An Idiot’s Guide to the Dark World of Black Hat SEO

The world of SEO is more cutthroat than you can imagine. The SEO evangelists and experts you have seen or read over the years such promote the white hat approach to SEO and with good reason. By practicing SEO in according to Google’s guidelines, your site can enjoy extended periods on top of search results […]

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The world of SEO is more cutthroat than you can imagine.

The SEO evangelists and experts you have seen or read over the years such promote the white hat approach to SEO and with good reason. By practicing SEO in according to Google’s guidelines, your site can enjoy extended periods on top of search results for its target keyword.

I’m singling out Google here as the search engine that matters for now. Since Google receives almost 4.5 billion searches a day (the closest is Bing with approximately 890 million searches), it’s safe to say that Google’s laws rule the land of organic search.

However, while most marketers practice SEO using the white hat approach, there is a portion of the SEO community who doesn’t buy into Google’s “propaganda.” They believe not in ranking slowly and steadily, but ranking as fast as possible to drive more revenue to their sites.

While it may sound lucrative, black hat SEO must be approached with extreme caution.

While reading this article, keep in mind that I neither promote nor dissuade you from implementing black hat SEO tactics to your sites. The purpose of this post is to help you understand what all the fuss is about black hat SEO and why some people do it. Its aim is also to help you form an opinion about black hat SEO, so you know what you’re getting into if you decide on practicing it.

What is black hat SEO?

This practice is an about-turn to everything you taught you knew about SEO. Its methods go against Google guidelines and policies. Most of the black hat SEO practices border on “spamming” Google, but it’s not as straightforward and dry-cut as you think. In fact, most of the black hat SEO tactics are just as sophisticated as white hat strategies. The only difference between the two is that black hat SEO provides value only to the site it’s ranking for. It doesn’t bother with the value it gives off to search engine users.

As long as its money sites are ranking for their target keywords using their method and they are generating money from their ranking position, life is good.

black hat seo anti-google

For black hat SEO, Google is bad. They believe that the search engine benefits the most from their efforts of optimizing their websites by following their guidelines. This reason is why they resort to tactics that violate Google policy as a reaction towards Google’s desire for website owners to follow its rules.

The philosophy behind black hat SEO is that they see Google as a business. They don’t care if Google promotes its tagline of “[Doing] the right thing.” As far as they’re concerned, everything that Google has built up to this point is simply to profit from their search engine algorithm, which is their most prized possession. As long as people adhere to its rules, Google can make lots of money from it.

Therefore, instead of conforming to Google’s wants and needs, they challenge the status quo in SEO by ranking sites the way they know how. By learning how Google’s algorithm works through rigid testing, they can develop techniques that enable site pages to rank on top of organic search results. It doesn’t matter if the methods are questionable as long as they achieve the goals.

But is black hat SEO really that bad?

It ultimately depends on your definition of “bad.”

If, by “bad,” you mean manipulating Google’s algorithm to make your site appear on top of search results for your keyword, then yes. Probably.

However, if that’s the case, then every link builder is manipulating Google’s algorithm!

It’s written on Google’s guidelines and policy about linking:

The fact that you built a link – whether it’s dropping a link to your site from a comment section or you published a guest post on a blog with a link to your site – Google can make a case against your site. Not that they will, but with Google and their ever-changing algorithm, you’ll never know!

This logic why black hat SEO practitioners have turned to the dark side. They don’t want Google to dictate their actions since the search engine can bring down the hammer on websites that they feel violate their guidelines. Black hat SEO allows site owners to take back the power from Google by finding loopholes in the current search algorithm and exploiting them to make a quick buck.

The rationale of black hat SEO is also what makes their entire practice a double-edged sword. Black hat SEO can get downright scummy when in the hands of people with evil intentions.

Negative SEO takes places when your competitors liberally employ black hat SEO against your site. Your organic search rankings will go down and your traffic will plummet because some jackass created thousands of backlinks for your site in bad neighborhoods.

One of Spencer Haws’ (of Niche Pursuits fame) sites was hit with negative SEO. He noticed that there is an abnormal increase of backlinks from low-quality sites which triggered the decrease of his organic traffic. You can read his post about it by click here.

Therefore, black hat SEO ultimately depends on how users employ them in their strategy. Using black hat tactics to damage your competition is a malicious and counter-productive way of improving your site’s SEO.

However, there is no moral ground when using black hat SEO for your website. What’s important is that you should be aware of what the tactics can do for your site. It can yield you massive gains in the short-term but may cause your site

The pros and cons of black hat SEO

As with most SEO tactics, there are two sides of a coin. While black hat SEO, in general, is viewed in a negative light, it doesn’t mean that it’s the worst thing that you can do in life. As much risk there is involved in this approach, there are only benefits that explain why people continue to practice black hat SEO.

Below are some of the things that you need to consider about black hat SEO.

Pro: Faster results

Black hat SEO practitioners are in the business of making money. This reason is what attracted them to this SEO approach in the first place. Unlike white hat SEO, which takes time and intensive resources to get your site to rank on top of its target keyword, black hat SEO can help you achieve the top spot in organic search (for a reasonable target keyword) in a matter of months, if not weeks!

Con: Permanent Google penalization

On the downside, Google handles black hat SEO cases very seriously. You can trace back their actions against this type of SEO in 2011, when it penalized content farms, i.e. article submission sites, due to the publishing of “thin content,” or articles that offer little to no value to readers.

Since the purpose of Google as a search engine is to provide search users with quality content as its results, their intention is to clean up spam and sites that are caught practicing spammy tactics as part of their SEO strategy.

Therefore, content farms lost all its keywords from organic search and dropped out from the face of the earth!

sistrix content farms for black hat seo

In this screenshot of the table that SISTRIX made, you will see the massive drop in the Visibility Index and organic keyword traffic of the sites listed. Since then, content farms like were never heard from again.

If you are caught doing black hat SEO, Google will penalize your site from ranking on search engines for a very long time, if not forever!

Pro: Automated process

Another advantage of black hat SEO is the automated process that allows you to save up time. With white hat SEO, you need to assemble a team that will help you perform blogger outreach, link building, content creation, and other tactics to help raise your site’s search rankings. With black hat SEO, all you’ll need are a couple of tools that you can set and forget, and you’re ready to go!

Much of the time you will spend on doing black hat SEO tasks has to do with setting up your campaigns before deploying them on auto-pilot. From there, you can measure the results and tweak your campaigns as you see fit to maximize your profit.

If you read below, you will find out black hat SEO tools that people use to hike up their site traffic and performance overnight.

Con: You’re never safe from Google

Another disadvantage when it comes to practicing black hat SEO is that you have to always watch your back for Google to penalize your sites. There are some spammy tactics that pass through the cracks because of how well there are executed without Google detecting them.

But Google’s anti-spam team has smartened up and are slowly weeding out some of the more obvious black hat SEO tactics. This forced black hat practitioners to think outside the box and become more vigilant when it comes to implementing their tactics.

Black hat SEO worked a way around this issue by developing churn and burn sites where they pump unnatural links to a site with the purpose of increasing its rankings and the intention of ranking the site as high as possible before it gets ripped apart by Google.

Servando Silva of Stream SEO conducted a churn and burn case study where he was able to drive traffic to his site by creating thousands of backlinks in a short period. He no longer has the site, but the study shows to you the potential (and allure) of black hat SEO.

However, unlike before when it took weeks before the site ranks for its keyword, it now takes more than a month to get a site on top of Google organic search.

Black hat SEO tactics

In this post, we won’t be discussing black hat SEO tactics that will get your site penalized. Instead, we will tackle on tactics that produce results at a reasonably sustainable time. Why Google hasn’t caught up with them yet remains a mystery.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that there are brands and companies that may be practicing these methods and are seeing an increase in their search rankings for their keywords. Below are some of the most useful ones that you should take note.

Private blog networks

This tactic is what most black hat SEO rely on to rank their websites. Since link building is arguably the most crucial component of SEO, the goal of black hat SEO is to help you acquire high-quality backlinks for your site. Unless you can get links from authoritative publication links, then you have a long way to go regarding climbing the search ranking ladder.

What private blog networks (PBNs) do is expedite the process of generating links for your site so you can rank on top quicker and more efficiently. The secret to this method is buying expired domains with existing authority using different metrics to predict the domain’s value (Moz’s Domain Authority, Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow, and others).

Once you have purchased the domains, you can build a unique site using your CMS of choice and publish content there like you would a normal blog. However, in one of the published articles on the site, you need to link to your site to pass link juice. You need to do these as many times as possible using different domains until you create a vast network of sites that you own.

By employing private blog networks to help improve your money site’s SEO performance, you need to acquire relevant expired domains and link back to your site. You also need to make the expired domains look like an actual site, so you must design the site, create content for it, and more.

This tactic remains effective to this very day. When done correctly, PBNs look like well-maintained blogs with lots of unique content and have no relation to each other. However, the concern about PBNs is its eventual banning by Google. The search engine took action against sites that used PBNs before on a smaller scale, so it’s only a matter of time before Google hits on all private blog networks.

If you want to know more about private blog network, read this post I have written about the topic. It is the most comprehensive and actionable post about private blog network (I kid you not!) to help you gain a better understanding of what it works and how you can do it for your business. 

Paid links are under-the-table deals that occur between a site owner and publisher where the latter will include a link to the former’s site in one of the articles published on the latter’s blog.

Following Google’s guidelines, when someone wants to be featured on a website, the publisher should be willing to do so only if the link to the site is nofollow. Doing so means that the link from the publisher site won’t pass link juice to the site. Also, the publisher informs readers that the link in question is an advertiser, which makes the article promotional in nature.

Paid links are illegal because they fall under unnatural linking, which is against Google’s policy. The links are dofollow, and the publisher doesn’t disclose the link as a paid advertisement.

Instead of providing value to your content by linking to relevant resource pages, the publisher links to a site that possesses arguably lesser value than other resource pages. And even if the site provides more than enough information to readers of the publisher site, the fact that a collaborating took place between the site and publisher compromises the integrity of the post.

As a result, instead of providing value to your content by linking to relevant resource pages, the publisher links to a site that possesses arguably lesser value than other resource pages. And even if the site provides more than enough information to readers of the publisher site, the fact that a collaboration took place between the site and publisher compromises the integrity of the post.

Most of the paid links offered by SEO link builders and agencies are guest posts. Despite the fact that Google warned people about guest blogging as an SEO tactic, it still runs rampant among SEO circles.

Paid links of this variety are very costly and may not produce the value you expect for the amount you paid. Perrin Carrell of Authority Hacker ran a test on different agencies that offer guest blogging for link building and has this to say about his experience:

I have seen smaller agencies who have done legitimately good work for cheaper. Hell, my brother used to run one. But they are few and far between, and they are typically really difficult to find.

But, in general, the good ones tend to be expensive, and if I were going to make a prediction, I’d wage those prices are going to go up over time as big companies continue to wise up to the power of SEO and the internet gets more saturated with outreach emails (driving conversions down and costs up).

Here’s the kicker, though… since you are not an agency, you can get links for much cheaper than they can if you just build a system.

Perrin Carrell, “We Field Tested 5 Popular Link Building Services

Tiered link building

People have little control when it comes to off-page SEO. They can’t manipulate the links their sites acquire over time. Also, links that positively affect your search rankings takes lots of time to acquire.

Therefore, instead of waiting in vain for links to come to your site the white hat way, you can generate your links manually from different sources. While Google can easily detect if you’re unnatural linking to your site this way, you can cover your tracks by creating different tiers in your link building.

Tiered link building requires you to create multiple tiers to help create a structure that allows you to structure and organize your link building efforts. Assuming that your first tier is your money site, the second tier should be composed of web 2.0 properties such as blogs where you can sign up for an account and create content. The important thing about these properties is that they pass link juice to your site.

The image above is a visual representation of a fleshed out tiered link building. The four links that directly link to your website make up your first tier. The links that link to your first tier is your second tier, and so on. Image is taken from Editsoft Digital.

The lower tiers can be composed of web 2.0 sites, social bookmarking sites, and social media links, all of which are supposed to create social signals to your first tiers. Generating enough noise to make search spiders notice your first tier sites and help amplify the search rankings of your money sites.

Related post: Tiered Link Building: Did It Survive the New Year?

Black hat SEO tools

As with most SEO specialist, people who practice black hat SEO uses the same tools that white hatters do. However, black hatters employ a specialized set of tools that allow them to perform their dark arts in the shadows. Below are some of the more popular ones that have stood the test of time (and multiple Google penalties):

GSA Search Engine Ranker

The primary tool of choice by black hat SEO practitioners, GSA is as black as black can get. In a nutshell, GSA can help generate backlinks to your site 24/7. The tool will take care of locating potential places to acquire links and does the dirty job for you with a few clicks of a button. You can set the parameters of the tool to generate the best possible links it can find. Despite this, using this tool is simply a no-no for Google and will get your site removed from organic search results.

GSA Search Engine Ranker is the tool of choice among black hat SEO practitioners. It allows them to automatically create backlinks for their tier sites to boost the link juice flowing to their money sites.

However, black hat SEO guys use the tool to build links to their tiered sites instead to boost social signals and get the link juice flowing to your site.

Word Ai

Content is an integral part of every link building strategy. In the case of black hat SEO, content is only a means to an end. Unlike in white hat SEO in which you need to create the best possible content to attract link passively, you don’t need to invest much in the content you need to create for your black hat SEO campaign. Therefore, it is okay if you can produce content that barely passes as unique content to search spiders.

This type of content is perfect for your tiered sites. Since you want to reserve your best posts on your money sites, you just want to acquire link juice from your tiered sites. By making sure that the content is readable enough for spiders to not flag the content as spam, you can successfully pass the link juice to your sites.


With the help of a tool like Word Ai, you can spin content by creating multiple unique posts based on a single article. Unlike most article spinners, Word Ai can create human quality content, so you don’t have to worry about unreadable spun content published on your tiered sites. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about getting an army of writers to get cracking on content. A tool like Word Ai should help you cut costs and create decent articles for link building.



Dubbed as “The Swiss Army Knife of SEO,” Scrapebox allows you to harvest data from search engines, unlike any other tool can. When used correctly, the tool can be used to amplify your white hat SEO efforts using its Search Engine Harvester to help you locate numerous platforms where you can build links to. At the same time, the tool can be abused to help you generate thousands of links using spammy comments.

Wrapping it up

Black hat SEO is truly a fascinating world that is in contrast with how SEO is normally perceived. Again, this post attempts to be as neutral as possible when it comes to implementing any of the tactics and tools mentioned above. However, knowing the pros and cons involved, is black hat SEO something that you’re looking forward to doing on one of your sites soon? At the very heart of SEO as a practice is the duty to test and measure to see which tactics are best in helping you reach your goals. If you share the same sentiments and methods with black hat SEO above, what’s stopping you?

Honestly, I would love to hear comments from people who have done black hat SEO above and what their experiences have been with it. Share your thoughts below!