I've been writing online for 10+ years. I frequently write about online marketing, making money online and technology.
What Is Black Hat Marketing?
Black hat 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.
Black hat marketing usually refers to black hat 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 in using black hat techniques. My primary motivation for writing this article is to help honest (or white hat) marketers to spot, avoid and mitigate those using black hat 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 online writers in spotting and avoiding black hat 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 Black Hat
Black hat 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 had 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.
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!
Why Do Some Online Marketers Choose 'Black Hat' Over 'White Hat'?
If you have spent hours or days researching and creating content in the hope that it will bring you untold riches and then felt completely deflated to see that your expertly curated content has struggled to attract even a trickle of visitors or earn you more than a few cents a day, you might start to understand why some marketers decide to go to the 'dark side'.
Using black hat marketing techniques can generate revenues of $1000, $2000 or even $10,000 a DAY!
The advent of social media has had a huge impact on black hat internet marketing. Why try and rank a website when you can reach millions of people via social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube) in minutes? There are numerous companies that sell bulk social media accounts, the ability to send thousands of direct messages (DMs), or rank your YouTube video which is promoting a product to the top of the search results.
Read More From Toughnickel
Writing quality, unique content is hard and time-consuming; but just copying and 'spinning' it is easy. Google states they reward 'unique, quality, and 'awesome' content' - but black hatters know this just isn't true, and they can rank garbage content on the first page and reap the rewards of huge traffic.
There are many free 'content spinner' sites which replace words in an article to create a new 'unique' article which Google will often view as 'unique content' and rank it, even though it is gibberish to the human eye.
The Content Article Spinners Sometimes Produce
Big Brand Buying Fake Social Media Followers
- Brands Are Cracking Down On Influencers With Fake Followers
Influencers and brands have been buying fake followers for years. Here's how to spot them.
Inside The World of Black Hat Marketing
You have probably arrived at this article because either you want to know what 'black hat internet marketing' is or you want to learn some black hat techniques.
While I will not teach you any black hat 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 black hat internet marketer. There are plenty of websites out there for that!
I have spent the past 18 months inside the black hat world, learning how they do it, why they do it, and most interestingly how much they make from doing it.
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 and websites, as an affiliate promoting other people's products and services (using only white hat 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.
So How Do Black Hatters Actually Make Money?
Well, as you probably know, 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 black hat 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!
A lot of black hat marketing revolves around fake/miss-sold content. e.g links to download paid software for free, free movies, games, game hacks/cheats etc.
The black hatter 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 black hat marketing that installing viruses!
Backlinks for Sale
As mentioned before, Google uses over 200 factors when it chooses which position a website or page on a website is displayed in the SERPs (search engine results pages) but one of the major factors is still the number of backlinks, that is the number of other sites or webpages that link to that website or page has pointing to it.
Basically, the more backlinks you have pointing to your site, the higher you rank in the SERPs and the more visitors and revenue you get.
Acquiring backlinks is difficult, very difficult; you have to produce extremely high-quality content or be a person highly respected in your field to get other sites to link back to your content.
But if you are a black hat marketer, the easiest way is simply to buy backlinks!
This is probably one of Google's most disliked black hat techniques, but it is also very widespread, even amongst well-known websites!
I won't 'out' any well-known sites, but if you use Ahrefs or SEMRush and look at the backlink profile of many well-known, 'authority' or 'reputable' websites, you will quickly be able to see that many of their backlinks have been created artificially or purchased.
There are various degrees of 'purchased backlinks', the most common is PBN (Private Blog Networks) links which are essentially multiple websites owned by an individual or company and created to appear to be genuine websites but only serve the purpose of providing multiple backlinks.
If you have the budget, you can buy backlinks on some of the biggest sites in the world, Yahoo, Forbes, Entrepreneur, MarketWatch, even Wikipedia!
And then there is the black hat of black hat backlinks, hacked links, this is where websites with high 'authority' but poor security have their pages hacked and content and backlinks added without the knowledge of the website's owners/Admin.
All these services (except the 'hacked links') are widely available for sale online with flashy sales pages, discount offers for reviews and entire ecosystems built around them.
See below for a sample of a 'sales page' offering 'guest posts'. Guest posts are more 'gray hat', somewhere between white hat and black hat SEO techniques, where you write a piece of content for another site and get a backlink to your site in return.
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.
Even more frustrating is the fact that the content which I spent a lot of time and effort creating which is then republished elsewhere without my permission or any kind of attribution might actually outrank my original article, 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 creating 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 black hatters 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 black hat internet marketing.
Just the the 'dark web' selling illegal products like drugs, weapons and fake IDs, black hat websites also have market places where you can buy almost anything to boost your online rankings and 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 black hat 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 the 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 competitor's 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 black hatters who do it; the big household name brands all do it too!
DMCA Take-Down Notices Ignored
If you have ever been notified 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 black hat content thief as there are webhosts who advertise that they ignore DMCA notices along with 99.99% uptime and great customer service!
How to Get Google to Remove Your Stolen Content From Search Results
If you have had the content you have created online stolen and the webhost is ignoring your DMCA takedown notices the best course of action is simply to get Google to deindex it, this mean it will no longer show up in Google search results.
Start by clicking here > Google Search > Google Search > Intellectual property issue: report copyright infringement, circumvention, etc. > Intellectual property issue: report copyright infringement, circumvention, etc. > Yes, I am the copyright owner or am authorised to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed > Other (Written content) > Identify and describe the copyrighted work: (Copy and paste written/text content).
Then you just need to fill out your personal details and provide a link to your content that was copied and the URL where the copied content can be found.
Usually, Google is pretty good at removing this from search results in 7-14 days.
So Now You Know
I have only just touched on the tip of the iceberg of the black hat marketing world in this article, but I will continue to add more as I learn more and hopefully help you protect yourself and your hard-earned online pennies!
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.