Disclaimer: All techniques mentioned in this post are black hat (or very dark grey hat) SEO tactics that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and I would not recommend any of them to anyone wishing to achieve high search engine rankings long term. This post merely outlines my observations of techniques that, although they shouldn’t, do work.

Comment spam

Let’s jump straight in with a really spammy way to increase backlinks to a site – comment spam! It’s been polluting the web for years with dodgy SEO agencies and link building monkeys spending hours on irrelevant forums and blogs posting nonsense replies to people with blatant links using exact match anchor text.

If the forum is being moderated, these spammers get banned relatively quickly so the links are removed. However, the links are probably live long enough to show up in a backlink report that these agencies can show to their client, keeping them happy.

So why is this bad? Links are links, right? Well, yeah, links are links and Google will find them and they can indeed help you game the system and move you up the search engines, short-term. But what are you trying to achieve? Anyone that comes across these links is not going to view the linked site as a site with credibility, a site they can trust. Anyone using this kind of technique risks having their brand damaged, their reputation destroyed. So you might think that potential customers will never find these links. Well that depends on who your potential customer are. Even if your customers don’t find them, your competitors will and so will Google… eventually.

WordPress sites with spun articles

Article spinning seems to be the new meta keywords. I’ve written before about the joys of article marketing and article spinning is one of my bugbears. Article marketing worked – it built links, often from relevant sites or at least relevant content on irrelevant sites, and sometimes drove a bit of traffic too – bonus! Then the spammer got hold of it and developed systems that could automatically change words of already published articles and republish them as unique content. The problem is, these articles become unreadable to humans.

But Googlebot isn’t human! (I hear you cry). And it’s true, these articles probably make perfect sense to our bot friend and he’ll crawl them just the same, finding the links and giving credit to the spammers’ sites. This is why the technique works.

Now to take this a step further, and get round editorial guidelines on the article submission sites, we can publish these articles on our own websites, or better still, a network of hundreds or even thousands of sites set up specifically for publishing spun content.

I’m sure you’ve come across a WordPress blog that contains pages of articles about the same subject, but none really make any sense. You’ll noticed a generous scattering of links across the content all linking to another site with the magic keywords as anchor text.

WordPress is a great tool – I’ve used it for many projects and I’m using it now – but sometimes the simplicity means it’s all too easy to take a great tool and use it for evil (well, black hat SEO anyway).

It seems that Google finds it hard to detect this kind of technique, especially when the network of sites are registered by different companies or individuals and hosted on different servers with different IP addresses. Come on Google – enough already!

Keyword stuffing

You’ve got to be pretty ballsy to carry out keyword stuffing, in my opinion. Yes it’s only as black hat as the other techniques mentioned, but it’s on your own site! I just don’t see why you’d risk alienating your potential customers (and existing customers) by presenting them with content that is blatantly over optimised and doesn’t read naturally.

To give an example, I’ve been approached by a certain SEO company (who shall remain nameless) several times. They use a number of sites they’ve worked with to demonstrate their skills. The one that stuck out the most was one that used to rank #1 for ‘van insurance’ in the UK and did so for a number of years. Looking at the site, there were no great number of backlinks, but the homepage copy was clearly written for Google and not for anyone looking for a reputable company to place insurance with.

On closer inspection, the homepage mentioned the exact keyword ‘van insurance’ 63 times! The keyword density was insane, but Google loved it! (The website concerned no longer ranks #1 or even on the first 3 pages, but the home page content remains the same – well done Google for spotting this one!)

So there you have, my top 3 ways to get yourself on page 1 of Google, then get banned. You have been warned.

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