Today, comment spam made a triumphant return to my blog, which is a blessing in
one sense (I am getting more visitors!) and a curse at the same time.
I think it’s time to discuss some of the “black hat” SEO strategies and how to spot them and prevent them…
1. Comment Spam
Comment spam can occur in many forms. In all cases, the comment will contain a hyperlink somewhere. This is because the whole goal of the comment spammer is to generate backlinks from high-PageRank sites to his/her own site.
What does comment spam do if left unchecked? Well, other than polluting your content, it also lowers your own page’s PageRank! So it is critical that you stop and prevent comment spam.
Typically, the comment will contain a hyperlink either in the user’s name (most blogs allow users to specify their website URL when they post) or in the comment body itself.
To prevent comment links from being crawled, you must mark those links with the attribute rel=”nofollow”. This will tell the search engine to completely ignore that link. Most blogs do this automatically for username links, but they can still allow links in the comment body (as my current blog engine does).
A great way to stop comment spam is to not provide a way to post links in the comment body, or mark all links in the comment as “no-follow”.
2. Link Exchanges
Link exchanges are black-hat? Well, unless you just came out of a 5-year hibernation, yes. They are. Let me explain.
Google will progressively reduce the PageRank of a page depending on how many outbound links it has. Google recommends that a page contain no more than 100 links. Basically, the more links you have on your page, the lower your PageRank will be.
You can also get penalized and even excluded from online directories if your site has a page with many unrelated links. Now granted, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate between a legitimate directory and a link exchange. But generally, the link exchange consists mainly of external links (links that point to other domain names).
So as a rule of thumb, try to limit your links to external domain names and keep them relevant to your website’s content.
I’ve managed to find an excellent backlink checking tool that shows you every single site that is linking to you and what that site’s authority is (based on the number of outbound links on the page that is linking to you). If you see a page with lots of outbound links and low PageRank, it may actually be contributing to lower your own PageRank!
3. Keyword Stuffing
Believe it or not, keyword stuffing is NOT dead! I’ve seen it live, in action, on a high-profile website just a few months ago whose name I unfortunately no longer recall. There are many high-profile sites that still do it, and to some extent it still works: the high-profile website I found was ranked very near the #1 spot on Google.
So what is keyword stuffing? It is the addition of keywords not found on your page into your title/meta tags (description, keywords, and title). For the website that I found doing this, it was stuffing all three. The title of the site was literally thousands of words long!
Why should you not do it? I mean, clearly it appears to work. There is a risk that your site will be removed and possibly banned if found out. I cannot quantify the risk, but the potential impact is so severe that I would not be willing to try it.
There is a tool that allows you to check for keyword stuffing. There are probably more tools available out there with a simple Google search.
This is an amazingly deceptive technique where the page detects the user agent string of the crawler (in this case Googlebot) and actually offers it different content than what it would offer a real human. Obviously this is a really deceptive technique.
There is actually a tool that can be used to detect cloaking. Use it on your own website just to be safe, or to verify that your SEO consultant is not a crook.
So there you have it. These are just some of the many black-hat SEO techniques out there. I’ve given you the knowledge & the tools now to avoid these techniques and do SEO the proper way!
To get some SEO tips, be sure to check out my other SEO articles.