The Dark Side of SEO
This week we explore the dark side of SEO with our digital specialists Riley and Christian. Christian and Catelin discuss amaretto sours among other fun tangents in the intro. Then Rich and Riley give us a deeper look into
- 1.5 oz. Amaretto liqueur
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- .75 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 orange slice
- 1 maraschino cherry
- Pour the amaretto liqueur, simple syrup, and lemon juice into a shaker with ice.
- Shake well, then strain into a glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with your orange slice and maraschino cherry
Catelin: Welcome to another episode of Cocktails, Tangents, and Answers. I am Catelin Drey, and we have a special treat for you this week because we have Christian filling in for our beloved, benevolent dictator Rich, who is supposed to be on vacation but did not block his calendar the way that he should have. So it kind of snuck up on all of us. We miss you, Rich. We're so glad you're taking some time off, but we're also excited for you to come back. So welcome Christian. Thank you for filling in.
Christian: Hello. I'm happy to be here.
Catelin: Are you? I'm nervous about this. I'm going to be fully transparent. My main goal in coworker relationships is to befriend Christian. He's a tough nut to crack. He just is like, he plays his cards pretty close to the vest. So when producer Zach said that you volunteered to fill in, I was shook. As the youth say, "I was shooketh." I didn't know what to do with that information. So what changed your tune?
Christian: I'm always willing to fill in for anything over SEO. You know that. Come on.
Catelin: That's fair. You are willing to help out in a pinch, but the speaking to other humans is maybe not your favorite thing to do, so.
Christian: Oh, no. I am highly introverted [inaudible 00:01:36] conversation. Not my thing.
Catelin: This is horrible. But I will do it because you all asked nicely. That's where we're at?
Christian: Of course. Yes.
Catelin: Well on that note, I'm told that you and Riley share an affinity for an amaretto sour.
Christian: Yeah, I think I'm the one that actually put Riley on that drink. It's one of my favorites.
Catelin: You're the producer. Can you tell me how you landed on an amaretto sour? How did that become a thing for you?
Christian: Yeah, so while I was in college, I didn't really have a mixed drink or anything that I would drink. I didn't have a set drink [inaudible 00:02:13]-
Catelin: You didn't have a signature cocktail-
Christian: Or anything?
Christian: Yes, yes. And then I had a friend who said, "Every time I go to this bar in Sioux City, I always have to double fist an amaretto sour." And then, "Well, it must be good then." So I tried it and liked it, and...
Catelin: I think an amaretto sour is like, it's an unsung beverage. I always forget about them. We went, Riley, at the Sioux City office, went to a local establishment for a happy hour and he ordered one when I was like, "That is a good idea." It's just easy and pleasant and not a... It won't knock you out. It's a nice, I don't know, you don't have to get sloppy when you drink an amaretto sour.
Christian: Sounds like a... It's like a fruity lemonade.
Catelin: Yeah. Yes, a hundred percent. Amaretto also, that almond flavor is one of my favorite things when I bake almond frosting, nothing like it. There is nothing better than almond buttercream. That's a hill I will die on. So that's what it reminds me of.
Christian: So when you make an amaretto sour, do you include it with Burman or what drink, what alcohol do you put in it usually?
Catelin: Amaretto is the alcohol. It's a liquor. So the amaretto is a flavor and it's also the booze. That's why it's not super hefty. It's just, it's pleasant. It's not like a Red Bull and vodka where you're going to go crazy. It's just a nice, I don't know. It's nice. Yeah.
Christian: Well, it includes the amaretto liquor-
Christian: Then some, I've read some places people put bourbon and stuff in it, which I've never heard of that.
Catelin: That is surprising to me. I wonder if that wouldn't be considered something different, like a different beverage. I'm going to do some recon. I'm going to let you know what I find out on that. I'm going to ask my home bartender, resident bourbon expert and see what he says. I want to like Google while we're doing this right now, but that feels like not a productive use of our time. But the recipe for those of you at home who might also be interested in trying an amaretto sour. You've got an ounce and a half of amaretto liqueur, which is very fun to say.
One ounce of simple syrup, which is just equal parts, sugar and water. Or if you want to get punchy, you can do one and a quarter parts, I think, of sugar and water to sweeten up a little bit. Three quarters ounce fresh lemon juice, and then you can garnish with an orange slice and maraschino cherry, which feels extra, but I like it because I like a snack with my beverage. So that's great. And then you just shake up all of the amaretto simple and lemon juice and then away you go. It's pretty tasty.
Christian: Yes. Very, very tasty.
Catelin: Cheers to that. I am excited to hear what Riley had to say about Black Hat SEO and also curious if you have any nuggets for us before we get to the interview.
Christian: Yeah, his interview was great. He talked about some great points with Black Hat SEO and different things that can really bring your site down and get penalized. Yeah.
Catelin: Awesome. Well stay tuned for that good nugget. And Christian, thank you one more time for being here. I am so glad we got to chat.
Christian: Thanks for having me.
Rich: All right. Hey Riley. How you doing today?
Riley: I'm doing really good. How are you, Rich?
Rich: Oh, I'm fine. I have not had caffeine today, so that's a bit of a challenge. And it's already afternoon, but I'll survive. But we're not here to talk about my caffeine habits. We could do that some... Maybe that'll be another podcast episode here one day. But today you're here to talk to us about what is Black Hat SEO? What's the dark side of SEO? How can Google... Basically the question might be how can I prevent Google from penalizing me in my search results? But before we get to that, I want to talk a little bit about the amaretto Sour or drink that we talked about for of course, this episode. So I was told that you chose this drink for your episode.
Riley: I did.
Rich: All right. Give me your history with amaretto sours.
Riley: It's a very quick history. I don't do a ton of cocktail drinking, but this is one that I found pretty straight away, and it has been my normal every time I go somewhere. That's kind of like, you know when you go to a restaurant if they do something or if they have a dish, like you have to judge them off of a dish? I feel like that's my drink.
Rich: Oh, so you judge restaurants on how good their amaretto sours are bars?
Rich: Wow, that's interesting. It's also interesting for me, because it's a really good step up drink from college. It's not just throwing some vodka and Mountain Dew together and calling it a cocktail. This is one of those that it's easy to drink, it's easy to find. It's usually cheap on a menu, but yeah, it can be really delicious. Okay, well cool. I will be anxiously awaiting your review of all of the Sioux City and Omaha bars and where they rank on amaretto sours.
Riley: Should be coming soon.
Rich: Perfect, perfect, perfect. All right, so let's get into it. What is Black Hat SEO?
Riley: So to put it lightly, Black Hat SEO is just doing unethical ways of trying to rank higher in search. So not doing normal things, just kind of, called Black Hat for a reason.
Rich: Well, yeah, because cowboys, the bad cowboys wore black hats and the good cowboys wore white hats. That was the Lone Ranger taught us that.
Riley: So you're not doing the right things, you're doing bad things to gain higher on Google's end.
Rich: So you're trying to cheat the system. You're trying to game the system.
Rich: So does it work? Can I cheat the system and can I get better search results?
Riley: Well, some people do think that it works, but SEO is a long game. This is a very short term mindset. So if you're going to do something like this, it may work in short term, but like I said, it's long term it's going to catch up with you eventually.
Rich: So I might get this good bump and I think, Oh my God, this is working really great. But then at some point, my guess is that Google will catch me.
Rich: Like the robots will come in and be like, "Hey, we're seeing that you've done some things that you shouldn't have done," and then so what are they going to do? Then when they catch me, what happens?
Riley: So you have a couple of options. Either get penalized and you get ranked lower, so it's counterintuitive. Or they can just knock you off completely.
Rich: Yeah, they can just take you right out of the search results. Right?
Rich: Google can just line item me out and be like, "No. Bad company, bad website, you're done. Time out. You're put in a corner."
Riley: Exactly. So really doing Black Hat SEO is like you're just rolling your dice on if you're going to get lucky or not by Google finding you out so.
Rich: Well and I think in my experience, they will always find you at some point. I know we've had a few clients come to us and say, "Hey, my search was really great and now it's not, and I'd hired this company to do this." And we can just jump in and analyze it and find the five or 10 things that they've done and be like, "Oh yeah, it was really great, and then you got penalized." And then we'll work to get them out of the penalty box. So what are some of those things you look for, like say I have a website and I hired somebody to do some SEO and it looks really good, but I'm concerned that maybe they're doing some shifty things. What do I look at? What do I look for?
Riley: So I mean there's some top level stuff. So you can look for keyword stuffing.
Rich: Okay, what's that?
Riley: So keyword stuffing would be overusing keywords in your pages instead of just using them normally.
Rich: So I put the like word digital... I put the phrase digital marketing agency 53 times on our home page?
Riley: Exactly. You're just trying to overuse the word so Google sees like, oh, this must be about digital marketing agency.
Rich: And that used to be how Google worked. Right?
Rich: The more you use the keyword, the higher you rank. But they're smarter than that now and that not only does that not work as well, but you can actually get dinged for it.
Riley: Exactly. If you overuse keywords, you can now get penalized for that.
Rich: Okay. What else? There's a whole bunch of stuff that can fall into that?
Riley: So cloaking is another one. This one is pretty interesting. So when you do SEO, you submit your website.
Rich: Your site map.
Riley: Your site map. Thank you.
Rich: No problem.
Riley: You submit your site map and that basically tells Google, this is what they can crawl, this is what your website is. Makes it easier for them. You could basically submit a false site map so they think that your website is about something completely different or they only see a certain amount of your website.
Rich: That's bizarre to me. I mean, I guess in part because one, we don't do these things here, but.
Rich: Also, I feel like if you just make a good website and it's got the right content on it and you submit it, I can't even begin to think of how I would submit a fake site map for our website. God, this is just crazy.
Riley: A lot of these are really weird alternative routes that Google just does not like. I mean it's just do it the right way. It's not that hard to do it the right way.
Rich: Yeah. So one that I know, sorry, I didn't mean to step on you. One that I know that we've seen, and that used to be popular again, when it was all about when Google was just looking at the surface of your site, like link farms. Or even just, and not even a whole site that's a link farm, which we've seen, but just like I've got my page of all of my association links and my affiliate links and my customer links, it's just a page full of links. So that used to be really popular, but I know we advise against that. So what's the deal with that? Why does Google hate link farms?
Riley: I mean, to me it's just like you're putting all of your links on one page. Google likes to see that you have them... It's like keywords. If you're overusing them, Google kind of sees that you're up to no good. It's better to just, like I said, just keywords, spread them out naturally. Don't just throw them all in one page and hope that Google's going to put you in number one.
Rich: Okay. So I can still have these links to other pages because links out to another page is good, as long as that page is good or that side is good.
Rich: But I just need to move them around organically in my content or put them in logical places or maybe have a logo list or something.
Rich: Okay, that makes sense. Anything else in that area? The tactics? What's your, I guess your favorite, which would be, would that make it your least favorite? What do you think is the most evil tactic?
Riley: Probably blog comment spam. We see this a lot.
Rich: Oh yeah.
Riley: Especially with a lot of just the spammy bots where usually it's a bunch of porn sites, but they just... They take like a blog that's completely irrelevant to what they're trying to do and they just spam the crap out of it with all of this, visit my site, visit my site, all this stuff. It just doesn't work. Nobody's going to click on that.
Rich: So they're shoving links into-
Rich: ... your blog, hoping that Google sees your blog and maybe your site's more quality and Google gives them a little bit of boost. But also hoping that somebody reading our blog about digital marketing planning clicks on the Viagra link, that's in the... Does that make sense?
Riley: Of course.
Rich: I don't know. Boost your digital marketing with Viagra.
Rich: I don't think that works that way. Yeah, and we've, I've even seen it that one so bad where they took over an entire site. So we had a client where on certain Google search results, but not all. And it was very bizarre when you clicked, you got their domain, but it was just, it basically a really, really crappy pharmacy site. But then sometimes you would click other results and you would get their main site. So we actually took it, we moved their host and we cleaned everything up and then locked it down and they haven't had a problem since, which is good. But those get really expensive. We don't like, it's not cheap to fix that stuff.
Riley: It's really undoing a lot of just like terrible stuff that you've been doing over the past however long. And it's just like it's better to just start the right way. Because then you don't have to spend all that time undoing what you've been doing.
Rich: Yeah, because they... I mean are ways to so let's just say I had somebody doing my site and they were doing all these Black Hat things. Then I realized my SEO traffic has gone way down. My rankings are way down. So I'm like, okay, they were doing some bad stuff. So I fire them and I hire somebody else to be like, "Hey, clean this up." So do I just have to wait for Google to see that it's cleaned up? Is there any way I can accelerate that process?
Riley: Well obviously going through... Tell your agency first that you've experienced a lot of this Black Hat stuff so they know what to do.
Rich: Yes, so you don't have to go dig around and be like, and wait two weeks to find it, be like, oh, this is what was going on.
Riley: Exactly. Do that first. SEO is a very long term game. You won't see a ton of immediate results that fast. That's another testament to if somebody's trying to show you all these results really fast, probably should steer clear. It's not going to happen. But yeah, you should expect them to resolve if this agency is trying to undo a lot of the stuff that they've been doing in the past, you should see a slow and steady improvement on a lot of your keywords and all that kind of stuff that you're trying to rank for. They're not going to get you number one overnight.
Rich: Yeah, nobody can do that.
Rich: Anybody who promises, I can guarantee you the number one result, they're lying to you. So what about like, I assume so when I create a new site, I submit my site map to Google. So I assume that if say somebody's done that cloaking thing and they submitted a fake site map, if we get things cleaned up and we submit a new site map to Google, that should be an indicator to Google like, hey, come back and look like we're better like we promise, we're we're cleaner, we're sexier, all of that and they'll come back. And that helps but to your point, it's not going to instantly jump me back to where I was. Right. Because we're trying to stop this train from being derailed. We've got to get back on the tracks first and then slowly start to accelerate it.
Rich: To get back where we're going.
Riley: Especially if you haven't been penalized yet, you should definitely start back tracking now before you do get penalized. Because it'll be just that much harder to get your ranking back.
Rich: Okay. I'm just trying to think through. So I mean I realize that we're in a society where people fall for the Nigerian prince, is when to send them money or I think the latest one was the queen wasn't really dead, she was kidnapped and please send me $300 at this link that actually went out.
Riley: I have not heard that.
Rich: It was in Instagram DMs. It was a really weird one. Maybe you're just not old enough to be targeted for that.
Riley: That's amazing.
Rich: I wasn't either, so I'm not old enough either. I saw it in a news report. But why do people fall for the Black Hat stuff?
Riley: It's just that false promise of fast results. It's always that like, hey, if you do this tactic, you can get number one overnight. Like I just said, don't fall for that stuff. If somebody's trying to false promise you all that kind of stuff, they're up to shady business. It's a long game. It's not short term.
Rich: So too good to be true, too fast to be true.
Rich: Yes, yes, yes. It is not true.
Riley: All of that common sense stuff.
Rich: Got it. So I know that there are people out there who sell like Black Hat SEO tactics to people and they obviously don't say, "Hey, this is only going to work for a little while and then you're going to be screwed." Why do you think they believe in that tactic? Are they just trying to make a quick buck, do you think?
Riley: Yeah, I definitely believe if they're not selling you tactics and they're not giving you anything else, like not there to answer questions after the fact, it's definitely make a quick buck and disappear. Like Nigerian price.
Rich: Got it. Sure. Once you send him the money, you never hear from him again.
Riley: Exactly. Well he's free now, so he doesn't need your money.
Rich: Well true, true. And so why would he call you? You send him the money already. All right, so let's talk about, I'm just trying to look. So we talked a little bit about some alternatives to Link Farms and keyword stuffing, how you avoid that and how you do that the right way. So how do I get back links? If I'm out there buying a bunch of back links, which is a bad thing, obviously, how do I get back links if I'm not going to go pay for them?
Riley: Well, you can get them naturally by just having good services, good products, whatever you're doing, just getting your name out there. If somebody likes your product, they're going to let people know. That's obviously an easy one. You don't have to do anything about that to try to get it. But if you're doing blogs and all that kind of stuff, a lot of the inbound marketing, you can actually reach out to people and see if they have equal content that you can be like, "Hey, this is something, send me, if you want to backlink me, this is some interesting stuff about this topic and all that kind of stuff." So just doing them ethically, like asking for them, not paying for them, not doing all that shifty crap. Just doing that.
Rich: And looking for relevant stuff right.
Rich: So if I had gone, say we went really deep in a blog post on just backlinks, but we knew somebody else, maybe not an agency because that would be weird, agencies don't usually backlink to each other. But maybe there was an industry like American Marketing Association or somebody had an article about multiple SEO tactics and they included just a paragraph about back links. We could reach out to them and be like, "Hey, you should link to our article as a formal more information in your article." And that'd be, oops. I bumped my thing. Sorry about that. That would be really, really good for you. It'd be good for us. That kind of thing. So find those logical connections and then obviously use your own stuff. If I've got, like my own social media should link back to my things, I should post my blogs on my social media and send them out in newsletter emails and things like that. All right. Cool.
Riley: Those are easy, quick-winning ones, just doing your own thing. And also you can use different online tools that will allow you to see, oh, this is some content that you wrote a blog about. Like this also has a link, but it's broken. Maybe offer them your link and maybe fix it.
Rich: Yeah The 404 back link thing. I think we talked about that on a previous podcast or a future podcast or some podcast somewhere. Yeah, absolutely. So I think that's a really good reference, like check out. We do have a positive version of this. All the good stuff you can do for SEO, out there as well. So any last thoughts on fixing these problems caused by Black Hat? I think you said it wasn't easy, right?
Riley: Yeah, it's definitely not easy. Just as a parting word of encouragement or just some knowledge, just don't partake in them to begin with. And if you already have, start backing your way out of it now before you do cause some real damage. Because it really can.
Rich: As a child of the eighties, I'm just going to take you back to Nancy Reagan's, "Just say no.:
Riley: Yes, just say no.
Rich: Which oddly enough as a campaign did not work well. And there's a whole lot of viral reasons for that. But yeah, when it comes to SEO tactics, I think if something seems too good to be true, it is, and you should probably look elsewhere. I think the other thing that you had said that was interesting is if somebody is only bringing you tactics, that's a really good red flag. There should really be a strategy above those tactics. And some backup for what they're going to bring to you as well. Tactics without strategy is just shooting in the dark, but with Black Hat SEO, like it'll work short term. But it's not going to take you where you need to be. All right. I think that wraps us up for today. I think we should maybe just head out and have a couple amaretto sours and call it an afternoon.
Riley: I really do need to get that review up so yes.
Riley: I need to start reviewing the local area.
Rich: You will never rank for best amaretto sours if you never get that review up.
Riley: Exactly. I don't really need to... Maybe I could watch the podcast of false whatever that one was, not knowing how to start up or whatever.
Rich: Oh, failure launch.
Riley: Failure, yes.
Rich: Failure to launch.
Rich: That's a good one. Yeah, that's a very good one. Yes. Just go do it. All right. Thanks Riley.
Riley: No problem.
Rich: That's it for another episode of Cocktails, Tangents and Answers.
Catelin: We hope it was as much fun to listen to as it was to make.
Rich: You can find me on Twitter or Instagram at, at Rich Mackey. I try not to make it too difficult. It's just my name. And you can find our agency at Antidote 71, that's A-N-T-I-D-O-T-E underscore 7-1 on Twitter and Instagram as well.
Catelin: And you can find me at home sipping a craft cocktail prepared by my in-home bartender. It's my husband.
Rich: We'll be back with another episode every other week and a whole new cocktail recipe. Plenty more tangents and of course answers to those pressing marketing questions.
Catelin: And if you'd like to send us a question, you can go to CTA podcast.live to send us an email.
Rich: Or you can call our hotline at (402) 718-9971 and leave us a voicemail. Your questions might be used for future episodes of the podcast.
Catelin: For now, like and subscribe and tune in next time.