Black hat SEO exposed

A few years ago I wrote this post on an SEO website that no longer exists – and as it generated a lot of interest at the time, and comments, I thought it a good idea to dig it out and repost it here – seeing as it’s not online anywhere now, and won’t be classed as duplicate content.

I’ve amended the post slightly to update it, but the facts and resources remain the same.

As I try wherever possible to expose poor customer service and corruption, I should also use my expert knowledge to expose black hat SEO. One such example of black hat SEO, SEO that would have caused problems for the clients in question, came from a company that used to be called Business First.

They are a company I first came across back in 2004 when they had ‘optimised’ a website for a design agency that I worked for. The results were shocking, truly shocking. What this company did was fill the website with textual content and hide it off the page with the use of CSS. Now this is bad, obviously, and can get a site banned from Google. But worse was to come. They actually filled the textual content with links to other ‘clients’ of theirs, none of which were related to the subject of our website in question.

When I joined the design agency in 2004 I noticed this spam after a few weeks (as our own website was low priority for updates compared with clients’ websites). Our MD called me into his office and asked where all of the text on our website had come from. The site was displaying huge amounts of irrelevant text, and links to other sites. I had a quick look and explained that the text had been there for months, only he couldn’t see it because it was being hidden via CSS. The CSS was being called from the server of Business First’s website, and as their server had gone down temporarily, the CSS wasn’t loading, and all of the text was being displayed – text that was hidden in the code.

So, Business First not only spammed up their clients’ websites, they also used their clients’ websites to build links to other clients of theirs without the knowledge of the clients in question. That is spam and is highly unethical. Our MD was furious, so I removed the code immediately.

I then confronted Business First about this spam back in 2004, and they stated that they had good relationships with Google and didn’t do anything that was against Google’s TOS. This of course was a lie; they didn’t have ‘good relationships’ with Google at all and what they had done was in direct violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Of course all of this talk from me is well and good, where’s the proof? Right here:

This code sample is from the Way Back machine from the website of the design agency I worked for in 2004, so is still available today and is a living testament to Business First’s spam.

<!– Searchengineered by Business 1st–>
<div class=”searchengineering”>
<h1>
<img src=”http://www.b-1st.com/resources/shim.gif” alt=”brochure design, digital printing, web site design, design agency, marketing service.” />
brochure design, digital printing, web site design, design agency, marketing service.
<a href=”http://www.********.co.uk/home.html” title=”brochure design” onmouseover=”window.status=”” onmouseout=”window.status=””>brochure design</a>

Just like a bespoke tailor ******** offer you a complete service from concept to completion and you can use any part of it.
<a href=”http://www.********.co.uk/corporate.htm” title=”digital printing” onmouseover=”window.status=”” onmouseout=”window.status=””>digital printing</a>
brochure design, digital printing, web site design, design agency, marketing service.
<a href=”http://www.********.co.uk/creative.htm” title=”web site design” onmouseover=”window.status=”” onmouseout=”window.status=””>web site design</a>
Just like a bespoke tailor ******** offer you a complete service from concept to completion and you can use any part of it.
<a href=”http://www.********.co.uk/print.htm” title=”design agency” onmouseover=”window.status=”” onmouseout=”window.status=””>design agency</a>
brochure design, digital printing, web site design, design agency, marketing service.
<a href=”http://www.********.co.uk/promotions.htm” title=”marketing service” onmouseover=”window.status=”” onmouseout=”window.status=””>marketing service</a>
Just like a bespoke tailor ******** offer you a complete service from concept to completion and you can use any part of it.

<a href=”http://www.travel2order.net”>late holidays flights</a>
<a href=”http://www.premierexceltravel.co.uk”>late holiday</a>
<a href=”http://www.free-money.co.uk”>free bets</a>
<a href=”http://www.cartsandrefills.co.uk”>compatible cartridges</a>

</h1>
</div>

This awful black hat spam was all concealed with the following CSS.

<link href=”http://www.b-1st.com/resources/searchengineering.css” rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” />

div.searchengineering {
position:absolute;
display:none;
left:-50000px;
top:20px;
width:5000px;
height:100px;
background:#ffffff;
color:#000000;
cursor:default
}

At the time Business First also had this spam on their own website, but removed it soon after we spoke with them. Just for the record, here is the proof of what Business First had on their own website http://web.archive.org/web/20031204140744/www.b-1st.com/ – Notice the text rammed into <h1> tags in the source code? This is one company to watch out for if you’re planning on out sourcing some SEO.

Darren Jamieson, aka MrDaz, is the Technical Director and co-founder of Engage Web and has been working online in a career spanning two decades. His first website was built in 1998 and is still live today.

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