In this article, we are going to discuss Black Hat SEO. We are going to talk about spikes of fake traffic, how Google Analytics can be used to analyze it, and make a few remarks about companies that claim they can improve your website’s search engine rankings by using dishonest practices.
But first, what is honest SEO? Furthermore, why is it a buzzword and why would you be interested in it?
Let’s face it. Search engines, especially Google, run the internet. This is because people start their online sessions from search engines when they enter keywords to find information such as your website. If your website shows up on page 1 of the search engine results, people can click on it. If it shows up on page 8 of the search results, they will not see it. The higher the page number, the smaller the likelihood of finding it. Where it shows up depends on Google’s ranking algorithm. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process that can increase the visibility of your website by cooperating with Google’s ranking algorithm. In other words, SEO can bring a page from an obscure page right up front to page 1, where visitors will see it after entering relevant keywords. Because of SEO, your website will receive more visitors who are also referred to as traffic. Because the traffic brought to you by SEO is unpaid, it is often referred to as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. So organic traffic is highly desirable because it is free.
Let’s assume you are creating a new website and are putting good content on it. Good content is content that has no purpose other than to add value to the visitor. There are three things you can do to improve the search engine rankings of its pages.
1) On-page SEO
Ensure that the title and meta descriptions of your pages match the topics of your website. Sprinkle a few keywords, related to the core keyword, throughout the content.
2) Off-page SEO
Ensure that links from reputable websites are pointing to your website. Reputable sites have authority in Google’s eyes. Authority can be passed from a more reputable website to a less reputable one. Off-page SEO is an active part of Google’s ranking algorithm.
3) Social signals
Google has been tight lipped on whether traffic from social signals, such as tweets and likes, affects its ranking algorithm. The SEO community is divided. In any case, even if links from people’s social media profiles pointing to your website do not improve its ranking, it is good to have direct traffic from social media.
Webmasters often choose to outsource SEO related tactics, which are time consuming, to SEO vendors. Legitimate SEO vendors say that 4 to 6 months are required before you can see results. The result you want to see, of course, is more traffic. It can take a long time before their SEO efforts start to show improvements in your website’s rankings and you get a return on your investment (ROI).
Sometimes you can see results in weeks, not months. Fixing broken links, transforming 404, Page Not Found, errors into 301’s or redirect to the homepage, using rich snippets, reducing the load time of your pages by caching and making your site more engaging and lowering bounce rates can have dramatic results. High end SEO experts know all this.
This does not stop many webmasters from viewing SEO as a bottleneck. Over the years a philosophy has evolved that seeks to beat the search engines instead of work with them. This trend has created the dark side of SEO also known as Black Hat SEO. Why be abused by the system when you can beat it, according to this mindset.
But can you? In the old days of the internet you actually could through the use of illegitimate SEO tactics. Some of those involved keyword stuffing, insertion of invisible text, page swapping or changing a webpage entirely after it ranked, link farms to increase link popularity and much more. Because of this, the amount of internet spam mushroomed.
In 2011 Google modified its algorithm through a series of updates codenamed after animals like Penguin and Panda. As a result, Black Hat SEO no longer works and can now easily get your site banned from Google, even if it isn’t you doing the Black Hat SEO. It could be your competitor or the wrong SEO company you chose to hire.
Black Hat SEO companies have not gone out of business. Instead, they sell different services. A common one is fake traffic that is generated automatically. If you notice a sharp increase in your traffic, as if someone flicked a switch, this could be a sign of fake traffic. You can use Google Analytics to investigate further. When you do this, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Does the traffic come from new networks? Do the geolocations make sense?
2) Are all sessions from those networks new?
3) Are they all direct traffic?
4) Do they start from a URL that does not rank for a keyword?
5) Does the session duration last for a set range like 3:40 to 4:20 minutes?
6) Does the average pages per session number not change much?
7) How does the bounce rate look? Is it nearly constant such as 40%?
In other words, the behavior of your traffic should not seem robotic. But whether it is robotic or not can be determined from the statistics produced by your Google Analytics account. Not by looking at your visitor’s widget.
If you answered more than one Yes then suspicions are raised. Of course, the sudden traffic surge might be due to a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. But since this is a Black Hat SEO article, we are not going to explore this scenario.
How do Black Hat SEO companies generate fake traffic? Generation of traffic that looks almost real is not difficult or expensive. Traffic bots like the Jinglin software can do it and they are free. All you do is download the Jinglin bot and install it on your PC. Do not try this as this software can damager your operating system if you do not run it in a sandbox. You then enter up to 4 URL’s of the pages you want to promote. After a few minutes, the pages you have entered start getting hundreds or thousands of visitors from around the world. You can even control the shape of the traffic graph, during the 24 hour cycle, so that it has peaks and valleys and does not look flat. The traffic can look like real visitors. They browse around your website, click Like buttons and even follow you on Twitter.
Many “SEO companies” in online market places like Fiverr use bots like jingling to generate fake traffic. If you hire them, your website could get banned by Google. To understand the nature of the traffic you buy, use Google Analytics. But it would be best if you didn’t buy any traffic at all. Just find a reputable SEO vendor, after doing research, and hire them. Nothing beats organic SEO (oh, and nothing beats you up as much as Black Hat SEO).
Real search engine optimization is desirable because it is free advertising. However, it takes time and that’s a downside for many webmasters and internet marketers who would prefer instant results. Some may choose to outsource SEO tasks to SEO companies. Not all SEO companies are legitimate. Those that are not legitimate use Black Hat SEO strategies. In the post Panda and Penguin period, a common Black Hat SEO strategy is automated fake traffic. You can determine if traffic is fake by looking at Google Analytics. But don’t buy traffic, unless it’s AdWords. Stick to real SEO.