Black Hat SEO – is someone playing fast and loose with your website?
We found dozens last year, and now we’ve found another one – an innocent website with hidden links which don’t show up on their pages. It’s called Black Hat SEO in web circles. It’s difficult to know precisely what’s going on – but we can speculate.
We discovered a pattern last year on websites built by one particular web designer. Each site he built was being used to provide back links to all the other sites he built – all in the same industry sector.
How would you feel about linking to your competitors’ websites?
What we didn’t understand was why some had a link to a Japanese site. The link puzzled us at first, until we used Google Translate to read the words on the site – it was selling sexual performance drugs. Then we heard one of the site owners with this dodgy link had refused to pay the web designer for ‘SEO services’. The only conclusion we could come to was … if people didn’t pay up, they got one or more bad links hidden on their site to deliberately compromise their site’s performance on Google.
Our recent find on a holiday accommodation website from yet another unethical web developer didn’t look as bad at first glance … there were only three hidden links on the home page. But when we checked the rest of the site, we found nearly every page carried hidden links to suspicious websites.
On the home page, one link is to a UK SEO company … perhaps the site owners have been using them for their SEO. But if you were a reputable, ethical SEO company, you wouldn’t hide links on your clients’ sites. It’s a practice Google warns against. Looking at the SEO company’s website, there is only a phone number – no address, no company or any individual details. Would you trust a company like that?
The other hyperlink is to a UK company promoting legal ‘bulking-up’ steroids … no possible connection we can think of to a holiday accommodation business.
The final link is hidden in some code which may have something to do with visitor stats, but it could equally be a malicious payload which infects visitors with a virus. The web address in the link points to a site which performs traffic analysis on Russian websites. So where does a family-run business in the UK figure in that?
So, if you have a website … however much you trust your web, SEO or marketing people, go and check the source code to see if anything is hidden.
How do you do this? In Chrome, use the keys CTRL-U. In Firefox and other browsers you can usually right-click on any clear part of the window (i.e. next to the site content) and choose ‘View Page Source’. You’ll see all the code which the browser uses to display your site. Scroll right to the bottom and look for website links which you can’t see on your website. If you find something, you need to start asking questions.
Have you wondered what the term ‘Black Hat SEO’ means? It’s used to describe unscrupulous people who try to cheat the SEO system instead of playing by the rules. While they might think they’re being clever, they’re not as clever as Google. If your site has suffered from Black Hat SEO, Google will know about it and there’s a good chance your site will have been penalised as a result, and this will affect your rankings.
The origin of ‘Black Hat SEO’ goes back to the old black and white cowboy films. The villains wore black hats, and the good guys wore white hats.
We at WEB-right are most definitely ‘white-hat’ people.
Image Credit – 123rf