Someone Opened AMA about SEO Blackhat and Gray hat



u/NonPoliticalAccount
I am Slightly Shady SEO. Ask Me Anything (AMA)
A couple years ago I ran a popular (now defunct) Blackhat/Grayhat SEO blog, maintained a site network of around ~1000 different websites, got to know many well known SEO users, and made my living from Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
My expertise was Gray and blackhat SEO, but I'm well versed in whitehat SEO as well.
I don't take clients and have nothing to gain from this AMA.
Edit: Ok. I'm awake. As soon as I'm functional I'll resume.
Edit 2: Looks like it's done. If anyone wants to chat I'm occasionally(but rarely) on twitter as @SlightlyShady
128 πŸ’¬πŸ—¨

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minderwinter
Hey, Shady. I know you from WF and used to read your blog back in the day. Thanks for being willing to drop some knowledge.
So here's my question: in your opinion, what is the future of link spam? More specifically, what kinds of automation strategies do you believe will be effective over the next 1-2 years?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
So here's my question: in your opinion, what is the future of link spam? More specifically, what kinds of automation strategies do you believe will be effective over the next 1-2 years?
I think it's going to split into 2 directions, similar to how mailing did after the post CAN-SPAM crackdown and improvements in spam filtering.
Illegal BlackHat – hacked domains and the like. Very high risk, but virtually impossible for Google to detect.
A more targeted, more diversified kind of link spam comparable to "grayer" mailing – The final nails have been put in the coffin of mass-platform link spamming. The only way to move forth is with multiple platforms, and without the common "bulk profile registration" tactics. Having just a profile isn't really enough anymore.
Google has become more aware of different types of content it's indexing – the significance of the user, how frequently spammed the platform is, etc. If you want to go years into the future I think it's going to be less about individual links and more the identity they're originating from. A sort of authority tied to the user as well as the site.
Edit: Worth noting that site networks are a whole 'nother beast I'll save for another question.

1mk8
Very high risk, but virtually impossible for Google to detect.
then it's not very high risk

lds2583nyc
How do you buy links? Do you just contact websites owners personally? Or are there marketplaces for that? How do you determine links from which websites will be a good purchase? Thanks!

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
How do you buy links? Do you just contact websites owners personally?
That's my favored method, yes.
Or are there marketplaces for that? How do you determine links from which websites will be a good purchase? Thanks!
There are, but it's risky
How do you determine links from which websites will be a good purchase? Thanks!
Find old domains in your niche that are already ranking well themselves. Take a look at their backlinks as well.
Remember that when you're buying links the goal is always to look like they're not bought. It should at least seem natural. It's a huge pain in the ass, but it's the safest way by far.
What you don't want is a site that changes topic every post/page and links out with obviously purchased posts. Those are everywhere nowadays.

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makehertalk
In broad strokes. Say you're starting out today with $2500 that can be spent on developing a brand/site.
What should you be spending the money on and what % do you spend on each category: Links, content, Pay Per Click (PPC), ect.
One small project or many smaller ones?
In your opinion, (again, given limited funds) are you better off pushing an affiliate product or developing something of your own?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
I'd spend probably 75% of that on links, and 25% of that on actual content. I'd write the money site content myself, then use the cash to get content for the smaller sites I'd use to push it up in the rankings. Use them to absorb all the dirty links, then use the nice clean link juice on my own site.
I'd also spend a good chunk of that 75% on getting a few nice, high authority links. It's always easier to build on a foundation of authority then pile the crap on later.
In your opinion, (again, given limited funds) are you better off pushing an affiliate product or developing something of your own?
The scenario I used above was for one site, so that'd be more suited to something I developed. If I was just trying to make some quick cash I'd probably do affiliate in low-competition niches.
It's not hard to find easier terms to rank for that can bring in a couple hundred a month each. Stack 10-20 of those together and you're doing quite well for yourself.

lwbco
wat do you mean "do affiliate"?? kthx
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Affiliate meaning promoting a site that's intended to get sales on someone else's site for a commission.
It can be anything: Decorative plants, weight loss, financial leads…as long as the competition isn't too bad and the commission is right.

egortv
You blog used to be good, buddy. Along with BlueHatSEO, Contempt.me and Explicitly.me. Thank goodness Web Archive saved it for future generations. It is not the techniques that matter but the general approach and the mindset. The questions are:
When approximately did you get wiped out? Did you plan to eventually get out of SEO game or it just happened? Was it just a hosting problem or algo update as well? Approximately how much capital you've build with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Just the number of figures will do.
Thanks, mate.
Egor AKA cash202

irishfury
Not my AMA but I still dabble in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) its just not as profitable as learning Media buy or paid traffic. Your basically at the whims of Google and if your black hat it a matter of time before a method dries up. Its not fun going from 20,000 dollars a month to 0. With paid traffic its all numbers and if you you learn and master it you can always print that money. There will always be paid traffic.
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
You blog used to be good, buddy. Along with BlueHatSEO, Contempt.me and Explicitly.me. Thank goodness Web Archive saved it for future generations. It is not the techniques that matter but the general approach and the mindset
Glad you enjoyed it!
When approximately did you get wiped out?
It's hard to put an exact number on it. ~2009ish for the mass-generated websites. From 2009- early 2011 I still had a fair number of simple(6 page) grayhat sites ranking for terms they really shouldn't have been.
What I'm working on now I can't really risk losing, so it's link profile is perfectly clean.
Did you plan to eventually get out of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game or it just happened?
I had already begun transitioning out of it, but getting all my accounts suspended really just ended it. If it wasn't already doing well in Pay Per Click (PPC) I would have re-established.
Approximately how much capital you've build with SEO? Just the number of figures will do.
I don't know the total, but spending like an idiot, covering college expenses, and going to school full time I still had upper 5 figures left in the bank if I remember correctly.
I'm always curious what I could have done if I'd committed more time to it. I really didn't have to work very much on it.

[deleted]
Great stuff here, two questions if I could be so greedy:
What do you think most adult sites keep doing wrong in terms of SEO
Who do you think in the adult space does a good job at it and why (briefly)
Cheers!

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
What do you think most adult sites keep doing wrong in terms of SEO
It's hard to say "wrong" because so much of adult traffic is generated outside of the main search engines. I would say they don't properly categorize/tag their videos – and as a result they miss out on search volume. If Sasha Grey is in a video with a description and it doesn't say Sasha Grey, you're missing out on potential traffic…not to mention user experience. There's been movement towards this since p0rn 2.0, but it's still very sloppy.
p0rn searches(in my experience) are frequently very specific. "Redhead eating mature pussy" and things like that. It's incredibly hard to take a video and get enough relevant keywords attached that it can show them what they want, but a lot of potential value for both user experience and SEO if you pull it off properly. Videosz(inside the site, not for the purposes of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)) does a good job at this.
Who do you think in the adult space does a good job at it and why (briefly)
I can't speak to a specific company, but I think adult is great at moving beyond search engines. They build their own. They crawl/index eachother. They exchange traffic. They embed eachothers videos.
You can get banned from Google and still get a huge amount of traffic in adult…you can't really say that elsewhere. The individual domain is less interesting to me than how the industry as a whole moves.
Disclaimer: I'm not in adult. This is just my impression.

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aDaneInSpain
Great AMA, sorry I am late to the party.
My company runs http://www.automaticbacklinks.com (a free high quality link exchange network) and I honestly believe it to be a great service with huge SEO benefits. We see it all the time. We only accept pages that have both PageRank and mozRank so we generally have a very high quality base.
Though we have thousands of happy members we are finding it hard to reach SEO pros and web masters and lots of even gray/black hatters are shunning our service because they are worried about penalties (that are given to the poor quality networks). At the same time we see these crap networks getting a lot of exposure in the SEO forums, typically because the founder is very involved there.
My question to you is: How would you market our service and reach a bigger demographic of web masters and SEO users?
Give away's?
Banner ads (where – Google kicked us out)?
Affiliate networks (which)?
Video's?
Forum Spam?
Questions like this (LOL)?
Seeing that you at least used to be our perfect demographic, how would we have reached you and convinced you to give us a try?

Superdude22
Better evidence, Pro referrals, and less "Set and Forget" type marketing.
While it may be true that it doesn't need any maintenance, that term and similar stuff has been around for decades. Maybe I'm a unique case, but I just don't trust it/believe it ANY time someone puts that on their page (there are budgets to manage, links to approve or remove, etc). Plus link exchanges aren't really something "pros" are looking for. There's too much risk with them/you never know what you're going to get, so you've got to convince them that your service is different or better. I looked over your site briefly and I don't really know or see any concrete reasons why I should use your service vs. the crappy ones where I at least know the guy who created it.
(Other nit-picky side note, how much does it cost? Not the free part, the buying links part, I don't want to mess w/ signing up just to know how much I'll have to pay if the FREE package isn't enough…it never is otherwise it wouldn't be free.)
deyterkourjerbs
I usually get contacted via LinkedIn. They don't show any examples of their work when asked. So… I don't reply.

makehertalk
When are you going to update your blog?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Probably never. In the next month or two I may end up redirecting it to a new blog more suited to what I'm actually doing nowadays.
Part of the reason it's down is that some of the information got outdated and I considered it irresponsible to leave it up. If I do bring it back, I'll have to go through and remove(or somehow flag) those posts.

thrillho111
Are you still in SEO at all? If not, why not?

lwbco
I can answer this! No, he doesn't. He runs his own search engines for Pay Per Click (PPC) ads now. He found SEO to be too unreliable, stop-and-go, on-and-off, now-you're-rich-but-wait-now-you're-not.
Source: First hand, real life friend.
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
lwbco is correct, I don't really do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) anymore. I was making better money with Pay-per-click, then had a series of hosting accounts get suspended that wiped out a lot of my sites. I just couldn't justify the time it would take to re-establish those when I was cleaning up on paid traffic.
SEO was great though. It helped me build the capital it took to move elsewhere. When I started BH I had ~$400 to my name. When I left I had enough to make my next move however I saw fit.

thrillho111
Cool, thanks!
Just quickly, what are you thoughts on Social and/or social media in relation to SEO?
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Can you be a little more specific?
thrillho111
Sure. I guess what I'm asking is, how important is Social when it comes to Search now, and how highly would you value it in relation to SEO? Do you think Social Media is a fad? Can it help SEO in some way?
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Sure. I guess what I'm asking is, how important is Social when it comes to Search now, and how highly would you value it in relation to SEO? Do you think Social Media is a fad? Can it help SEO in some way?
Yes, I think social is very important. For a moment let's put away the idea that Google understands social and identities(which to an extent they do) and look at it from a purely internal linking standpoint.
Let's use the example of a purely imaginary Facebook clone where all information is public. We'll call it FakeBook.
Your profile, while on Fakebook's domain, would not rank as good as their homepage. Why? Because that home page(and similar pages) are linked to from every single page in the site..so they receive link power from every page that links to them.
Now let's say you're a power user on Fakebook. You have 150,000 friends and comment regularly. What Google would see is 150,000 (internal) links linking to your profile. That means in Google's eyes, you are an important user – your profile has all this juice going to it.
When you post a link on your Fakebook wall, a portion of the link juice you received from those 150,000+ people is now going to that link.
If we extrapolate this out further and say that 10 of those people you're "friends" with have 200,000 friends and you(because you comment frequently) are on the front page of that profile, you receive even more linking power because of everyone passing it to them.
tldr; Yes, social media is important but not because it's social media. Even if Google were doing nothing at all to make it important it would be.
Do you think Social Media is a fad?
Nope, it's here to stay.
thrillho111
Great, thanks for taking the time out to answer. One more thing on something I was talking to someone about recently: how much value do you see in guest posting still? Is its main purpose to create a sense of authority for a source or writer, and publicity? Is there much link juice benefit?
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
how much value do you see in guest posting still? Is its main purpose to create a sense of authority for a source or writer, and publicity? Is there much link juice benefit?
I love guest posting and I expect it will be one of the longest lived strategies out there. It's by far the best way to get authority links.
Google doesn't mind you getting links by putting out good content onto good sites. Good content is what they want.
Cocopoppyhead
they are in the process of devaluing guest blogging now, in favour of posts created by the blog owner.
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Have a source for that? The logistics of doing that seem insane and I haven't seen a reduction of value in my own efforts.
volleyballmaniac
Since FB, G+, and other Social sites nofollow their links, wouldn't the links from them pass no Google Juice?
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
I was using Fakebook to create an "optimal" situation – many social sites still pass link juice. Also nofollow (in my opinion) is not as simple as saying there is no benefit. I think it's more fair to say there's less benefit.
Here is an interesting experiment on NoFollow and I'd tend to agree with it. At the minimum I'd say Google still uses nofollowed links to determine what your site is about and what the relevant keywords for the page are.
volleyballmaniac
Thanks for the article. If the authors are telling the truth, this is paradigm-shifting for me. I will definitely do my own testing on this now.

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unreal37
Let's say my friend has a site and he wants to buy a few high-authority links. He doesn't want to get flagged by Google as link-buying but sometimes you have to pay to get your name out there. But a few paid links never hurt anyone.
What would a high-authority link cost, and where would one go to find one?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
The best way I've found is to either find a competent content writer(really good stuff) and offer guest posts on authority domains, or find a domain that has one or two well placed potentially purchased links and contact them directly.
Failing that, direct contact even of people who do not already have paid links works a surprising amount of the time.
The best way to not get caught in a link network takedown is to avoid the networks. I personally avoid any centralized service.

Superdude22
How are you finding competent writers?
NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Forums mostly, but I've also had good luck putting up flyers on college campuses.
English majors are great and many are unemployed and all too willing to pump out good content for a fair price.
WebProSam
Yes, forums are a good place to find writers. I look for people who always tend to get caught up in heated discussions and write those proverbial "walls of text". They obviously have no problem producing content pretty quickly and you get to review their level of knowledge about the subject by reading their posts on that forum.
Superdude22
Thanks, had some troubles lately.

less_one
Do you see SEO users in higher demand now than in the past?
Offer a few simple tips for very basic SEO that every competitive industry/ website should be doing.

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Do you see SEO users in higher demand now than in the past?
Yes, they will always be in high demand.
Offer a few simple tips for very basic SEO that every competitive industry/ website should be doing.
Pay attention to your internal link structure. Anchor text, how frequently things link to one-another, etc. People get so caught up in external links they forget about the internals.
Pay attention to longtail searches. A lot of searches come in question form, involve local terms, or are full out sentences. If you structure your content properly (and produce content) you can eat these up all day long.
It's not as simple for "above board" sites, but when I was running auto-generated 10,000+ page sites I made sure that each and every site was sprinkled with cities, states, and a series of questions from "Yahoo answers". There is serious volume there and it's easy to get.

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biikesnow
What do you think about a site like PRNewswire? Or any online news distribution website for that matter? It looks like there is some SEO value to it but it also looks like you are essentially buying their service to publish your article and then have it automatically distributed and re-posted on other 'high-quality' websites. Is that considered link buying? Or since it's a "press release" it works differently?
Cheers

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
What do you think about a site like PRNewswire? Or any online news distribution website for that matter? It looks like there is some SEO value to it but it also looks like you are essentially buying their service to publish your article and then have it automatically distributed and re-posted on other 'high-quality' websites.
It provides a degree of value, but you're not going to be ranking huge with just Public Relations (PR) or even mostly PR. I use it, but as part of a greater strategy.
To be honest I've not had a chance to see how it performs in a vacuum…perhaps when I get a spare minute I'll give a better crack on it's own.
Is that considered link buying? Or since it's a "press release" it works differently?
I've never gotten a penalty for it or seen someone get a penalty for it.

FlyingNarwhal
How would you suggest starting in media buying and paid traffic?
Not an seo question, but i know you are moving to paid traffic.
Been in seo for a while. Fairly sick of how irregular it is.
traffic to webinar. Webinar for an 8k coaching program in the online business/info marketing niche that one of my bosses is having difficulty(mainly laziness) with. Courtly he's using Facebook for traffic. Doesn't like that he has to continually write ad copy. Did about 300k with referrals only last year. Students grossed about 2.5m. ~80% success rate.
Edit Also, he has a product in a rather comparative niche. Does great on media buys, but there isn't enough traffic to buy. Main search term has over 1000000 searches per month, but my experience has been in low comp keywords. Suggestions? Keyword is homeschooling

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
How would you suggest starting in media buying and paid traffic?
I'd start with retargeting the visitors you're already getting. The Return of Investment (RoI) we've seen from retargeting via places like SiteScout has been unreal.
From there I'd move to small buys through RTBs where you can quickly add/remove underperforming sites. Once you have a good idea of what your target is and how broad the appeal is I'd start into media buys.
Edit Also, he has a product in a rather comparative niche. Does great on media buys, but there isn't enough traffic to buy. Main search term has over 1000000 searches per month, but my experience has been in low comp keywords. Suggestions? Keyword is homeschooling
Sorry, I don't understand. That number of searches seems to indicate there's a lot of traffic.
If you're having trouble strictly on the media buy side, I'd perhaps start with AdWords to identify the domains where it would work, then contact the domain owners directly for a site-wide buy.

FlyingNarwhal
Thanks for the advice.
Sorry, should have classified that i many solo ads specifically for the homeschool niche. Not many in the market will sell spots to their email list.
I'll look into getting banner ads and links from the big sites in the niche. now personally I've never paid for a link. What would be a good judge for how much the links are worth?
Do you know of a good example for a site on Google adwords? Every site I've submitted has gotten slapped.
Again, thank you for this AMA. Let me know if I are ever in Tampa. We can party together.

houdas
When starting a brand new site today, what is the most important part to make it rank (for longtails, let's say)? Content? Links? Social media? All of this?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
For longtail it's all about content then having a linking structure that makes sure there's always a substantial amount of your internal link power being sent to those articles.

bizzykehl
do you have a software that does all that?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
When I was running thousands of sites everything was automated.

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fobygrassman
Are there any good ways to hide text on a landing page so that you can keyword stuff without visitors seeing it? I have a couple of Landing pages which i direct adwords ads to. My keywords on adwords are getting low quality scores for keyword which are highly relevant to my site however because my land page is ascetically driven i cant include that much text into it. Is there anyway to hide text from users and not be penalized by Google for it?
tl:dr what on site seo can i don't to improve me quality score?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
This will require some variations to get it right and make sure GoogleBot can comprehend what you're doing.
I would have at some point a bulletpoint list in a div with arrows on either side. Clicking either would have it show different information.
I would have it show all content on pageload, then use javascript to hide all but the visible ones. The hidden divs would get shown when the user clicks the arrow. I'd have one or two that cannot be displayed at all, but fit into the same setup as the ones that can be. So divs 1-5 may e able to be shown, but 6-10 encounter a hard-coded limit that won't let them be.
The trick here is getting Google's bot to come to one of 2 conclusions.
Either
1)The content is all shown(as it is by default on page load) IE Google has no concept of the JS execution that hides them.
Or
2) The content is hidden, but can be made visible again.
If you fail at #1 it will probably let you know really quick. If you fail at #2, it will require readjustment in how you show the hidden divs.
Alternate ways to do #1 would be shifting elements in front of the text, shrinking it down to small sizes, increasing the opacity, etc with Javascript. It will likely respond to each tactic differently.
Do it right and you can probably pass manual review as well.
I'd like to tell you "this is how you can do it without altering the page at all", but the fact is that Google Bot's capabilities change constantly so anything I could give right now to hide it absolutely would be outdated.
Edit: The important thing here is to always leave yourself a potential out. You don't want your experiments to get cut short by an account ban for keyword stuffing. Plausible deniability is your friend.

fobygrassman
thanks, i will try this out.

kuhcd
What's a random old blackhat technique that you liked to use that you're willing to share?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
I'll give how I did my setup for automatic/cloaked content(one of my earlier BH ventures)
I found a site with an affiliate program and multiple products, then dumped those product names into a script that found keywords for each product(IE: vodka, russian vodka, polish vodka, vodka hangover, etc).
Then I scraped content around those keywords, breaking it up into 1-5 word blocks and putting it into a database tied to the keyword I searched to find it.
The site would then create pages using that content, releasing new pages(and pinging the Rich Site Summary (RSS) out) every couple days. The page content was pulled randomly from the database, but using a number based on the URL as a seed number. That way you could point multiple domains at the same folder and have different content.
The layouts were automatically generated(and trash) because no one would ever see them. The only things they cared about were being different from their brethren and maintaining proper contrast.
The pages had the primary keyword as their main header, the secondary keyword(the one I'd found based around the first) as their secondary, and some combination of the 2 as the title.
If a Google Bot(or one of Google's IPs) came in, they'd see the automatically generated content.
When a non-search visitor came in(generally from the links I'd spammed), they would see a page that said "This account terminated for abuse" to keep the complaints low. When a search visitor came in, it would read in their search query and compare it to a list of affiliate products and affiliate links. If it found a keyword match, it would redirect them to the product. If it didn't find a match, it would send them to a sketchy Russian ad feed where I got paid per click and the ads were based around the keyword I passed them.
I'd then link spam(custom or XRumer) to various pages on the domain, mixing up the anchor text somewhat. I'd drop a few thousand links a day for around a week, then let it sit. If it didn't increase in rank, I'd do it again.
The end result: Google sees the content, people whose search was related to a product I could send them to got me affiliate commissions, and everyone else got sent to a Pay Per Click (PPC) feed of ads that made a little on the side. Oh: And anyone likely to complain thought my account was already terminated.

adsffdsawickedfire
If you were in a niche that was making you good coin, but the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) suddenly got invaded by site hackers and spammers (hacked education etc pharma-style), what would you do?

NonPoliticalAccount ✍️
Report it. That's all you can do. Point blank it will be nearly impossible to compete in the short term.
I don't generally report sites or support doing so, but it's really the only advice I can give here.

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