I've been writing online for 10+ years (7 years on Hubpages). I frequently write about online marketing, making money online & technology.
What Is Blackhat Marketing?
Blackhat Marketing is, in a nutshell, using tools, techniques and generally everything against Google or any other website or App's guidelines/TOS in order to boost a website's ranking or gain an advantage over competitors and usually to ultimately increase online income. Blackhat Marketing usually refers to Blackhat SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) using techniques and methods to improve a website's Google search engine results position directly in contradiction to Google's guidelines and TOS. But this article will cover far more, including automation tools/programs, social media marketing, spam, negative SEO (to try and lower your competitors' website ranking or even have it de-indexed completely!), buying fake followers, buying/selling and trading social media accounts, using proxies and VPNs, and even website hosts who advertise that they actively ignore DMCAs and so much more!
I must emphasise that this is NOT a 'guide' or 'How To' article. I will not provide information or respond to questions to assist anyone to use Blackhat techniques. My primary motivation for writing this article is to help honest (or Whitehat) marketers to spot, avoid and mitigate those using Blackhat techniques. I have also disabled ads on this article as I'm sure it would get my Adsense account suspended and to prove that I am writing it to assist others and not to make a profit from it.
I'm creating this article to assist fellow Hubbers in spotting and avoiding Blackhat marketers stealing their work. "The best way to avoid falling victim to a scam is to know how the scam works". Mr A. Fraudster, London.
A History of Blackhat
Blackhat Marketing is generally associated with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but could now be used to describe techniques used which are not strictly related to SEO.
In the olden days of the Internet, circa 1998, when Google was created, the algorithm they used to rank sites was pretty simple, the more links to a site the higher it appeared in search results. A site with 100 other sites linking to it would outrank a similar or even better site with only 50 other sites linking to it.
To get your site to the top of Google you only has to build a few hundred or a few thousands of links in comments, directories and article sites, sometimes referred to as 'content farms', whose purpose was only to provide a place add a link.
If you have been writing online for a while you may have heard of, or had your articles transferred from a site called 'Squidoo'. Squidoo has been accused by some people of being, or being used as a 'content farm'.
That was 1998 and things have changed a lot since then, even though you will still see people trying to use these techniques today!
Now Google uses over 200 factors to rank a website and when it comes to links quality always trumps quantity. In fact, many website owners who paid 'SEO companies' to rank their website have found that they just paid for thousands of spam comments on blogs and have had their site hit with a Google Manual Webspam action which means their site has no chance of ranking or may even have been removed from Google search results completely!
More Information About Blackhat Marketing
You have probably arrived at this page because either you want to know what 'Blackhat Internet Marketing' is or you want to learn some Blackhat techniques.
While I will not teach you any Blackhat marketing techniques, I will outline some of the most common techniques used and demonstrate how they might affect you (even if you are not an online marketer, writer or business owner), the purpose being that the best way to protect yourself from any kind of malicious activity is to understand how it is carried out and being able to spot and limit its effects.
I must start by stating that this is NOT going to be a 'How To' guide on how to become a Blackhat Internet marketer. There are plenty of websites out there for that!
I have spent the past 18 months inside the Blackhat world learning how they do it, why they do it, and most interestingly how much they make from doing it.
Making $1000, $2000 or even $10,000 a DAY online for a Blackhat marketer is not uncommon!
The advent of social media has had a huge impact on Blackhat Internet marketing. Why try and rank a website when you can reach millions of people via social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube) in minutes?
So you may be wondering why I have chosen to write about this subject, so I will try to provide a little background. I have been making money using the Internet in one way or another for over 10 years through writing articles like this one, running online businesses selling physical products via eBay & websites, as an affiliate promoting other people's products and services (using only Whitehat techniques) and creating and running a paid to use WiFi hotspot business just to mention a few! If you take a look at my other articles you will get an idea of my areas of expertise and knowledge.
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So How Do BlackHatters Actually Make Money?
Well as you probably know from HubPages, visitors = revenue. The more visitors to your site/offer/affiliate link, the more money you make.
If you run a site which generates income from Amazon sales you could use BlackHat techniques to generate thousands or millions of daily visitors to your site. Amazon probably won't know how you got those visitors, and if they buy products and don't complain, Amazon probably won't have any reason to suspend your account.
I must reiterate that I am not suggesting you employ any of these techniques!
But I'm sure that if you have some very popular HubPages articles and you Google a paragraph or two you will find some of your work on other sites, and those sites will probably be making money one way or another from your content, I certainly have!
A lot of BlackHat marketing revolves around fake/miss-sold content. e.g links to download paid software for free, free movies, games, game hacks/cheats etc.
The BlackHatter will promise that if you click his link, download his App or sign up for something you will get something for free. 99.99% of the time after you do the action he/she requests you will get nothing and he/she will make a few dollars, multiply that by a few hundred or thousand and you will see how they are making megabucks.
I don't play computer games/app-based games myself but know the market is HUGE, and in many of these games you can/need to spend real money to progress through the game faster. So people search for 'hacks/cheats/cracks' for these games to progress faster, and guess what they find? Fake 'hacks/cheats/cracks' for games are massive! The game 'Fortnite' is pretty popular right now. Go to YouTube and search for 'Fortnite hack/cheat etc.'
Without checking first, I guarantee you there will be thousands of videos promising that you can get something you usually have to pay for, for free by doing a survey, downloading an App or giving your email address. You won't get a virus or anything nasty on your computer from clicking those links, there is far more money in BlackHat marketing that installing viruses!
So Now You Know
I have only just touched the tip of the iceberg of BlackHat marketing in this article. I will continue to add more as I learn more and hopefully help you protect yourself and your hard earned online pennies!
Why I have Chosen to Write this Article
I, as I'm sure many others who write online, have found their articles appearing on other sites without permission, you may even have noticed here on Hubpages the little red 'c' copyright symbol next to one of your articles with the warning that your article may have been copied and experienced the frustration involved in trying to get the copied content removed.
Even more frustrating is the fact that the content which you spent a lot of time and effort creating which is then republished elsewhere without your permission or any kind of attribution might actually outrank your original article! And subsequently impacting on the views and earnings from that original article. You may have also experienced the laborious task of moderating and removing spam comments appearing on your blogs and articles and trying to get your stolen content removed from the Internet where it was republished without your consent. I have frequently found myself spending more time trying to get stolen content removed than actually crating new content!
I wanted to learn how they do it and if I could use that information to prevent my articles from being stolen and used by Blackhatters to make more money from my work than I could ever dream of.
Unfortunately, the short answer is I couldn't.
I did, however, gain an insight into a small, highly lucrative and always boarding on the edge of legality world of Blackhat Internet Marketing.
Just the the 'Dark Web' selling illegal products like drugs, weapons & fake IDs, Blackhat websites also have market places where you can buy almost anything to boost your online rankings & earnings.
YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google, if you can get your video to the top of the search results you can get thousands or even millions of visitors to your website, Amazon affiliate link or affiliate product/offer.
But building up a YouTube channel with quality content takes time and effort, for most people. But for a Blackhat marketer this can be achieved in minutes! I have followed guides (some on YouTube itself!) on how to rank a video in minutes -and it works! YouTube has a number of factors it takes into consideration when ranking a video, such as views, likes and viewer retention (the percentage of the video actually watched). This can all be purchased via a number of sites. 1000 video views can cost just a few cents, a couple of hundred of likes will cost you a few bucks maybe. 'Rank and bank' as they say!
There are even negative SEO services available!
Say your website is in No.2 position on Google and your competitor is holding that golden No. 1 spot. You could try and produce even better content, build more high quality links. Or you could just pay someone to spam your competitors site with thousands of spammy links, making Google think that site is trying to game the system and get them demoted or even de-indexed and BOOM, you're in pole position!
Instagram is a huge site (well App technically) and the potential to sell a product or service is HUGE, especially in the fashion/food/health/tech niches. Accounts with lots of followers give the impression of credibility. But getting followers without good content is hard. But just buying a few thousand followers (mostly fake accounts created by bots) is easy - Instafame! And it's not just BlackHatters who do it, the big household name brands all do it too!
DMCA Take-down Notices Ignored
If you have ever been notified by HubPages that one of your articles has been copied and then provided with instructions/information on how to file a DMCA take-down notice with the website's hosting provider then you will be familiar with the process and success rate as they (hosts) are legally obliged to comply, depending on where they are based.
But this is not an issue for a BlackHat content thief as there are webhosts who advertise that they ignore DMCA notices along with 99.99% uptime and great customer service!
Have You Ever Gone To the 'Darkside'?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 SpaceShanty
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on April 30, 2019:
A very informative and helpful article SpaceShanty. Thank you for sharing.