For the past few years, white hats have been denouncing that black hat SEO can be anything other than short term. Whilst I’ve argued countless (and generally very pointless) battles over this.. I’ve always said that I’ll release a case study (which now turns out to be 3) on my blog. That day has finally come. Time to change the perceptions of black hat SEO, with nothing lessÂ than facts and evidence.
I won’t be releasing the actual sites themselves for obvious reasons, but I’ll be showing you the organic traffic statistics, domain statistics and the type of link profiles these sites have.
An Introduction To MY Black Hat SEO
So before I get into it, I thought I’d show you what I define as the different types of SEO. Remember, these are all my definitions and they’re open to debate/opinion and I actively encourage discussion around these definitions.
What is White Hat SEO?
White hat SEO is following the Google guidelines specifically – Only getting links for the traffic value, not the ranking value. Any type of “link building” is classed as grey hat, not white.. So even Moz etc.. Are grey – Yes, that’s Grey, not Gray.. I am British after all.
What is Grey Hat SEO?
Grey hat SEO is when you build links for specific ranking value. You bend the Guidelines, but at the end of the day, you’re still “building links to manipulate pagerank and increase rankings” – Which according to Google, is against the Guidelines.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat is where you completely go against the guidelines AND are unethical, in the sense you’re spamming the internet. You aren’t unethical for not following a corporations guidelines, but you are for creating useless content purely to get links – THOUGH not all links are hurting the internet, many are funding “the link economy”.
What is Dark Hat SEO?
Dark hat SEO is where you go all out. This means you don’t follow rules in any manner, even when it’s illegal. You use hacked links and even hack sites to gain links – Real dodgy stuff.
Case Study #1 – 4+ Year Old Rankings, Paid & HQ Spam Links
This site has actually been ranking for over 5 years now, using high quality spam links (Web 2.0s, Comments and Forum Links mainly) with a mixture of custom blog network links and links from link share pages – e.g. /links.html style pages.
Total visits from January 2011 to October 2014 is 6,059,000 visits.
Web 2.0 Blog Network – This site built a niche web 2.0 network (e.g. blogger, wordpress etc) back in 2010 and continued building it until early 2013. In total, it has over 600 web 2.0 blogs that link back to the site, with around 400 referring domains from that – As it has multiple accounts on sites like blogspot.com and wordpress.com.
Each site has regularly updated content (at least one article per 2 months) and links either contextually or from the sidebar.
Each site has links built to it each month, using tools like SENuke, GSA SER and ScrapeBox – Over 4 years, the web 2.0 sites have built up quite a bit of authority from these kind of spam links.
Comment & Forum Links – Back in 2010, ScrapeBox and XRumer were all the rage. These links stopped being built pretty much a year in to the site, as the quality and “power” weren’tÂ good enough and we didn’t see a positive increase from using these kind of links.
There are a ton of these links still around on the sites link profile, and they did make sure that all of the links were niche relevant, so it may not of looked to spammy, though the content posted on them (the comments and forum posts themselves) were very poor quality.
Private Blog Network – In January 2013, a blog network was formed to boost up the rankings. As you can see from the stats above, this worked perfectly, though did drop of a bit when Penguin ran and got nuked when Payday loans update ran – Though the site quickly bounced back after the link profile was properly audited and the PBN was edited to offer higher quality links.
In total, there is around 50 sites on the network, all with a minimum PageRank of 1 and all on niche relevant domains -Â We also still build backlinks to the blog network sites as tier 2, to make up for the links loss you naturally get over time fromÂ an expired domain and to boost the power of the backlinks and sites within the PBN.
None of the sites in this network have ever been hit and all of them are still indexed within Google, to this day.
Case Study #1 Notes –
Organic traffic to this site only makes up for around 30% and there is a large spend on Adwords and a lot of referral traffic from coupon and discount sites. We also built up large social accounts and followingsÂ to this site and the site itself has over 25,000 pages.
We originally only started the private blog network with 10 domains and grew to 50 over the course of around a year.. The web 2.0 network still has sites built every month and still has links built to the current sites within the network.
The site has naturally gained links from other sources and also has a few links from newspapers, though the majority of the link profile is links built using black hat SEO. I don’t dispute that the natural/newspaper links have effect on the rankings, but I don’t think they have a major effect on specific keyword rankings that we have optimized for in our other link building strategies.
Case Study #2 – 1+ Year OldÂ Blog, Pure PBN Links
This site is actually a site that I own and control all by myself. It’s in the Gaming niche and has been running for over 1 year now. Not that long, but it’s a good case study as discussion around PBN links have been all the rage recently.
Total Organic Visits from end of 2013 to October 2014: 2,824
Note –Â In July, my Analytics plugin on this site messed up and didn’t record any of the traffic I got, so the actual visitor number is more around the 3,000 figure.
Private Blog Network Links – I built the PBN links in November 2013 to this site, they weren’t niche relevant and most still stick today, though all of them have dropped from the homepage of the PBN site to inner pages – I did however build web 2.0 links (from Fiverr) to all of the PBN Post URLs, which will increase the link juice even if it drops to inner pages only. Something I highly suggest if you’re buying links from other people’s networks.
I used Pompano’s (BH.C Co-Founder) Tech PBN and the Galaxy Blog Network from BlackHatWorld for the private blog network links to this site.
Case Study #2 Notes -Â
Though the number of visitors is low (About 10 – 25 organic visits per day) if I convert 1 visitor, I can make up to a $200 commission. In total, this site cost me about $700 to build (including links) and from organic traffic alone has made me over $6,000.
As I said above, if you’re buying PBN Links from another provider and they aren’t permanently stuck to the homepage, make sure to build links to the post pages as soon as you get the report – This’ll mean your long term rankings with stick.
Case Study #3 – 6+ Years of Rankings, Pure Black Hat SEO
I don’t have the analytics for this site as we changed codes 4 times (re-designed the site with different design/development companies) over the course of aÂ 6 year period. Unfortunately the design was updated in August this year, so I didn’t want to include an analytics print screen that picks up and drops off at random points.
I did however pull the live update for the rankings from SEMRush, which you can see here –
The results of this site are so incredible that the keyword we’re ranking for at the top (390 MS, Pos 1) is actually a branded keyword and as we were ranking so well for keywords, competitors started bidding on our brand keywords.
This was the first site I started my SEO Career on and I’ve done the link building for it for the past 6 years – All of which has been black hat.
Directory Links – I hired a Gig on a Forum a few years ago (when I was first starting out in SEO) to build up a load of directory links that were all UK based. as the site is in the UK – I paid around $90 in total for this service. Most of the links have dropped now, but there’s still 2 links that stuck around.
I also paid forÂ a paid directory link around 3 years ago which has still stuck around, using our main keyword. You can see the benefits of using paid directories in this case study.
Niche Blog Comments – 2 years ago, I paid for some niche blog comments by Adss30 (Who I still deal with to this day) and 30/50 links I ordered are still live and indexed. This doesn’t really affect much link juice wise, but does mean I have a better branded link diversity.
Private Blog Network Posts – I used a few different networks, including 5 links from my super network (Which I recently sold) to build links back to this site – All of the posts except my super network ones are niche relevant. Again, most have dropped off to inner pages, but I built links as soon as I got the reports to these pages and those links have stuck around and continue to influence the authority of the PBN Links.
Some of the services I bought have since closed and the networks sitesÂ are no longer live, this happens to most links built on the internet and it’s no surprise as I bought some of theÂ links back in 2012. I’ve slowly stopped building links over the past year or so, as the rankings are continually stable and have done up to Â£10,000/day in profit (NOT revenue, profit) so the investment was more than worth it.
Case Study #3 Notes –
When I first started to link build for this site it had over a years age already, it’s now sitting at over 7Â years old – Registered in 2008.
Some of the earlier tactics I used on this site worked 6 years ago but will certainly not work today, so I have not includedÂ them inÂ this case study.
For the past few years, SEOs have been saying black hat SEO can only be used for short term rankings. I think as this case study covers sites that have ranked for years, not just months.. That is quite untrue – Also bear in mind that all of these sites are still ranking and have not been hit with penalties for the duration of their rankings.
Ranking long term using black hat doesn’t mean spamming a site with a million GSA links. The mentality I think to many SEOs have is that they think Black Hat SEO means spamming links… When in actuality it doesn’t, it just means breaking the guidelines.
Use targeted and high quality link buys or link builds and you’ll be ranking for years to come. Don’t forget to make your money site’s Onpage really good as well and try to make it an authority site, no 5 page WordPress sites for long term rankings.
Thanks For Reading
This has been by best and biggest (in terms of information) case study of 2014. I hope it helps the industry grow and learn from their previous comments on black hat SEO.
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If anyone wants to get in touch with me for more info/discussion around these sites. Get in touch hereÂ – It may take me a little while to reply, as I am rather busy at the moment.