SearchNorwich Black Hat SEO

Search Norwich

I was invited along to SearchNorwich to talk at their new event on September the 6th 2018, it was the second event they have hosted, with over 50+ people in attendance which is a great turnout for only the second SearchNorwich. Free Beer, Pizza and a whole bunch of people from different industries in attendance, gives you the opportunity to network and learn from likeminded people.

Personally, I enjoy these meetups as there is a lot of value at these events in terms of networking, but also learning from other people speaking at the events, you get that one to one interaction with people and dealing with people on a personal level does work a lot better than speaking at events where you will never get to interact with the audience.

My Talk

My talk got a lot of good feedback but as always you do get negative comments, Black Hat SEO, cheats tips or tricks might not be for everyone and I’m not there to ram them down everyone’s throat, but they are very much part of what goes on in the SEO industry and its important that people are aware of tactics other people use. I was asked to deliver a controversial talk and discuss some of the tactics that people tend not to discuss.

But it is also important that you do any of the tactics at your own risk this may suit some businesses more than others, but also its equally important for people to realise that some of those who claim to be doing whiter than white SEO are also using tactics similar to the dirtiest spammers out there.


Video Transcript

So, my name’s Craig, normally what I do is training and consultancy. Now, I’ve been there doing that whole agency crap that quite a lot of people might do. Didn’t enjoy it, and listen, each to their own, just I’ve not got the right temperament for listening to clients. But I started out as freelancer in my bedroom, built up an agency, decided to sell my agency because, as I say, clients were busting my brains and wasting too much of my time, and it wasn’t enjoyable for me. So, obviously I’ve been through the different events, speaking at Brighton SEO, SMX Milan. You might see me on SEMrush webinars, and talking at Chiang Mai SEO Conference, which is on in October. I think it’s sold out now so if anyone wants to go it’s too late.

But, that’s where a lot of the black hat people are, people who are cheating are going to talk and that’s where you’d probably pick up quite a lot of knowledge. Because, as Mark said, trying to find out this information is really hard out there. You know, I spent years going round in circles, believing one guy, making mistakes, believing that this tool was the best thing, or this strategy was the best thing, and it was all a lot of garbage, in a lot of cases. So, it takes quite a bit of time to figure out what’s what, and how things work. So as I say, I had nine years as an agency, not for me.

Now, which hat do successful SEOs wear? Now, I don’t really like being called a black hat guy. People term me as black hat, and quite a lot of people in the industry will term me as black hat, dodgy or whatever. The same as, someone like Elody will be seen as white hat because, you know, they’re doing all that kinda stuff and allegedly not cheating. But, I’ve got friends (laughs) sorry, you might do it all legit. I’ve got friends who own agency and stuff and, they claim to be PR agencies and all white hat and stuff, they’re cheating as much as the next guy. It’s just what sales pitch you want to give to your clients, and obviously, if you say that you’re doing something dodgy, a lot of clients do get scared.

So, what is white hat? You know, ethical SEO, ethical practices. You need huge budgets to throw behind pay-per-click and everything else, PR, getting stuff in newspapers. Small budgets won’t work that far, and when I was starting out as an agency, I had guys that were paying three, four, five hundred pounds a month. Very small businesses, builders, plumbers and stuff, you can’t get them a link to the BBC or whatever, there’s just not enough time to pitch that, write your content or whatever.

So, somehow, you have to cheat or you just take the guy’s money and do no work, which means that you’ll no longer get paid, in the long term. Blackhat, as far as I’m concerned, there’s these kinds of spammers out there, you’ve probably seen them all on Facebook groups and all that kind of stuff, selling five hundred likes for five dollars, that website called Fiverr, there’s all sorts of garbage on there. That stuff to me is pretty much black hat. What I would consider, that I’d do is the money-hat stuff. So, I think it’s silly to label yourself one or the other. At the end of the day, we’re all here to make money, be successful, help our clients, and keep staff, and whatever else you’re goals are as an agency, to hit your targets and whatever.

So, there’s a difference between being clever and being spammy, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t go out to Fiverr, and that’s what I think a lot of the customers will think that I do. When they hear that term black hat, they’ll go, oh you know, Fiverr gigs and iWriter content, and all that kind of stuff, it’s all garbage. So, black hat SEO, it does exist to an extent, but it’s a load of garbage. People who know what they’re doing won’t really label themselves, it doesn’t really exist. The same way that the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, these guys don’t exist, it’s all nonsense, everything’s all lies.

I put a thing up, here. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. You know, I’ve sat, been an agency, earning hundred grand a year, or whatever, I was able to take out of an agency. It was garbage, it’s not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things when you’re turning over and you’ve got all these staff, and all these overheads, and all these tools, and everything else. I think, sometimes, you have to ask yourself the question, do I want to take risks and make more money? And that’s what I’ve decided to do.

So, traffic boners are what it’s all about. Getting high traffic going to websites that you work on, whether you own them, or whether it’s client websites, or whatever. So, the term traffic boners would tend to be something along the lines of that going up the way, obviously. And, that’s someone that I’d done a bit of work for, and you want to see traffic going up. And, that’s the kinda income that they get, 86 grand a month’s not bad, for someone who was earning a lot less than that, six, no, telling lies, probably starting about October last year. But, 86 grand a month for someone isn’t a bad income, it’s nearly a million pound business doing a bit of SEO, and what I’d done was so-called black hat SEO.

Productivity is the key. You know, what I hate about agency life is, that you’re having to do a lot of justification and not doing a lot of work. You’ve got a lot of pitches, a lot of board meetings, a lot of pie charts, and a whole load of other garbage, trying to pretend to the client that you’re actually doing work that you’re not actually doing. So, I think productivity is the key, to this, actually getting down and doing a bit of work is hugely important. Time is money at the end of the day, report on what you need to, to clients. Rankings, traffic, conversions. Clients are too nosy, they want to know everything. What links you’re building, how you’re doing it, why you’re not doing this.

Clients will say to me, oh I see Neil Patel talking on a blog, chatting some shit out there. He doesn’t even write, his ghostwriter probably stole it off my website. Clients are too nosy, but there’s nothing more painful when you hear clients saying, oh I heard this guy saying this, or I bumped into a guy down the pub and he said this is the best way to do stuff. You’re always arguing with clients, so time is money, you want to automate a lot of that shit, reporting and all that kinda stuff and get away from it, if you can. Or just, you know, evolve, and work smarter, not harder. You can delegate a lot of this stuff, you can outsource it, or you can use automation for a lot of the reporting, and all that kind of client garbage that you have to put up with.

So, I’m gonna go through some of the stuff that you guys probably want to hear about. I’m not gonna go into too much about private blog network, purely because the last few talks I’ve done, have all been based on private blog networks. If you want to know the ins and outs of how they work, you can watch one of the other videos, I don’t wanna keep saying the same things over and over again. But, private blog networks work really well, if they’re done properly. To this day, I buy domain names from guys, expired domain names and power up websites with them and they work really, really well. There’s a picture of a graph, where the PBN backlinks started, and you can see the increase in traffic, as a result of that. And, they do work.

You know, a lot of people say, PBNs don’t work, they’re garbage. These are only guys that have been caught, there are guys that have got PBNs that’ll just set up crappy, they’re all in the same server, they’re all full of crap content and all that kind of stuff. Google will penalize that kind of rubbish, but if you’ve got PBNs that are treated properly, they’ve got content on, they’ve got their own backlink profiles, and whatever else, then they are powerful. I’d say it’s just the same as getting a link from another website, so PBNs do still work.

You can have a kind of tiered structure with PBNs, you know, you’ve got your money website, you’ve got different tiers there, and then you’ve got all other tiers below it. You don’t want to power too much PBN right to your money website, you want to, for example, say that’s an article that Elody wrote on a website, and maybe I’ve been lucky enough to get a link on that article. I’ll maybe power that article up with a whole bunch on PBNs to make it really worth my while because your article’s probably gonna be average in terms of power. In terms of power, not average in writing. So, I would want to power that thing up and make it worth my while, and that’s where PBNs come in.

What a lot of people do, as I say, it’s called juicing up lights or whatever. They will also use things like Sape, which is a Russian network of links. Basically, what the Russian guys do, is just hack websites, so if I want a whole bunch of construction links, then the guys from Sape will get me links. Whether you like it or not, and whether you own the website, my link’s getting placed on your website and it will repeatedly get put in that website. Because I think, I can’t remember what the stats are, it’s over 30% of websites out there are built on WordPress, which is very easy to hack.

So, you might think you’ve got your kinda Wordfence or whatever you’ve got on there, protecting yourself but there are guys out there, placing links on your website every other day. So, that’s what Sape is and that is what I would power up Elody’s content with if I had a link on it. So, I’m not gonna damage one website, the chances are your getting damaged, so, if there are any penalties, they’re going your way.

Now, other things that work, now, what would say is careful when you follow the masses. Now, everyone is SEO, I know, has tried and tested, click-through rate, and click-through rate is a ranking factor. You know, it would make common sense, obviously no one knows the ins and outs of how Google works or whatever, but obviously, it’s all about testing. And click-through rate is something I’ve tested, personally, myself, and had good results. You know, I’ll use things like HitLeap or whatever, to send traffic to a website, to kinda make it look like it that page is getting a lot of clicks, and the rankings improve, it’s there for everyone to see.

So, what I’ve done, as I say, is do a lot of testing, so I can try traffic from different countries or whatever, as well, like the US and stuff like that. And, just throughout my testing phase, it goes up, it goes down, because I took it off, then it goes back up and it goes down. So, click-through rate manipulation, for me, does work. It’s something I’ve tried and tested, that’s my own website, I don’t rank for shit in America, don’t have any American link, but when I started testing that out, you can see the results do increase and decrease when you stop doing it.

So, as far as I’m concerned, click-through rate is a big thing. Now, one of the tools that you can use for click-through rate manipulation would be HitLeap. The cool thing about HitLeap is, it’s fairly low-cost, don’t know if I’ve got the price on there, yeah, so there’s the price, so, you’d probably only need about a hundred thousand hits a month, you know, maybe not even as much as that, maybe 30 thousand, so it’s $19.

And, basically, what you can do, on HitLeap is you can make that website look organic, you can make it look like referral traffic, you can make it look like whatever you want. So, if you want to make your website look as if it’s getting traffic from the BBC, of any of these of big, powerful websites, you can do so using HitLeap. And, it all shows up in your analytics as well, so it is working well. And, click-through rate manipulation is another thing that I would use to boost a website, on top of PBNs and everything else that I would choose to do, and it works really well.

So, [inaudible 00:12:04] doesn’t work, not sure what theory they’ve got behind it, but everyone I know in the SEO industry is doing stuff like that to get a decent lift on their websites. Now, other tricks that I have done, this is quite a naughty one, I’ve had to be careful because I wasn’t sure if this was being filmed or not, but this is one I no longer really do. A black hat-trick that I used to do, so I was doing a lot of affiliate stuff for hotels, through, and obviously, I was getting decent money for it, and I was thinking, how do I get more traffic to my website? How can I trick people into doing it? Now, you can go out there and see Elody, I keep using you as an example, but it’s funnier just to use you as an example since you’re a local.

Elody, give me great content, do this, do that, the next thing. Or, go out and get links, or do some other bullshit. I couldn’t be fucked doing that, so what I’d done, was every hotel that I approached. I basically said to them, I want to do a free audit for your website, I’ll give you a free audit, I want access to your search console, analytics, map listing, I’ll make sure it’s all in place and I’ll do it for free with a view to, maybe, getting an SEO gig. I had no interest in getting the SEO gig, whatsoever.

What is used to do, is basically go onto the Google Map listing and where it says website, it used to put my affiliate link in there, but I used to use a URL shortener and then, that was it, I gave them a shitty free audit, you know, Screaming Frog, or whatever. Now, these people are so fucking dumb, no one’s gonna goes into the Google Map listing to check whether that is done. And, even if they did physically go and look at it, they’re not gonna know what the fuck that is, it’s just a URL shortener. Now, everyone who’s gone through that Google Map listing has given me an affiliate fee, and I got away with it for years and years and years.

So, when Google Map listings came out, it was quite a good trick, and it still works to this day. I see Mark’s fucking coughing in the corner, over there thinking, what a fucking, what a genius. Now, even in an area like mine, now, I’ve not done this to the Hilton in Glasgow, just in case there are any Hilton representatives that are ever gonna watch this video. Even a hotel like the Hilton in Glasgow, gets 14,800 searches a month, so there are literally thousands of people looking for the Hilton hotel in Glasgow, and will go to that map listing and click on it, and I’m getting a percentage of every fucking fee. And, the Hilton don’t know, the Hilton don’t have a clue, they’re just paying me thinking I’m some great SEO guy.

So, I made quite a lot of money doing that, so that’s another black hat trick. So, you’ve got to think outside the box, is the point, here. There are more ways than writing good content to make money, and that’s the way it goes. Now, if you really want to be an absolute bastard, as well, which I tend to do. I also went in and put a premium number on the map listing, so I get paid 7p for every call they got, as well. So, anytime people were phoning up, I used to, you basically got websites, or companies out there, like that one there, who will give you revenue for having premium numbers on your website. So, that’s something you could do as well, on top of that, to make a lot of money.

Now, I’ll tell you a quick, it isn’t actually in my slides, I don’t think. Right, it’s not in, but I’ll tell you another good way I made some decent money, as well, and it’s a genius trick, and I made a lot of money doing it. Is, Elody talked earlier about content, and how much of what’s really important.  So, what I did was, built a website that’s just full of contact numbers for the likes of anyone who’s got customer service, whether it’s insurance, bank, whatever it might be.

So, I’ve got a website out there, I’ll show you it later on if you want, once this camera’s off. What I’ve done, is just ranked well for things like Barclays customer service. All I’m competing with is a shitty contact page that has no content on it. So, content alone ranks me well for it. So, when someone Googles Barclays Bank customer service, my page comes up number one and I’ve got a premium number on it. And, there are literally fucking hundreds of thousands of people searching for that shit a month. So, that’s another naughty little trick, that you can do with premium numbers to make some money.

Link building tricks. Now, there’s a couple of link building tricks I want to share that have worked really well over the years. 78% of the facts on the internet are unverified, it’s all just bollocks that people are putting out there. As far as I’m concerned, lies make amazing SEO. If you tell lies, you might actually get somewhere.

So, you’ve got things like The Telegraph, that’s The Telegraph newspaper. And, I’m not saying The Telegraph you can use, like, the Liverpool Echo, or any kind of local paper and stuff like that. You’ll always see at the very bottom, they’ll always credit whoever that image belongs to. Now, no one checks shit, remember what I said before. What I’ve done, and done very successfully, was reach out to people saying that’s my image and I want credit for it. The stupid webmasters don’t even query it, nine out of 10 people do not query that shit and give me a link on the website for free.

So, you just go on to Pitchbox, just do an outreach campaign and nine out of 10 people will give you a link, willingly, without even asking a question, like, prove it’s your picture or whatever. Obviously, one out of 10 will say, go and fuck yourself, no it’s not, I took it myself or whatever. Then you can just say, listen, you can either just bow out at that or you can say, oh it’s very similar to one that I took last month, or whatever.

So, that works really well. You’ll see, it works really well with bloggers, as well, they always put image source there and whatever. So, you could claim that that lion was your picture or whatever, and the chances are you would get the link, which is quite a cool trick. And, it does get you quite a lot of links and has been hugely successful for me over the years.

Also, other lies that you can tell, quite a lot of my PR agency friends do this kinda stuff, and they claim to be super PR people, and they’ve got contacts in all the right places. All they’re doing is making up bullshit case studies, making up stats and data, and asking a webmaster to update the stats and data. Now, all these newspapers and stuff are hungry for content, desperate for stats, and if you can provide them with those stats, the journalists will never, ever check that shit. I’ve never had a journalist check that shit in my life. I don’t know if some of you agency guys pitched to get articles placed in places, does anyone even verify what bullshit you’ve given them? They don’t, if your stats sound good enough, they’ll go on that article, job done.

So, just tell lies, it works better than telling the truth, as far as I’m concerned. Reach out to them, there are lazy webmasters out there, they don’t give a shit. The editorial person or it might an intern, or whatever it might be, they don’t really give a shit. They’ll just do what you ask them. The link gets placed and then you just rinse and repeat that process. And again, that’s another way of getting some decent links.

The RSS feed trick. Now, this might be quite naughty and Elody might not like this one. But, say Elody’s got great content again, sorry Elody. What I could do, is sign up to a bunch, or your RSS feed, your agency’s website or whatever, and whenever you post a blog, I’ve got a custom-made tool, well not me. Other people have got custom-made tools, which will take your content, alert me, and I’ll just copy and paste your content and send it to an indexing tool, and I’ll get my article indexed before you, and you’re seen as the one that’s copying and pasting content, not me.

So, if you ever want free content, that works really well as well. You can get a custom-made tool for about a hundred dollars that will just grab the, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do, and grab someone like Elody’s good content and pass it off as your own. You might get into legal battles and stuff, but there are people out there doing this stuff for PBNs and they don’t really care about legal battles because the websites are not listed in any legit person’s name. So, that works really well, as well.

If you’re doing affiliate marketing and stuff, as well, then laws and legal stuff really do not come into it. So, it might be different if you’re an agency or whatever, but that’s quite a good wee trick.

Another good tool, that’s, it’s not so much black hat, I don’t know if any of you guys have heard of Which basically automates your whole LinkedIn process. So, I’ve got quite a big following on LinkedIn, I think I’ve got nearly 40,000 followers. Now, what do you do? I don’t really post a lot of great content there, because I’m not really interested in trying to acquire new clients. But, what I can do, is do outreach. So, if I wanted a link in say, The New York Times, I can reach out to someone automatically to The New York Times, or people who are interns at big newspaper publishers or whatever it might be. I could add them, I could mass message them and I can get links from them.

So, you can use it as an automated kind of outreach tool. But, you can do a whole heap of other things with it, as well. You can basically add people within the SEO industry, you can delete people that you don’t want, like recruiters, if they’re bugging you or whatever, then you can automatically delete people from it. You can view people’s profiles, you can endorse them automatically, add them to groups automatically. It’s a great tool, and it only costs £15 dollars a month, and that’s been the secret to me building up my LinkedIn profile over the years, is that automation. So that when anyone does automatically message me, then I can just do it manually, no problem at all, but all that grunt work is done automatically, and it’s doing the work 24/7, so it works really well.

But that is enough tips, don’t know if I’m running out of time or not, but that is a couple of the kind of black hat tips that I wanted to share with you. You can take from them what you will, but they do all work and work really effectively. So that’s just some of the stuff that other dodgy SEOs are doing, over and above some of the stuff you guys may be thinking of doing, or talking about doing or whatever. There are guys out there doing all sorts of outrageous stuff, thinking outside the box. I think that’s what you need to be doing, rather than chatting crap to clients.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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