We’ve all heard the pronouncements from Google that the days of ‘black hat SEO’ are gone. Every update from Google seeks, they say, to punish sites that use spammy, shady tactics. Every update places a premium on creating content, a great UI, legitimate link-building, and authority-building strategies.
So…if this is true, why does black hat SEO still sometimes–maybe even most of the time–win?
Winning at SEO: Defined
Before we state that black hat SEO still sometimes ‘wins’, we must first define what ‘winning’ at SEO looks like.
It really isn’t complicated.
Winning at SEO means ranking high. For example, if you search a keyword, anyone in the top 3 for that keyword is winning. If you are on the bottom of the first page or lower, you aren’t winning.
Are Black Hat Techniques Really Winning?
We’ve read several stories about black hat tactics producing results. This is after the most recent Google update.
I’ll give you an example that hits close to home:
LogMyCalls typically either ranks at the bottom of the first page or top of the second page for the all-important keyword ‘call tracking.’ There are several companies–really good companies–that rank ahead of us.
At first blush, this is unsurprising because we’re the new kids on the block. We’ve only been around for a little over a year, and some of our competitors have been around for 20. They have more domain authority and substantially more backlinks etc.
But didn’t Google lead everyone to believe that producing unique, effective, fresh, quality content was the most important thing? Didn’t they say that social sharing of that content is critically important?
If that’s true, we should be blowing our competitors out of the water. We produce more content, and people share our content more regularly. That’s based on actual data.
(Obviously, our content strategy is working for traffic, but in terms of ranking for critical keywords, it hasn’t worked as quickly).
So…what’s the deal?
The Plot Thickens…
A few weeks ago we decided to start analyzing our competitors’ backlinks to figure out where they were all coming from.
What we found disturbed us.
We found that the majority of backlinks going to a few competitors’ sites (not all competitors) were utterly spammy and, at least, gray hat. I want to state clearly, that we don’t blame them for this. We’re not disparaging them. After all, these links, when they were created, likely weren’t gray hat.
For example, we’re talking about paid links, links on totally unrelated sites, links on fake directory sites. We’re talking about link farms.
According to Google these are inappropriate SEO techniques for which you will get hammered and punished.
So why haven’t they been punished by Google? Why isn’t Google giving credence to content, quality, and UI like they promised? Why aren’t they holding sites accountable when they have scores of bad links?
Again, I’m not blaming any of our competitors for doing this. Heck, if it works, we should start doing it too. (And if it works, it, by definition, isn’t black hat anyway).
Instead, I’m asking aloud, why does this stuff still work?
It is Happening In Your Industry Too
If you analyze the companies that rank ahead of you for the keywords that are important for you, I GUARANTEE that you will find at least a couple (maybe a lot ) that have a ton of sketchy links.
Why does ‘black hat’ SEO still work? I invite your comments.