Why Black Hat SEO is Poisoning the Internet

Written by: Jason Bayless | July 10, 2015

Black hat marketing is one of the biggest problems for online businesses because it creates an environment where everyone loses a little bit. The goal of spammers and search engine gamers is to lose a little bit less than the people who are honestly publishing content. To comply with Google’s terms of service is very simple, and you don’t have to know anything about search algorithm to build an authority website.

Optimizing Content for Search Engines at the Expense of Humans

The whole idea behind SEO is really the source of black hat marketing because website owners and bloggers aren’t supposed to publish content for the benefit of search robots. They’re supposed to publish content for humans, and the competition between websites to rank higher by tricking Google’s algorithm is where black hat SEO comes from.

In college, people who get business degrees take ethics courses, and there are still many unethical practices going on in the business world. There is no college requirement to become an Internet marketer, so there’s no way to bring search ranking ethics into focus. Therefore, the majority of honest bloggers and website owners are entering an environment of cheating and dirty competition.

Most people don’t see it that way or complain about the disadvantage; they simply learn SEO because that’s what everyone else is doing. There’s no distinction between black hat and white hat SEO. The line separating the two ideologies is nonexistent. Black hat marketers are just extreme examples of SEO marketers, and every update to Google’s TOS proves it by penalizing a new group of people who thought they were safe.

How Black Hat Marketers Hurt Businesses

The difference is that shady marketers know that they’re doing something wrong, but they don’t seem to care that they’re making the Internet worse for everybody else. The only thing Google can do is review websites that violate the TOS and reduce their ranking, but the cheaters generally find a way to keep cheating. They apparently have nothing valuable to offer, and there’s no way to permanently kick them off the Internet.

After Google’s so-called Penguin update, a lot of honest bloggers were penalized for publishing guest posts with backlinks to relevant websites in their niches. The update ruled out most backlinking strategies that marketers had learned to rank higher on Google, which is fair because everyone has to follow the new rules. However, it took away one of the last methods cheaters had to market their content without actually creating any value, and it basically spawned the new black hat tactic of negative SEO.

When marketers go negative, they use Google’s TOS against honest bloggers by flooding the Internet with backlinks, to their competitors’ sites, that violate the rules. Google can’t distinguish fraudulent backlinks from good ones, so victims are heavily penalized for the dirty deeds of these thugs. The only way for websites to protect themselves from negative SEO is to use Google’s Disavow Tool, which doesn’t always work. Honest businesses have lost significant revenue from fraudulent backlink spamming, and it’s impossible to undo the damage.

What to Do About It

As Google becomes aware of these problems, it gets better at fixing them. Google has a lot of resources at its disposal, and it has a strong incentive to make search engine gaming prohibitively expensive. To protect yourself, it’s important to pay attention to the other websites in your niche. Negative SEO isn’t confined to crowded niches like money-making and Internet marketing.

As an honest blogger trying to publish useful content for your readers, you unfortunately do have to be aware of SEO so that you don’t break any of the rules. Your best bet is to simply read every update to the TOS and follow the rules as Google spells them out. An attack can come at any time, and there won’t be a warning. Hacking and other forms of cyber crime can be prevented with data security and anti-virus software, but SEO attacks can only be dealt with after they happen. Use the Disavow Tool and tell Google about an attack as soon as it happens.