Online advertising has come a long way since the early days of clickable ads. What began with simple banners and straightforward redirects has grown into an entire industry that now requires businesses to dedicate teams to implement innovative online marketing strategies. Since most of our time is spent on the internet these days, it’s critical to be informed of how online advertising works. What may seem like the answer to an innocent google search is actually the product of dedicated teams of marketing managers, brand analysts, and SEO specialists who are curating the online landscape to their benefit—and sometimes in misleading, sneaky ways.
What is SEO?
First, a little background. For those who may not know what SEO is, the acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the process by which search engines—primarily Google, Yahoo, and Bing—list what they deem are the most relevant webpages for what has been entered into the search bar. To rank the pages, they each use their own algorithms to turn the information gathered from the webpages into useful search results. The more relevant the link, the higher it will appear on the search engine’s pages, and the more people have access to the high-ranking webpages, the more traffic a webpage will receive, which is the ultimate goal for any business with a website. Where mastering SEO comes in is by using techniques which can elevate the ranking of a particular webpage so it appears higher in said search engines. Successful, proper SEO maneuvers involve making sure the website has consistently good, reputable content that is beneficial for the searcher.
However, there’s a new phenomenon in the marketing world that tends to fly under the radar thanks to its devious complexity, and that practice is called “black hat SEO.” The problem is, what makes black hat SEO so sneaky is also what makes it violate the terms of service of search engines. It has escalated to the point where the tactics employed by black hat SEO practitioners have been pointedly banned in both Google’s Webmaster Guidelines as well as Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines. So what exactly is black hat SEO?
What is black hat SEO?
The term technically refers to any ads who use unfair or illegal means to increase their rank on search engines, but with such a broad definition, it can be hard to pinpoint what part of the SEO tactic is breaching the search engines’ guidelines. And, when you’re a business trying to increase your website traffic, you may not realize you’re doing anything wrong. A simple way of identifying a black hat SEO tactic is by distinguishing if the content on your webpage is valuable to the searcher or is merely intended to boost a web page’s ranking on search engines. Whether you’re the one committing these acts or you’re the one being taken advantage of by other SEO specialists, it’s important to be able to recognize what is above board and what is not.
Examples of SEO tactics
The titles of webpages are extremely important in SEO marketing, especially the ones that are in the URL or embedded in the page code. The titles matter because they’re interpreted by the search engines as the summary of the webpage, so when ranking, the search engines will take into account the relevance of the article for the keywords entered into the search bar.
On top of this, links between webpages are also important for search engines as they interpret links as recommendations for that page, indicating the page as a good source and one that should be passed along to the searchers. Linking specific keywords also matters, for instance, if a word is consistently linked on various webpages to a different page, then the frequency of the linked page will indicate to the search engine that the page is reliable and resourceful, and thus will give that site a good ranking.
Whereas, an example of a black hat SEO tactic is buying fake links that will redirect to the scammer’s website, tricking the search engine into thinking it’s a reputable source because of the number of links. The good news is, search engines are intelligent enough to give more credit towards the proven, trustworthy sites, which is recognized in their algorithms.
But wait, there’s more
In addition to the black hat SEO tactics mentioned above, a related online advertising trend to keep an eye on is “click fraud.” With the steadily-rising popularity of pay-per-click advertising, fraudsters are finding ways of taking advantage of brands trying to advertise their products on search engines. Click fraud is the process of directing automated technologies to click on a business’ pay-per-click ad in order to run their costs up or entirely dry them out before they reach their target market. A study found that in 2017, 1 in 5 clicks on pay-per-click advertisements was fraudulent. In addition to wasting valuable advertising money, click fraud also skews the intelligence that marketing managers analyze to inform their marketing decisions. There’s a whole host of online criminals looking to derail the campaigns of dignified business, so when making any crucial decisions regarding online advertising, make sure you do your research in order to ensure your ad is put to good use.
Be safe online
It’s important to be aware of the dangers that hide around every online corner. Advertising can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to creating an authentic, reputable brand presence online, which is why we offer a multitude of brand protection solutions, including our Paid Search Protect solution, which is specifically tailored to protecting your pay-per-click advertisements and defending trademarked keywords. If you’re a brand who’s concerned about online advertisement abuse, we’ve got you covered. In fact, we recently used this module in our own infringement case in which we had to combat a competitor’s use of our branded keyword. If you’d like to read the full case study, you can download it here or you can visit our website to see the variety of solutions we offer, and even sign up for a free demo!