Black hat SEO involves using marketing techniques which are against the search engine’s guidelines. Employing these tactics can result in your site being penalised or banned from the index. 

The scary thought of being banned from Google often results in people rejecting black hat methods outright without taking the time to think if these methods could be modified in an acceptable way.

By using black hat ideas and then altering them to stay on the right side of the search engine guidelines, it is possible to benefit without as much risk.

1. Expired domains

The black hat method: 

Website owners often lose interest in their sites and do not renew them when they expire. All the links which these website acquired usually remain, even though the site no longer exists.

One black hat technique which has been used for a number of years involves purchasing expired or dropped domains and 301 redirecting them to a money site. Google often does not reset expired domains and a 301 redirect can transfer most of the link equity to the URL of your choosing. 

There could be a number of legitimate reasons why you would 301 redirect a domain to another site. For example, you could have taken over a competitor or you may have rebranded an old site to a new one.

However, if you are trying to manipulate the flow of Page Rank by redirecting random sites, Google considers this to be against its terms of service. The more domains you redirect to your site, the more your risk increases of being penalised.

The white hat alternative: 

Instead of buying just any expired domain, look for ones which are relevant to your niche. If you are able to find an expiring domain that is similar to your website niche, think about buying it and building it out, providing a useful resource to people who would otherwise end up on a 404 page.

Where possible, you could use Archive.org to resurrect the old site, making slow, incremental changes. At some point in the future, when it is useful for visitors, you may be able to find an opportunity to link back to articles or sections of your money website, which should result in improved rankings.

Tip: If you are going to use this technique, I would suggest hosting the expired site on a separate C class domain and using privacy protection if possible.

2. Comment spamming

The black hat method:

Like a car thief looking for an open door, spammers play a numbers game, hoping that a webmaster will automatically approve comments or accidently let one through.

Once they find a site that allows their comments, they will come back and leave an endless stream of links back to their site.

The white hat alternative:

Instead of polluting the web with worthless comments, why not play a more intelligent game, leaving comments which are useful, informative and engaging on blogs within your niche.

Don’t even include a link initially. The idea is to build rapport and a relationship with the website owner.

Once you have complemented/suggested/assisted/and engaged the webmaster, they are going to be much more likely to reciprocate. This reciprocation could be in the form of linking back to some content you have created or allowing you to guest post on their blog.

3. Paid links

The black hat method: 

Google states that buying or selling links that pass PageRank is a violation of its Webmaster Guidelines, therefore buying links is black hat.

It is not hard to spot an overtly paid link, they tend to be anchor text heavy and surrounded by other links to low quality sites.

A quick analysis or a manual review from Google could result in these links being discounted at best or at worst, your site being penalised.

The white hat alternative: 

There is ambiguity over what the search engines consider a paid link.

Is a donation to a charity a paid link? Is sponsoring an event a paid link?

What about giving away one of your products that results in a link? You can set up a Google Alerts to send you potential opportunities that could result in legitmate ‘paid’ links.

For example:

  • site: kickstarter.com “link on our website”  + “your  niche”
  • “the following sponsors” + “your niche”
  • “the following companies donated” + “your niche”

Tip: If you are going to donate to a charity or sponsor event, it’s best to try and find a relevant charity or event. For example, if you sell running shoes, why not donate to an obesity or other related charity.

4. Mass directory submissions

The black hat method: 

It’s not uncommon to see ads, offering to submit your site to 500 directories for $5. Google only provides broad guidelines around this tactic, stating that we shouldn’t “participate in link schemes designed to increase your site ranking or PageRank”.

As many of these directories have ‘SEO’ in their URLs, it’s a sure sign to anyone looking over your link profile that you are trying to game the system.

The white hat alternative: 

Target niche directories related to your website. Not only will these directories look more natural if anyone from the Google Spam team were to look over your link profile, but many will provide real traffic and targeted leads and have added SEO benefits.

In summary…

Like an investment in the stock market, your SEO tactics should factor in your goals, strategy and risk tolerance. Whichever techniques you decide to use, make sure you weigh up the risk and rewards of using it and how aggressive you are.  

Being too aggressive can lead to your site being manually reviewed which opens up your entire history and potential wrongdoings.