“Turn left in 100 feet-”
“Make a U-Turn-“
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. As thralls to technology, we tend to put our faith in the ‘GPS machine’ when going somewhere, now low and behold you didn’t make it to Grandma’s house. Instead, you ended up at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere and the pump doesn’t take cards.
Similarly, you have probably put your trust into online technology as well – and ended up in the wrong place, and now it’s too late. They’ve got your information. The phone calls have started. You might even be wondering why you’re getting several calls from people that you never remember giving your information to in the first place.
Chances are, you’ve encountered what the industry is terming, “Black Hat SEO tactics” which utilizes different techniques designed to trick not only search engine crawlers but consumers too. This results in the visitation of sites that you think are what you want. In reality, someone has mimicked the site you wanted, collected your information on their contact form, turned around and sold your information to any number of businesses. In that same way, as you would plug a location into your GPS to find a destination, you do a similar practice when you enter for a certain phrase or term in an online search engine.
You may be asking yourself: Why does Black Hat SEO exist? Is someone policing these sites? Why did this happen to me? Well, it all comes down to one simple, cliché fact: There’s money to be had.
Three main goals for Black Hat SEO:
- Drive traffic onto a specific webpage.
- Collect your information.
- Sell your information.
Utilizing these sneaky techniques allow these “Black Hatters” to drive you to the pages they want. Not the site you intended. Oftentimes, their tactics are so covert, it makes them almost unrecognizable as anything except what they’re trying to portray and what you’re looking for.
How to Spot a ‘Black Hatter’ – Methods to Their Madness:
- Hidden Text/Keywords/Links– This is when some web copy is made a text color that can’t be seen when viewing the webpage, as it blends into the background. These instances can cause you to click on hidden links as well.
- Cloaking– A website owner creates certain information in their code which allows you to see it on a search engine, but does not actually display on the webpage you are visiting.
- Social Network Spam– This is when web owners put multiple links on social media pages and posts.
- Link/URL Buying– A website owner purchases links and industry branded URLs to syphon off more traffic from the original brand.
Can the Real Brand Please Stand Up?
All of these techniques make it difficult for the average prospective consumer to feel good about whom they’re sharing their information with, and which sites are legitimate. While Black Hat SEO techniques are not recommended and viewed negatively, some web admins will do the unthinkable and go the extra mile to include hidden techniques to gain more views and traffic on their webpage! The end resulting in the consumer being mislead, their private information sold many times over, and often the real brand losing credibility to their prospects. Having the man power to locate, research, find and nail these culprits aren’t typically within a brand’s personnel bandwidth. Therefore, the trend to combat them has been to contract with third parties who do this on their behalf, and on a continual basis. After all, new content is created every day.
Surfing the web can get pretty dicey nowadays. *In fact, since 2016, on average in education for every 12 websites found, at least 1 of them contains a violation under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Education (ED) or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). That ratio is even higher within the finance industry where 1-in-4 sites contain a FTC, CFPB violation – all of which are deceptive to consumers and eat away at the integrity of legitimate brands.
If you have a site, you think warrants investigation, let us know by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Information based on total client data.