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  • Hiding the Inner Shadiness of your Blackhat Sites

    Alrighty. So when it all comes down to it for blackhat, one of the primary goals is simple. Not getting caught. Sounds simple, but it’s definitely not nowadays. The trick is to be able to trick a human. If you can trick the humans, you can trick the bots. And more than that, webspam complaints won’t come in. So some of this may be a repeat, but it’s a good basic overview of hiding you tracks.

    Disclaimer: None of this is guaranteed. Many sites get caught no matter how careful they are. Don’t do this on your pride and joy until you are very, very good.

    Overview
    Combining multiple blackhat techniques increases your chances of getting caught exponentially. It’s relatively easy to hide cloaking. It’s relatively easy to hide intelligent link spam. It’s much harder to hide both simultaneously. This entry is not for the normal generated content+cloak+straight non-targetted link spam. This entry is for legitimate looking sites that are using blackhat to get a bump.

    Let’s Talk CloakingCloaking is one of those time honored blackhat tricks. Next to link spam, I’d say it’s actually a hallmark of a standard blackhat site. But it’s well known in the webmaster community. So how are we going to get around this?

    •  What are the Cloaking Giveaways and How to Avoid them

      • Redirecting to a new URL. Redirecting to a new domain=even worse.
        • Importing the Landing Page – file_get_contents(); is your friend. Nearly whatever you can show on an offsite domain or on a new page you can show on the page they were trying to access with file_get_contents, curl, or require_once (in PHP). Just output what WOULD’VE shown.
      • Lack of the proper keywords on the page.
        • The 404 Trick – Many sites have pages disappear due to crappy architecture. Showing a “this page could not be found” and doing a 3-4 second redirect to the homepage can work wonders in terms of plausible deniability. On the downside, it also creates a high bounce rate. (it also helps to invalidate bullet point #1). If you’re really paranoid, restrict Google from whatever directory has the “this page could not be found” cloaked/keyword stuffed pages. With proper amounts of keywords Yahoo and MSN can provide some good traffic.
        • Keyword Combos – Don’t stuff keywords in your cloaked page, stuff keyword combinations. Most people are going to start thinking cloaking when they search for a word not on your site and it shows up in the search results. Now what can work as an alternative is shuffling up a small amount of legitimate content(think 50-100 words) to include numerous different combinations of the same words. It does wonders for phrase matching the user’s search. Though I will point out this is still a risk, and whether or not the risk is worth it for a low level gain is up to you.
      • No ability to view a cached version.
        • Not much of a way around this one. The only way(I know of) to obscure the cached version is with javascript. Doing that not only increases chances of detection by someone turning JS off, but it also increases chances of getting caught by a lucky bot go up (since you essentially would have to cloak twice; once to trick the bot, once to trick the human)

    Let’s Talk BacklinksI’ve gone over some of this section before, but this entry would not be complete without these tricks.

    • Hiding Sketchy LinksThere’s a LOT more to this I can’t mention because it could be fixed too easily. Use your imagination.
      • Ranking by Not Ranking – If you’re doing the pyramid structure of links (shitty links at the bottom of the pyramid, funneling into better dummy sites funneling into real money sites) remember you may not want your crap bottom tier to rank anything. Take everything about SEO that you know and do the opposite(so long as you can do so without damaging the site’s linking power). Sites that rank get found. Sites that get found get reported. If your bottom level has no hope of surviving a few hundred real visitors, don’t subject them to that.
      • Hiding in the Back of your Backlinks- Yahoo is the only real backlink tool out there anymore that consistantly updates inbound links. So get yourself some legitimate and powerful links before allowing some of the sketchier ones in. Your powerful links will take up the first several pages of backlinks, and create a solid foundation. Every site on the net(for the most part) has links from a few scrapers. Some have 1-2, some have thousands. Most of the time a site isn’t judged by other SEOs so much by it’s crappy links at the end(since every site has these) but rather by the powerful ones at the front. A site with a few scrapers linking to it is generally fine if it has some solid, legitimate links holding it up. (Yes, it is my opinion yahoo’s linkdomain: command displays links sorted by relative power)
      • Contextual Power – If you’re buying links and need to hide it, go for the contextual linkage vs. the sitewide. Most sites never get blogrolled by anyone. Also I’m beginning to be of the opinion it’s bes to stay away from blogs for contextual links(not 100%, but if there’s any choice get a normal static site and add in the content). There is very little difference between a pay-per-post splog and an article directory that doesn’t disclose itself as an article directory aside from how the articles themselves are presented.
    • Straight Up Link SpamThese tricks are best applied in unison
      • Linkbait Spam – No one believes all these messageboards are linking to your ringtone site voluntarily. Sorry, but it’s true. Now, if you create a proper piece of linkbait then spam out links to that? You’re a little bit higher on the plausible deniability scale.
      • Targetted Link Spam – Most link spammers I’ve seen have the ability to pick topics that gain preference for spamming. In most cases, they can be set to only spam certain board titles. If you have a big list of forums and a truly powerful link spammer, try and hit your niche with the spam. Not only are you not getting spam reports, but you’re gaining access to the communities most likely to legitimately link to your site. So let’s say you have a piece of generic linkbait, not targeted tightly to a particular commercial niche. How many messageboards do you think have sections including the words “funny” “general [chat]“, “offtopic”,”off-topic”,”interesting”,”random”, “miscellaneous”? There’s a lot. And they’re the perfect places to link spam because they’re where your links may legitimately show up.
        The primary difference between automation and manual link building is that manual link building can include judgment calls(especially in terms of relevance). Make your bot able to master that, and you’re sitting on a gold mine.
        Also consider the idea of making a first run on your forums looking for introduction threads ;)
      • Finding Underspammed Forums – Now that you’ve got your levels of protection listed above so that your spam doesn’t appear spammy at all, it’s all about making sure you don’t post to the same forums as every other link spammer out there. If it’s important enough to you, code up a scraper that runs through your forum list. There’s a lot of traits you can use to eliminate spammy boards. Average number of posts for a user posting a new topic, average number of links per post or per category, even certain keywords(pharmacy/sex related) can be a giveaway.
      • Varying Your Text – As many of you know, I’m a moderator over at wickedfire(don’t go there unless you’ve got some thick skin). Certain posts(especially a first post containing a link) set off a kind of “this might be spam” mindset. Now, the first thing I(and I believe most) do is copy a line of it and search on Google. If the same comment has been posted elsewhere, it’s an instaban. Make sure to vary your text. If not to dodge savvy forum admins, then do it to make your sites look more legitimate to any snooping SEO/competitor. Also vary your name.
    • The One Universal Way to Create that Seed of doubt
      • As much as it pains me to say this, it comes down to the content sometimes. A site with proper content is almost never suspected of anything. I’ve seen many sites recently that had awesome content and were very well known. And at the same time looking at their SEO it looks like I could actually have a fair amount to learn from whatever sketchball did their SEO. Looking at the internet archive, it’s been like that for a long time. Why are they not reported? Well, first off because there is and always will be a double standard at Google. But secondly the blackhat is selectively applied, and done so intelligently, and has content to back up the doubters. Does anyone notice the stream of social bookmarks+news submissions+fake fanboy blogs+press releases every single time the corporate blog is updated? Not many. It survives based on that content, and has gained thousands upon thousands of links as a result of blackhat combined with it.

    Conclusion
    The most powerful sites out there are ones that can properly ride the line. They can conceal their own motivations and tactics even to the prying eye. For every webmaster violation, there’s a level of obscurity protecting them. For every blackhat link that may get busted, there’s enough that are (and others that just appear) whitehat to call into question their truly blackhat motivations. For all the bickering in the SEO world over blackhat vs. whitehat, it would appear the best are truly a combination.

    -XMCP

    PS: Apologies for the lack of posts. I’m really going to try to get back into posting. Personal stuff this summer stacked up, then I went to Boston, then I moved back to East Lansing(not as a student),  then I was without internet for 4 days. So it’s been a bit rough. Tune in next time for some affiliate marketing related rant.

    7 Responses to “Hiding the Inner Shadiness of your Blackhat Sites”

    1. Contempt says:

      Great post, and a lot of good points. Keep it up bud.

    2. aw says:

      Welcome back to Michigan :)

    3. Monty's Mega Marketing says:

      Nice post. I’m going to have to read it again to make sure I understand it. Hope all went well the other night. Did you use Listerine? lol

    4. Link Building Blog says:

      Welcome back xmcp and it’s great to read another post that actually has useful *mew* information! Good info on the pyramid tips..I use a model based on this and my crappy links at the bottom are always dropping off the map…

    5. Ben says:

      Followed this link from SEOMoz and was surprised to see it a little (if not massively) blackhat!

      Interesting all the same…

      Thanks for this summary,

      Ben

    6. mk says:

      what? MI? in gun rue here!

    7. Greg says:

      Getting backlinks is something that new website owners always struggle with. Noone, including me, has a good method of getting backlinks from relevant websites. Most of the time it’s considered spam. I think that Google, in particular, has recently put more weight on the number of good backlinks a site has when it comes tom ranking and thus traffic.

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