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Do 2001 Black-hat Tactics Still Work?


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#1 DrPete

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 02:10 PM

I'm getting to wit's end on an issue with a client's competitor and am hoping the community might have some ideas. Essentially, the site has been using outdated black-hat tactics (or at least dark gray) for years, and still seems to be pulling it off.

For example:

1. Massive Keyword Loading
The pre-fold homepage looks ok, but there are 30+ screens of scrolling you'll have to do to see all of the text, most of which is poorly hacked together press releases and gratuitous internal links.

2. Hidden Keywords
Lines 5-7 of the source HTML are commented out keywords.

3. Link Farm/Network
The owner has created dozens of sites that are either mirrors or link transparently to this site, including a PR agency that only posts his press releases.

To evidence that this has been going on for a while, there was a 2004 post on Search Engine Lowdown about the owner of the site and his SEO claims.

My past approach has just been to do the best I can for my own client, and not worry about it, but this site isn't just taking up space in the SERPs; it's making the industry look bad. I've reported specific issues to Google multiple times, but we're a niche industry, and I work for a competitor, so they've more or less been ignored.

The question is: do I just not worry about it and do the best job I can of white-hat SEO, or do I draw more attention to it (possibly on a more public forum) to get Google's attention? Another question: do you think these tactics really are working, or is is just a grandfathered effect or correlational (i.e. he's ranking for other reasons and just happens to be using these tactics)?

Any insights would be much appreciated...

* URL's removed to protect 3rd party identity - moderator

Edited by EGOL, 21 February 2008 - 03:18 PM.


#2 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 02:58 PM

Okay. Take a breath, and a step back.

Repeat if necessary.

You've seen what they are doing that is bad, but you are not seeing, or at least not telling us, what they are doing right. If you aren't seeing that, then their taunting with the spammy bits is working perfectly. Don't fall for it.


Of the things you list, the grandfathered links are certainly a factor. They have a long link history. It can be beaten with quality. How are you going about that? Getting links that can't be bought, or beaten? Not all of that site's links will count for much, but many will be counting for something. Do enough to counter that.


You obviously dislike the way they have gone about getting content on to their homepage. What have you done to beat it with a more elegant and useable modern method?


Getting yourself into a state about the spamminess is the tactic they may well be relying on. It seems to be preventing you doing your job, which is to beat them. Not at their apparrent own game, but at SEM. One expects sites like this to confuse the clients. Poor clients tend to say "well that's working, so we should do that too". That's precisely what the other competitors of theirs probably did, which is why the other spammy sites aren't there to see.

The spammy side is often a smokescreen, a murky cloud obscuring the real workings. You must be more perceptive. Focus on your own game, not theirs. If the client is being a pain about it, perhaps that's by far the bigger problem than the spammy seeming site is.

#3 DrPete

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 03:31 PM

@Ammon: Thanks; I appreciate the perspective. Those who know me would, I hope, say I'm generally level-headed, but this is admittedly one of those situations I've started to take personally and not see clearly. My focus is usability, and I have had solid success improving my client's site, which also performs very well in the SERPs.

Probably my biggest frustration is that I really can't see what the competitor is doing right (and I've tried). Everything seems to be a combination of outdated tricks. On the other hand, if that's the case, I know Google will catch up with him sooner or later. I just wish it was sooner :infinite-banana:

#4 Ruud

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 05:06 PM

Indeed, that the site ranks might not be because but despite its tactics.

To gain this level of trust, despite its tactics, the site must be sending out some quality signals Google really likes.

However, I should also ask you to ask yourself; what are they ranking better for?

Sometimes we're staring ourselves dead on a prestige phrase -- one that doesn't matter, doesn't bring in money, doesn't convert, doesn't bring visitors.

Is what they rank better for something that consistently drives traffic? If the site targets a broad category (a complete industry) with a lot of subcategories, there's no way they're working with one keyphrase.

Example with real estate. You say; the black hat competition ranks above me when I search "find real estate". But who, apart from you and your client, is using that phrase? How is the situation with "real estate chicago" or " 2 room app ny" ?

[...] poorly hacked together press releases and gratuitous internal links.


Google doesn't penalize for bad writing nor for linking at your discretion.

Lines 5-7 of the source HTML are commented out keywords.


Goes to stupidity of the competition: those keywords aren't counting for anything. So far we have bad writing and dumb tricks. Things are looking good for you :infinite-banana:

The owner has created dozens of sites that are either mirrors or link transparently to this site, including a PR agency that only posts his press releases.


Outstanding! Your competition is waisting energy, spreading itself thin, doing at best useless work... Unless they would build those sites out in value -- which brings us back to them spreading themselves thin....

The question is: do I just not worry about it and do the best job I can of white-hat SEO, or do I draw more attention to it (possibly on a more public forum) to get Google's attention?


1. do your job (don't spread yourself thin...)
2. who says you didn't get Google's attention? Google doesn't write back saying "we lowered this by 0.08 and decreased the threshold to 18b alpha" -- even if they did...

Another question: do you think these tactics really are working


No.

Look, you're not competing with this or any other site. You're always competing with yourself. Is this, your current ranking, the best you can do -- or can you do a little bit better?

If, when only you would be #1 for every keyphrase you desire, there is nothing more you would like to do, link, build, relate or improve -- then you lost.

Being #1 is a side effect of being a long time, trusted, oft referenced quality destination in your niche.

#5 DrPete

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 05:10 PM

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's people being reasonable when I'm trying to feel sorry for myself :infinite-banana:

Message received, and I absolutely agree with your point about the prestige phrases. While we've been fighting over the broad keyword, I've been working with my client on getting individual "products" on Google through better URL structures, internal linking, etc., and our long-tail traffic has increased by leaps and bounds. Better yet, it's deep traffic that drives conversions. I need to remember to focus on those successes.

#6 Respree

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 05:25 PM

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's people being reasonable when I'm trying to feel sorry for myself ;)

I agree, its pretty annoying, huh? :infinite-banana:

Its really like getting mad at somebody for being tall. There's really not much you can do about it. Focus on what you do what you do best. Let them do what they 'think' they do best.



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