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”>
<img src=”” 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.********” 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.********” 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.********” 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.********” 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.********” 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=””>late holidays flights</a>
<a href=””>late holiday</a>
<a href=””>free bets</a>
<a href=””>compatible cartridges</a>


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

<link href=”” rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” />

div.searchengineering {

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 – 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.

Halfords website does not work

After much deliberation I decided it was high time I replaced the car stereo in my car. It hasn’t worked since the car was stolen some years ago and the engine was replaced, tripping the security code for the BMW radio, which I do not have.

I’ve been without music in my car ever since. So, I felt now was the time to buy a CD player with MP3 player functionality. I thought I’d use Halfords as they offer store fitting, and they’re fairly cheap. I didn’t want anything fancy, just something to play music – surely their site would see my right.

You’d have thought.

I chose a CD player very quickly, went through their system to see if it worked in my car and found I needed an adapter harness. No problem, thought I might. I added the items to the cart, went through to the payment screen and entered my card details, which failed…

There is of course nothing wrong with my card, so I tried again. This time I received an unfathomable error message:

CMN3101E The system is unavailable due to “CMN0412E”

Well useful. I tried again and received the same message.

I gave up – but after checking my phone realised I had received two confirmation text messages of the order, but no email confirmation. It looks as though I’ve ordered two, somehow. I emailed Halfords the following message:

I am trying to place an order on your website but I keep getting the following message:

CMN3101E The system is unavailable due to “CMN0412E”.

However, upon checking my phone I have now had TWO confirmation texts – but no emails. Has my order been received? The ref number in the text is #12131662 and the order value is £105.41 for a car CD player, adapter and store fitting in Cheadle.

I then get a standard response saying they’re having problems, blaming their IT department, and saying that the website would be working again by Thursday evening. They added that the order had not been received. So I replied, somewhat cheekily:

So – does this mean I still cannot order from your site? Do you recommend a competitor I could use?

They came back later today saying their site is working now and I can try again. OK, let’s have a go I thought. I did, my third attempt to order, and instead of processing the order with the 5% online discount I should have received two days ago, it went through to ‘collect and pay in store’, before displaying the following, really helpful error:

Generic Error

The store is currently experiencing problems. Try again later.

Try clicking here to return to the page you came from.

We apologise for any inconvenience.

As I’ve been entering my credit card details into this pigsty of a website I’m a little concerned to say the least. When you run an ecommerce website it’s imperative that your website instils trust in the customer. Halfords website does not, it just doesn’t work.

False advertising for paintball in Manchester?

I have been paintballing many times in my life – although admittedly not for a fair few years and not in Manchester. My experiences of paintballing are that it’s a lot of fun, it’s very tiring, it’s expensive (if you go nuts with the paintballs) and, most importantly, it hurts when you get shot from close range.

Protective clothing is recommended.

Now, I saw this advert this week displayed on one of our sites – and it made me chuckle, while also annoying me slightly that ads like this can be used when they’re clearly false.

I have never, ever, been to a paintballing event where crop tops were the norm, as any bare skin would create the most painful of experiences should it get hit with a paintball.

Also, and it’s a minor point, the woman in the ad has her mask raised while she’s aiming the paintball gun – which is also a big no-no on safety grounds.

So, how do companies get away with ads like this when they’re clearly false advertising? Unless this is of course is for some very risqué paintballing venue in Manchester where you can take extreme risks with exposed parts of your body.

Either way – think I’ll give this one a miss.

Charles Evans

I received a comment on one of my Tesco blog posts this week from a Durham University student named Charles Evans. I say his name was Charles Evans, he actually called himself ‘The Chicken’, but he entered his email address as so I’m guessing, being a bright spark student, that he is actually called Charles Evans.

Anyhow, Charles Evans, from Durham University, decided to have a pop at me using some choice language claiming how he, being a Geography student and predicted a 1st, is better than I. Of course, being a student and unaware of the way the world works, Charles will be oblivious to how potential employers, and even higher education establishments (should he attempt to take a Masters or PHD) often use Google to research potential staff and students. As an employer myself I wouldn’t hire someone with Charles’ potential for embarrassing the company or school, and I certainly wouldn’t hire someone with Charles’ obvious poor grammar and spelling – seems they really do give out qualifications like candy these days if this illiterate imbecile can achieve 10A* grades at GCSE.

So Charles Evans, as you are in full time education, you’ll be used to someone (who is your inferior, of course) correcting your badly spelt twaddle with a red pen.

This is Charles’ message to me, and how he would represent your company.

The Chicken
Submitted on 2010/05/30 at 9:30pm

Mr Daz, your you’re a fucking chief. You work in the media? How the hell can you brag about that!? You have made a ‘film’…HOW THE HELL CAN YOU BRAG!?!?!?
I am a Durham university University educated student, has and have undoubtedly achieved/done more than you have at the age of 20 than you have in your entire live life, you pathetic little prick. I work at Tesco part time, got 10A* at GCSE and 5 A’s at A-level and am currently on track to graduate with a 1st from Durham (top 5 universities in the UK) in geography (currently most employable job amongst leading blue-chip firms)…what have you got? You have made a film? Fuck you.

Thanks for the feedback Charles – look forward to your next message with interest. However, not as much as I look forward to the look on your face when you realise just how the job world, and Google, work in tandem.

Good luck!