When you’re utilizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO), know this: Google is your one true overlord that decides the fate of you and your business. And as its loyal retainer, you must heed its rules and regulations in order to be rewarded with traffic and revenue stream.
But with millions of competitors looking to take your spot on the first page of search results, sometimes you might feel the urge to rely on… ‘Band-Aid’ methods to get you by.
Those shady methods are widely known as black-hat SEO.
Black-hat SEO refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies that aims to boost rankings by manipulating search engines’ algorithms. In essence, black-hat SEO tactics neglect the human audience, and forgoes the search engines’ guidelines in order to deliver quick (and unsustainable) financial returns!
Unfortunately, as many cautionary tales so explicitly suggest, the end never justifies the means. In fact, relying on black-hat methods will usually end in getting your site ‘blacklisted’ and completely removed from the search engines. Put simply, you’ll lose leads, and a sizeable chunk of your SEO investment, too.
Here are three real horror stories of SEO gone terribly wrong to show you what we mean.
1. BMW’s Doorway Pages Lead to Ruin
If you thought big businesses couldn’t dig themselves into a hole, think again.
BMW is a well-established, multibillion-dollar company famous for its luxury cars. With such a large following of die-hard car heads, what were they thinking, relying on black-hat SEO tactics?
Despite its power and autonomy, Google is fair and adjudicating; regardless of how much credit your name holds, it’ll swing its hammer of justice down on you without hesitation. Unfortunately, BMW wasn’t aware of this when they incorporated doorway pages to unnaturally attract links.
Doorway pages are a kind of redirect, designed specifically for search engines. They’re created for one purpose: to boost your rankings. Here’s how Google defines doorway pages:
- Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
- Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
- Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, searchable hierarchy
This practice was actually fairly common in 2006 when search engines didn’t have such strict guidelines to abide to. But as search engine marketing became more and more essential, the playing field had to be adjusted to make it fair game for all businesses alike. An online code of ethics, if you will!
And boy, did BMW capitalize on this tactic while they were in the clear. They held a number of prominent number-one rankings for generic keywords like “used car” for quite awhile. But once Google found out, BMW had to pay the price quite dearly.
Get this: Google penalized BMW by taking its domain authority all the way down to zero!
How’s that for fair game?
2. Trolling Motors Anchors Down Into Oblivion
It’s also very possible for you to be breaking the rules, without you even realizing it!
For instance, by the time Andrew Youderian realized what was going on with the SEO of his business, he was already on Google’s chopping block.
Andrew’s a successful ecommerce site builder who ran his own SEO on his first website in 2008, and decided to launch another called Trolling Motors soon after. The difference this time is that he bought his SEO services from an outside firm.
And unfortunately for Andrew, that’s where it all went wrong.
He tried to maintain a careful eye on the SEO firm’s activities, making sure there’s no funny business secluded in the shadows. But business started to pick up fast. So fast, that he began leaving the job to the SEO team, and focusing his attention on other matters at hand.
But without Andrew’s supervision, the outside firm began cutting corners. They over-optimized, so to speak–there was a plethora of similar anchor text and links that were bought and spammed to no end. In fact, one page had 14 of the 15 linking domains using similar anchor text!
Google’s Penguin algorithm update, which was built to target over-optimized sites and backlink profiles such as Trolling Motors, put the final nail in the coffin. His site’s organic traffic dropped over 80% in a few days!
And go figure – the Penguin update didn’t negatively affect his first ecommerce site, which had all its SEO done properly by the man himself.
3. Brad Gerlach Link Wheels Into Disaster
You know the old adage: if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Brad Gerlach, another ecommerce site builder that survived a brutal SEO tragedy, knows it all too well. Like many of the business owners out there that don’t have the budget to purchase SEO services, Brad took on the noble DIY approach.
Unfortunately, he only thought of the objective, and not the means to go about it. This resulted in reckless exploration of black-hat SEO strategies to manipulate Google’s algorithm.
He began by link wheeling, which, according to Forbes, is a type of SEO linking scheme that involves a paid exchange of links for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings.
While it was frowned upon, link wheeling was a common strategy used by some of the most reputable Internet marketers at the time. His posts were getting indexed and ranked nicely, and he saw a significant increase in traffic. So Brad continued to paddle down the narrow creek, leading to more black-hat SEO strategies to over-optimize his content.
Brad’s two biggest goofs were:
- Using Fiverr to purchase link building services
- Purchasing monthly subscriptions to services that would do everything on autopilot
But then came the day of Reckoning – Google’s Penguin update crippled his site’s traffic to an almost unrecoverable state. The update analyzed backlinks by their relevance of site from which the links are coming from, and the anchor text of the links – both of which meant an end to Brad’s SEO dream.
The results were severe. His site didn’t just fall a couple pages; instead, it fell out of Google’s search results altogether for most of his targeted keywords. While his business once sat comfortably among the top five, his traffic and revenue stream came crashing down.
Don’t Push Your Luck!
Relying on black-hat SEO tactics to get ahead is sure to incur Google’s wrath–it’s not worth it! Just ask Andrew, Brad, or BMW. While the short-term results may be alluring, the fallouts over the long run will always be devastating.
There’s never a need to resort to underhanded schemes. As long as you have a reliable marketing plan and SEO strategy – and stick with it – white-hat SEO tactics can and will get your business the traffic and revenue stream it deserves!
Just remember: do your research, stay diligent over your SEO activity, and never take shortcuts!
If you’re looking for Search Engine Optimization done the right way, our team has focused on white-hat strategies since our inception. We’re proud to say that none of our SEO clients have ever been blacklisted from search engines!
Contact us today to get your site on the white hat path to climbing up the Google rankings!