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How to be White Hat in a niche that is dominated by Black Hat SEOs?

     
3:35 pm on Dec 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So I started a website in a very spammy niche about 5 months ago. The niche is mostly dominated by absolute and obvious black hats (plagiarism, fake products, survey scams) that buy links, buy facebook likes, use youtube bots, use PBNs, lock "free offers" behind social buttons, do negative SEO and so on.

While I'm doing quite alright so far I feel that I was almost forced to use some less than White Hat methods (mostly guest posts and w 2.0 links) to even get my site to rank above page 3.

So here is my question:
How do you stay absolutely White Hat and make sure you never get penalized when you are trying to rank in a niche that is literally dominated (whole 1st page) by sites that are spamming black hat techniques all day and google does not seem to care?

It seems almost impossible to me, simply proven by the fact that at this point in my particular niche there is not a single White Hat ranking on page 1.

Has anyone else experienced this situation?
8:54 pm on Dec 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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You appear to be more concerned with tactics and finding ways to deceive Google than with trying to create a useful high-quality website.
1:15 am on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Just out of curiosity, why did you pick this niche, knowing what the competition was like? Me, I don't like to beat my head against a wall; if I don't have a clear idea going in how I'm going to dominate, I pick another niche.
1:38 am on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Do the plagiarizers and other black hats come across as scumbags to consumers? If so, creating a site that's genuinely useful--and that passes the user sniff test--could give you a competitive edge over the long haul.
2:19 am on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I just look a the neighborhood. If filled with thuggish SEO, why would I want to be there? In the struggle to rise to the top you'd get washed in the same (by the users clicking and clicking and clicking). Why take chances?

There's more than one niche in the world. :)
9:32 am on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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For me (to copy what's already been said above) the only way to beat the them is to be in it for the "long haul" and create content which is "genuinely useful". It takes a year or so to gain traction and takes a lot of effort to create the useful content but it does work in the end. When it does work, it seems to stick for several years without much additional effort.

My sites are 99% informational but it also works in e-commerce. I experimented with selling one product and my aim was to get to number one in the SERPS, and that included being above Amazon, selling exactly the same product. It took me just over a year but in the end the number one position was mine. I packed many pages of useful content around the main sales page. No paid for links (very few natural links) or other tricks, just hard work.
3:08 pm on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The problem is really trust.
Do I trust google to root out the black hats at some point?

And to be honest... no I really don't. These sites have been ranking for over 1 year now (as far as I tracked the niche) and there is absolutely no sign of google trying to solve the problem.

But joining the black hats is a risk as well... what if 3 years down the road google eventually punishes all of them and I get punished as well and lose half my income.

So basically you are screwed if you dont, you are screwed if you do.

I just want people to share their experience here so that we all can learn about competing in black hat niches. I do not intent to answer questions about my particular case.

To me it seems that google does not have black hats under control...

Black Hat techniques I see working
- Fake google searches and clicks (end search on result) done through bots and botnets
- bots are also used to search for branded keywords like "brandname buy now" found out through search suggestions
- Fake Social signals (probably botnets)
-- Comments work best (especially if the comments are mentioning other people and get likes)
-- Shares work well
--- Likes do work a little bit
- YouTube viewer and referrer bots
- PBN links and hacked site links
- negative SEO

Its quite sad. But I guess as long as algorithms use signals, signals will be faked.

I just wish google could stop pretending they can outsmart the black hats, because they really, really cant.
3:45 pm on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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These sites have been ranking for over 1 year now (as far as I tracked the niche) and there is absolutely no sign of google trying to solve the problem.

It does seem that some niches are worse than others. Maybe Google doesn't agonize too much over the quality of search results in certain niches that attract horses of scummy site owners (and, to some extent, scummy users)?
3:51 pm on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So basically you are screwed if you dont, you are screwed if you do.

I just want people to share their experience here so that we all can learn about competing in black hat niches. I do not intent to answer questions about my particular case.


We all have complaints about Google. Complaining doesn't make money, adapting & overcoming does. Hopefully I'm wrong but I have a feeling you might be more interested in complaining about Google and less interested in figuring ways to profit online. Please prove me wrong by stop complaining about Google and start engaging with the productive tips that have already been posted.
4:20 pm on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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there is absolutely no sign of google trying to solve the problem.


You already know the answer, this problem has been around for years and they either are not bothered about it or haven't a clue how to resolve it.
5:45 pm on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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certain niches that attract horses of scummy site owners

So it attracts their horses.
Also, does "scummy site owners" mean owners of scummy sites, or scummy owners of sites?
5:57 pm on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Put aside the hats - it really means nothing.

The niche is mostly dominated by absolute and obvious black hats (plagiarism, fake products, survey scams) that buy links, buy facebook likes, use youtube bots, use PBNs, lock "free offers" behind social buttons, do negative SEO and so on.


You're either in that market, or you're not, but don't let it tear you up.

If users buy from dodgy looking sites, and you don't want to make a dodgy looking site, don't do it.

Focus on quality, and focus on the user. Let the search engine sort out the problem as it's up to it to offer the best solution for the user, not you.
10:57 pm on Dec 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Whitehat seo is a Oxymoron. There is no such thing. There are just levels of blackhat.
10:18 am on Dec 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Whitehat seo is a Oxymoron. There is no such thing.


I'm sure W3C will be pleased to read that.
5:56 pm on Dec 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Tactics aside, building a quality site will give you a leg up over the competition. <snip>

[edited by: goodroi at 7:21 pm (utc) on Dec 10, 2015]
[edit reason] Welcome to WebmasterWorld, please go read the forum rules :) [/edit]

7:16 pm on Dec 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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BS, I stand to be corrected by a mod or admin, but outing the niche would be tantamount to outing the ranking sites (that have already been described as "black hat") and it's been a longstanding WebmasterWorld editorial policy to prohibit outings. Indeed, outings have been defined as an offense worthy of banning a member.

Just a polite FYI. YMMV.
7:22 pm on Dec 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Webwork: Oh sorry, I was not aware of this policy. I thought this only applied to outing specific sites and not niche in general. Such as, "men's fitness" or "mommy blogging." That cannot be too harmful just to put the thread into context can it?
7:27 pm on Dec 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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If we keep it general like "mens fitness" it isn't adding much to context and if we get too specific like "mens fitness for out of shape webmasters" then we are outing the sites ranking for that specific term. Best to be safe and not mention the niche. We all know different niches that are similar to what has been described here. Thanks :)
7:28 pm on Dec 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@GoodROI Alright, I understand. :-)
8:27 am on Dec 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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"White hat" is there any business thatís whiter than white? Not Google for sure.

"White hat" "Black hat", just silly words.
12:25 pm on Dec 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I am also going through the same dilemma. What I am planning to do is creating 2 websites in same niche. 1 of which I'll optimize in totally white-hat way and I'll use all blackhat/greyhat stuff with other domain.

BTW theres a very good case study on Moz on the topic, 'white-hat link building in gambling niche'. I found it helpful.
1:58 pm on Dec 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I wouldn't necessarily think in terms of "hats" as much as how you're going to differentiate yourself from your competition, the amount of risk you're willing to take and how much sustainability you're after. Assuming you are not actually considering defrauding your users - there are no laws about what you can or can't do in the search engines. You are free to try whatever works (and Google is free to decide what you're trying is against their guidelines and penalize you) If you're looking for short term gains, that's certainly a business model for some. If it's sustainability you're after - well then, you might want to mitigate more risk in what you practice.

The worst, and I mean the worst thing you can do, however, is fall in love with your niche. Trust me - I've done it, and it's cost me bigtime in time, effort and money. Don't do it.
2:49 pm on Dec 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The worst, and I mean the worst thing you can do, however, is fall in love with your niche.

You should already be in love with a niche before you create a website in it in the first place. I would never try to create a site in a niche that I wasn't already interested in and already knew thoroughly before I started.
3:35 pm on Dec 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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There's a difference between being interested or having expertise or enjoying a niche, and falling in love with it. The former is usually necessary for success. The latter can make you blind to reality and cause you to keep beating your head against a wall trying to make it work long past the time you should have moved on to something else.
9:52 pm on Dec 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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This very morning I checked to find that a black hat site with thousands of spammy links, which had slowly climbed to the top for a very nice search term, has finally disappeared completely from Google's SERPs. Better late than never. However, it happens to them all sooner or later.

Go the black hat route yourself if you wish, but be prepared to have to churn and burn. Personally, I prefer to sleep soundly at night.
4:56 pm on Dec 14, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I will not say that White Hat SEO doesn't exists, but honestly nowadays ranking a website, is more than just optimizing content, accessibility and user experience. I m in the SEO industry since years now and for my opinion, SEO in almost of the cases, means cheating Google (in some ways). No matter wich tactics do you use. Yes some are more risky than others... but at the end you are trying to play with Google.

If your niche is full of people that do not respect Google guidelines, I'm not sure that you can rank higher without building a single backlink by yourself. While you do a single dofollow backlink, with a branded anchor text, you are cheating (or tying to cheat) Google.

Building a great website is an excellent starting point, but it's not always simple. For my opinion you'll do better thinking about how to be smarter than these guys.... and accept that you are a cheater too. One advice : Don't think that Google is doing nothing, maybe the guys you're talking about are smarter than what you think.
5:08 am on Dec 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How do you stay absolutely White Hat and make sure you never get penalized


Seriously? Play by the rules.

Is it worth doing anything that would give you any reason to worry about the things that you do causing your site to vaporize? Nope. If these other sites are doing something extremely against the rules eventually they'll vanish and never be seen again. I've been known to nudge a site or to into the abyss, why not?

For instance, if I was selling apple pies and my neighbor was running a meth lab, I might turn him in.

However, if I was selling pot and the neighbor was running a meth lab, I might keep my mouth shut.

Anyway, just do as much SEO as possible without reaching the tipping point. I've seen a lot of sites where people thought they were doing "too much SEO" and in reality they were only addressing a few aspects of SEO and when we tricked out the site with everything I know, without going to the dark side, it suddenly started doing 300% better in just a few weeks. I'd go back and make sure you're truly doing everything because EVERYTHING matters from page names, titles, H1s, image file names, tags, links, anchor text, IBLs, etc. You might find that if you play your best A-game you might give them a run for their money because the odds are the competition has missed something you can exploit to your favor.

FWIW, I'd do a hard review of the situation before wasting any more time because it's easier to just start over elsewhere if it truly looks impossible.

Whitehat seo is a Oxymoron. There is no such thing. There are just levels of blackhat.


You beat me to it.

The very definition of SEO is to manipulate the search engines, and manipulation is never considered ethical is it? However, the commonly held definition of BH is using means that most would consider extremely unethical, bordering if not encroaching into criminal these days.
4:09 pm on Dec 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The very definition of SEO is to manipulate the search engines, and manipulation is never considered ethical is it?

"Optimization" and "manipulation" aren't synonyms.
2:03 pm on Dec 16, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Personally, I think if you can't beat them, join them. There are plenty of ways to do "blackhat" SEO safely. As long as you understand SEO on a decent level, it's pretty easy to avoid penalties. Using blackhat services is pretty much guaranteed to get your site taken off the SERPs eventually... I've been building profile links, PBN links, guest post links, blog comments, web 2.0's etc for a few months now and I'm already beating my original site in terms of rankings. I also make sure to throw in plenty of "whitehat" links too - naked URLs, profile links etc, just in case anything does happen... that way my good links will offset any bad ones.
9:01 pm on Dec 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I always find competitive fields are the most receptive to organic online marketing techniques. Its the short sightedness of the people who tend to carry out SEO for these type of sites that make the field wide open for proper SEO. Yes, it takes longer, and, if you need to hire an SEO company to do so, it will be much more expensive as it needs many more man-hours than black/grey hat and it will need more time for the campaigns to gain momentum but in the end, it will beat all competition hands down. Amazing what a handful of editorially given, newspaper links can do to the ranking of a site in most competitive of fields when all the other sites only have some bot type traffic, PBNs, directories and comments.
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