Black Hat marketing: the dark side of search

What are you - white hat or black hat? Grey hat perhaps? Or do you just like to dabble but aren’t that fussed either way..?

For those of you still looking puzzled, white hat marketing is the good witch of the north to the black hat’s wicked witch of the west. Search can get a bit confusing sometimes, there’s just so much to know. In the next few weeks the Chinwag team will be getting to grips with the elusive search zeitgeist.

Today search engines include all kinds of undisclosed registers in their search programs; Google says it ranks its sites with over 200 secret techniques. It wasn’t too long ago though, that search engines were prone to abuse and manipulation from marketers, and in some ways it’s still happening. Black hat marketing tricks like burying key words and inbound links into a site to make it look more popular in search results have often landed companies in hot water.

There have been cases where a company employing aggressive marketing techniques can have their website demoted or taken out of search engines.Traffic power, for example, auto-generated a lot of auto-redirecting doorway pages which were designed to rank highly for specific search terms. Pages were placed on their own servers and automatically redirected people to the clients’ site. Their CEO at the time Matt Marlon is enjoying his time behind bars - incidentally, not for something related to search but a property scam.

I can’t definitely claim a connection between a willingness to embrace black hat SEO and a willingness to cut corners in other areas of business but it’s testament to the ease with which black hat rules can be applied.

In 2006 Google removed both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for using deceptive practices. Only after undoing the offending techniques were they allowed back into the search results again.

Top ranking may all but guarantee an ROI for those who achieve it but it’s difficult to retain for any length of time. Millions of websites are being created every day and search algorithms are changing just as regularly. That’s not to mention the perils that the search engines can face themselves. Contentville, infind, Inkitomi, anyone?

Whether they were bought out by bigger companies (Inktomi by Yahoo) or floundered due to a lack of funding (Contentville and Infind) life’s tough at the top, not just for those hoping to get that no.1 ranking either.


Chinwag Live: Search vs Recommendation – 2nd September 2008
Chinwag Clinic: Search Marketing Surgery – 30th September 2008
Chinwag Live: Search & Location Based Services – 7th October 2008