After people figured out that SEO was based on connections from other websites (in the late 90s, when Google incorporated this into its algorithm) things got a bit out of hand.. In the early days, it was as easy as creating a few links from a few websites, and bob’s your uncle, you had rankings. Then people realised, ‘hey, wait a minute, maybe if I make more links, I’ll get better rankings’ ? and this worked! Before you knew it people were creating thousands of links, using ‘link farms’ and other shady techniques to propel their sites to the top of the listings. This was the birth of ‘BlackHat’ SEO.
As Google grew smarter, it devised ways to root out these methods and the sites that were benefiting from them in what became a back and forth battle between online marketers and Google that is still raging today..
BlackHat techniques also grew stronger and more widespread as programmers started to develop software and ‘tools’ that would create thousands of links (often in just hours) that would shoot websites to the top of the rankings..
At the same time, WhiteHat SEO was also being employed across websites with other webmasters receiving fantastic results. While others would use software and build thousands of ‘spammy’ links. Those using WhiteHat SEO would only have to make a few connections to high quality related websites, to see the same results. As Google, knocked other sites off the listings left, right and centre, those using WhiteHat techniques didn’t experience any penalization and continued benefiting from high rankings..
As Google got better and better at catching out the BlackHat spam techniques, the BlackHatters improved as well.
Fast-forward to the late noughties and BlackHat techniques were starting to mimic WhiteHat more and more.. turning into what some would start to call ‘GreyHat’ (but what is still, in essence, BlackHat). While a WhiteHat campaign would focus on building up quality links over time and making real, lasting connections, BlackHat/GreyHat would copy this procedure at twice the speed, making connections that at first glance seemed high quality, but when looked into with further scrutiny, would unravel, exposing the spam that lay beneath. In recent years, GreyHat has evolved, where in some cases it can be difficult to decipher between GreyHat and WhiteHat campaigns. Private Blog Networks, or PBNs have been at the forefront of this complication, as connections from websites within these networks can be extremely hard to tell apart from legitimate websites. The problem here is that entire networks would be discovered by Google who would then ‘shutdown’ the entire PBN(deindex all sites from their search engine). (The Checklist section at the bottom of this post should help you decipher between the WhiteHat and GreyHat firms out there!)
The BlackHat motto, past, present and future has always been the same, ‘Cheap, fast results, that make money in the short term, but fade away fast’. This is why BlackHat marketing and methods will always have a place and there will always be demand for such services. A quick, spammy campaign is launched that holds together just long enough to grasp some quick rankings before the whole thing falls apart and you’re back at square one (or worse). The aim here is to profit as much in this small window as possible, before the house made of straw comes tumbling down. Obviously these techniques have no place anywhere near your ‘real’ business! At the same time they have their function and shouldn’t be ‘poo pood’ in general, horses for courses and all that..