvious and sometimes costly mistakes.

France

Last month, when we looked at the relative search volume for the major product categories, we used the single keyword translations of the major product litis netting', bingo', 'casino' and "poker'. For this issue's analysis, we're going to add the respective language equivalent to 'online'. The reason for this is simply that the French word for betting' is paris'. Obviously, this would skew the apparent size of the French betting market because it's also the name of the French capital.

Now we have that issue cleared up let's first look at how much search volume there is in France relative to Italy and the Netherlands.

As we can see from Figure 1, France has the greatest demand out of the three territories we're looking at in this issue. Links don't come cheap but given the legal situation in France, there are only a small amount of operators pushing themselves in this market targeting few product verticles, this makes it a great place to get aligned ahead of any regulation that would open this market further.



Let's look at the drop in brand search volume for one major European operator in 2010, following the change in legislation. Figure 2 shows relative search volume in Google.fr for ' Unibet' as a brand search query.

There is an opportunity here if you're prepared to get positioned and hold out for regulatory change. Legislation aside, there's a lot of interest in France for poker, which enjoys more than twice the search volume of casino, with betting coming in at half the volume of casino and a token volume available on bingo. Given the value of casino players and the volumes available for poker, I would be inclined to recommend targeting poker and casino in France (see Figure 3).

Fig 3 - FRANCE

KEYWORD GLOBAL MONTHLY SEARCHES LOCAL MONTHLY SEARCHES
parier en ligne 49500 49500
bingo en ligne 8100 5400
casino en ligne 110000 90500
poker en ligne 246000 201000

Before getting involved in this market, there are a few things you should know about SEO in the French language.

Firstly, the use of accents; Google distinguishes between results and rankings depending on whether an accent was used or not. As such, you really need to decide whether or not to use the accents in your SEO.

Tip: Don't use accents in your on-page or off-page optimisation. Unlike most other languages, which utilise diacritical characters such as Swedish, German or Spanish, French consumers don't use accents when searching on Google. This is actually misreported in the Google AdWords Keyword Tool with local monthly search volumes appearing the same (suggesting that the accented version of a word is searched equally) but this is not true.

This phenomenon led me to believe that Google.fr was ignoring the accent commpletely, however, when searching with and without the accent, there are slightly different results, which suggests Google is behaving normally and all is well (albeit being grossly inaccurate with it's monthly search volume reporting, which one would argue :s normal for Google).

Italy

The Italian market is approximately 20 percent smaller than France. Competition is fierce, and there are many affiliates battling it out with operators, particularly for casino and poker products. Poker is king in Italy, although high player values provide a lucrative opportunity across all products.

Popular sports markets include football, tennis, basketball, even ice hockey and volleyball. As always, don't be fooled by the relatively low search volume on 'scommesse online', Italian for online betting (see Figure 4) as the traffic always comes in through long-tail queries.



While bingo carries significantly larger search volume than it does in France, there's still little activity or aggression in this market. As such, gaining a strong position in Google's Italian index is relatively easy.

Poker and casino are far more of a challenge. Many of the affiliates and operators I speak with have interests in these markets. As such, I'll tell you straight: the competition is tough and only the well funded will survive. My advice is not to gamble your entire SEO budget on Italian poker or casino.

As a scholar of Latin, I find the origins of language quite fascinating. The word 'casino' is, in fact, derived from the Latin word 'casa', 'a house'. Italian is the closest living descendent of the Latin language and, historically, the Italian word 'casino' commonly referred to a house where dancing, drinking or gambling would take place. The word once meant 'summer house' in Italian, although it's dissemination through all romantic languages took the meaning of 'a place of gambling'. It also means 'brothel'.

Given its diverse and colourful usage in Italian, you may want to take Google's reported search volumes for the single keyword 'casino' with a pinch of salt.

Latin etymology aside, it should be noted that the accent is often used in Italian in the following way: 'casino', although, in practice, the accent is often ignored in Italian search queries.

Note: The Italian language isn't isolated to Italy. You may want to keep this in mind when choosing to language or region-target your website. Italian is also widely spoken in Switzerland, Canada, Brazil and the United States.

Fig 4 - ITALIAN

KEYWORD GLOBAL MONTHLY SEARCHES LOCAL MONTHLY SEARCHES

scommesse online 18100 18100
bingo online 450000 27100
online casino 1500000 74000
poker online 1830000 165000

Netherlands

Of the three markets we've covered in mis issue die Netherlands is probably the most appealing for affiliates. The relatively soft entry, and high player values make it quite an exciting opportunity. In the Netherlands, casino is king and quite considerably so, followed by poker and bingo. Once again, don't be fooled by me search volumes for "Online Wedden' the long-tail of sport once again makes for an exciting opportunity.

Note: football, tennis, cricket and rugby are all popular sports markets in the Netherlands.

Netherlands

KEYWORD GLOBAL MONTHLY SEARCHES LOCAL MONTHLY SEARCHES
online wedden 6600 5400
online bingo 450000 9900
online casino 1500000 49500
online poker 1830000 40500

Dutch players are extremely high value and bingo is on the increase. Casino and slots phrases drive significant player values in the Netherlands, however, an evolved market has lead to some expensive link costs due to the larger operators having inflated the market value of text links in their race to dominance. The general reeling that the Dutch market is soft and lucrative has resulted in an influx opportunistic affiliates and operators, and particularly around 'casino' and 'slots'.



Benefits of the prolific use of English

I've found that Google Chrome's auto-translate feature coupled with the widespread use of English among Dutch webmasters makes it far easier to work link deals without the requirement for native Dutch speakers. That said, it's always better to use native speakers if you have the option.

The Dutch language takes its influences from English and German, being a descendent of the Germanic language with many words borrowed from English. So always check the local search volumes before picking your target keyword in Dutch. You'll be surprised how often the English word is the most commonly used.

Battlefield Summary and #BAClink hashtag

There are a number of potential battles to be fought. You should always do your own careful due diligence before engaging in any campaign.

Each of these countries carries its own opportunities and threats, so always play to your own strengths and your competitor's weaknesses and form alliances where possible. Remember: collaboration is programmed into all living things on a cellular level.

At the recent Barcelona Affiliate Conference, I launched the #BAClink hashtag as a way for affiliates to collaborate and reciprocate links. I strongly advise using this as a method for collaboration.
Just tweet the products and territories where you have affiliate websites, along with #BAClink and share the love. (Only your money sites, no artificially inflated PR or link farms. Let's keep this pure!)

Remember...
• Don't let your quest for perfection get in the way of progress.
• If you see a Guru in the road, turn and run the other way.
 
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NEW JERSEY VOTERS URGED TO SUPPORT REFERENDUM


IN NOVEMBER, VOTERS in New Jersey will be asked to go to the polls to decide on whether sportsbetting should be legalised in the eastern American state


IN NOVEMBER, VOTERS in New Jersey will be asked to go to the polls to decide on whether sportsbetting should be legalised in the eastern American state with the casino industry announcing that a 'yes' wile would provide an economic boost for the entire region.

The Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade group that represents the eleven gambling venues in Atlantic City, issued a statement on Tuesday in support of the November ballot referendum that would alow wagering on most professional, college and amateur sporting events with the exception of collegiate events taking place in New Jersey or involving teams from the state.

"Legalised sportsbetting will attract more tourists to visit our city and enjoy our world-class entertainment, thriving restaurant industry, brand-name retail shopping and famous Boardwalk," said Bob Griffin, President for the Casino Association of New Jersey. "Sportsbetting will allow Atlantic City to better compete, grow and reinvest in the region."

The Casino Association of New Jersey, which has a site at www.SportsVoteYes.com featuring additional information on the proposal, stated that the referendum, if approved, would be 'an important step'
in efforts to overturn a federal ban in all but four states on sportsbetting. Owing to a brief experiment with parlay sportsbetting in 1976, Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon were grandfathered from 1992's Professional and Amateur Sports Promotion Act (PASPA) prohibiting such activities.

"If the referendum is passed and if the federal ban is subsequently overturned, legal sportsbetting would provide an economic boost for Atlantic City and the entire state of New Jersey," said Griffin, who also serves as Chief Executive Officer for Trump Entertainment Resorts Incorporated.
 
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