I always enjoy ranting about the dangers of black hat SEO. Gray hat SEO too, for that matter. But what I enjoy most is the challenge of disecting sites that are using black or grey hat SEO techniques (Fresh Pair, for example) and peeling away the layers of the onion. I feel like a detective… like Robert Langdon (from the Da Vinci Code) trying to piece together a complex puzzle. The part of the sleuthing that I find the most challenging and the most satisfying is uncovering sophisticated link schemes — from aggressive link buying like what Fresh Pair and H&R Block are doing, to the most egregious spammers who obscure their ill-gotten links through cloaking and sneaky redirects. I recall back in 2004 figuring out that Findgiftcards.com was funneling link gain to their network of sites from legit sites using their free hit counter hosted at 123counters.com as the vector. That hit counter spread their spam by embedding keyword-rich links underneath the hit counter in the HTML code that the webmaster was supposed to copy-and-paste. Wow, that was like a scavenger hunt! I wrote about that one in Catalog Age. Funny, it wasn’t long after that they disappeared from Google. 😉 Immediately prior to that they were #1 for “gift certificates.” Oops, sorry guys! 😀 If “deconstructing” sophisticated search engine spam doesn’t sound like fun to you, then you probably won’t appreciate the blast I had reverse engineering As-Seen-on-TV-Store-1.com last year in my sixth installment of my SEO Report Card column for Practical Ecommerce magazine. This black hatter had no idea my published critique was coming; I’m sure they didn’t appreciate me airing their dirty laundry in public! But the sins of others can serve as a great teacher. That affiliate site was a house of cards ready to fall. Here are a couple of the reasons why (I elaborate more in my full article)… These guys have inbound links and link text — in spades! Yahoo! Site Explorer reveals over 6,500 inlinks to the site, excluding internal links. These links include some very reputable sites such as unesco.org/wfeo. Often times the link text is great too — full of keywords. But the linking sites aren’t relevant. Upon closer inspection, the links have been obtained by duping webmasters into posting a hit counter (e.g. from freestatscounter.com, freehitcounters.net, etc.) that contains links to doorway pages.Â (Hmm… sounds familiar, eh!) “But wait, there’s more!” (I’m using my infomercial voice while saying that!) — a veritable minefield of bogus feedbacks, link farming, spam blogs (splogs), and doorway pages that have lost link popularity.Â For the rest of the findings, read the full article. Now. I promise you’ll like it!
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