Google gets tough on black hat SEO

Posted on January 14, 2011

 

black-hat-seoGoogle flexed its muscles recently by banning a number of websites for using unethical techniques to gain an advantage in its rankings.

The search giant even took the aggressive step of emailing the webmasters of the offending sites to advise them why they had been dropped from their search engine results pages (SERPs). It advised them to remove each and every link or piece of coding that breached its rules and regulations in order to be considered for re-indexing. If they failed to comply, the websites might never appear within Google again.

Many within the SEO industry, feeling the heat of the competition in improving search engine results for their clients, resort to unethical, or ‘black hat’, methods to gain the upper hand on their competitors. Spammers are also engaged in a war with Google’s search algorithms, and so the blacklisting of sites is nothing new. However, this is a possible signal of a new, more open approach by Google, and offers proof that it takes sites trying to ‘game’ the system very seriously indeed.

The notice of the ban says:

“We’ve detected that some or all of your pages are using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines.”

“Look for possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank.”

“We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines.”

Although this is undoubtedly a step forward in the on-going war against spam, some people in the industry feel that a definitive solution is still some way off.

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4 Comments »

  1. Google has a difficult role to play here as there is a sliding scale from black to white with every shade in between. Link building is very open to interpretation as there are no real standards in the industry.
    That said, I think just about everybody now acknowledges that low quality spammy directories are a no-no.

    Comment by Jonathan — January 14, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  2. Interesting article, though perhaps you misues the phrase “unethical”. Unethical is things like torturing animals or lying under oath. While black hat SEO practices are deliberately short sighted and undoubtedly against the search engines’ rules, they are hardly unethical. As Google itself says, the sites in question are merely offending the quality guidelines.

    Comment by Mike Haydon — January 14, 2011 @ 11:20 am

  3. In response to Mike’s comment, although I agree with you that unethical is perhaps most commonly associated with those sort of things by the general public, is it not also unethical to take a client’s money and use it to conduct a marketing campaign that ultimately could be detrimental to their website?

    Comment by Sarah — January 14, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  4. Yes the question of ethics is raised by that fuzzy greyline between black and white. Always puzzling from the SEO’s perspective.

    On one hand we have Google guidelines on how to play fair and we have the clients who want to stomp all over fair and get to the front of the que.

    “I want my billboard built directly in front of the front guys billboard”, kind of thing.

    The challenge for the SEO is to be able to achieve this by playing by the rules when most other que jumpers are not.

    In response to Sarah, I believe it is only unethical if the SEO does not explain the risks to his or her client.

    But it would be interesting to see some more info on exactly what these banned sites were doing, as I said the line is grey and fuzzy at times, and a bit more info might help to clear things up.

    Comment by Greg — January 14, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

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