Marketing is a tool to increase awareness of your products, services, and brand, but what happens when this tool is misused? Deceit and fraud are all too common in the world of marketing, and any hint of either in your marketing can doom your brand forever. Recognizing the practices of the dark side can help you shield your business from its harmful effects.
When marketing becomes a source of misinformation, we’ve reached the dark side. The say anything mode of marketing is what gives all marketing a bad name, but that’s not the only tool of the dark side of marketing. So, how can you insure that you’re always on the right side of marketing practice? By not using the following unethical marketing practices.
7 Black Hat Marketing Practices to Avoid
- Keyword Stuffing. This is the practice of loading up a webpage with keywords or numbers to rank higher on Google and other search engines. This was a successful SEO tactic in the past, but today it’s a no-no. Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts said last year SXSW:”We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and a great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”Another downside of keyword stuffing is that it creates a horrible user experience. Wordstream gives this illustration: Are you looking for cheap running shoes? If you’re looking for cheap running shoes, look no further. Our cheap running shoes website is the best place to order your new cheap running shoes. Feel free to check out our selection of cheap running shoes from our cheap running shoes selection below. Who wants to read garbage like that? Keyword stuffing – don’t do it!
- Irrelevant keywords. Some geniuses use keywords that have nothing to do with their content in order to rank for these key words. The problem with this is that Google use Latent Semantic Indexing to find these pages and then penalize them in page ranking.
- Article spinning. It’s no secret that search engines love fresh content. Article spinning is rewriting a post in an attempt to pass it off as new content. An article or post can be rewritten multiple times and submitted to multiple websites. This practice can build backlinks and improve your own site’s SEO by establishing you as a greater authority on what you are writing about. Article spinning can be done manually or with software. The problems with it are numerous. First, Google and Yahoo do not look kindly upon the practice and will penalize you for it. Second, some people believe that it’s unethical and you will hurt your reputation with them. Third, if you buy software to do this, too often the spun post or article comes out very poorly. In some cases, the automated article is unreadable.
- Buying links. This is a clear violation of the Google terms of service, but there are marketers who do this. Google will lower page rank, and in some case de-list websites that are caught doing this. In March, hotels.com got an ugly black eye when it was caught buying links.What are some other bad aspects of buying links? One, the conversion rates from bought links are generally low. Two, this can be a very expensive endeavor. Ahrefs ran tests in 2016 and this year to see how much link buying costs. In 2016, the average was 353.92; in 2018, the average was $361.44 (an increase of 2.4%). In 2016, the average came from 250 websites; in 2018, the average was from 450 blogs.
- Link exchanges. This is similar to buying links, but the difference is that the quid pro quo is reciprocity. You link my website in exchange for me linking yours. Google will downgrade you for this.
- Buying followers. Buying social media followers has some of the same drawbacks as buying links. First, it’s a clear violation of the terms of service for Instagram and Twitter, and it likely violates the terms of other services. Second, conversion rates are generally low. Third, like hotels.com, you can take a bad hit to your reputation if (when) you are found out. Fourth, chances are some, if not many, of your new “followers” may be fake accounts. The Washington Post reported in May that Facebook disabled 583 million fake accounts. Do you think that’s the end of the problem? No way.
- Buying email lists. There are companies that will sell you email lists. What’s the problem with this? First, reputable email marketing companies don’t allow you to send to lists that you’ve purchased. They require email opt-ins. Second, as with buying links and buying followers, engagement is low. Third, the delivery of emails to these purchased accounts may end up identifying you as a spammer, which will kill ALL of your email delivery rates. Fourth, you may end up annoying the people who receive emails from you since they don’t know you and don’t know why you’re emailing them.
What black hat practices would you add to this? I invite your comments and questions and your likes and shares.