Black Hat SEO and Game Theory

I have done a few things in the past to make sites rank that would definitely qualify as being on the black hat side of things. I am done with that now. It's too much work just to see all my work washed away by a search engine update. And I am not the type to keep trying to beat the search engines just for the sake of saying you can. But, of course that's not the only reason to resort to spam and trickery. It is also very lucrative, if you can get a handle on it.

It's a battle of the minds. Just because Google only hires PHD's doesn't mean that they can catch all black hat tactics. Some people just think outside of the box and having a PHD doesn't automatically put you in that league of people. In fact some of the black hat's I've run into didn't even graduate high school yet. But the game itself has almost as much draw as the money does. And if played right, you can keep one step ahead of Google and three steps ahead of the other guys.

Google says that they will let changes in their algorithm clean up the spam. But when do they change their algorithm. When the spam first starts showing? Nope, they develop for the lowest common denominator. Any company with a reach like Google has to. They are out the phase of drastic, creative changes. Only Apple and a few others have the balls to make big changes, although I can point out how even Apple hedges their bets.  It's called inertia. And a body as big as Google will stay at rest for a long time once it reaches that state.

If they change an algorithm for their search engines too dramatically, it will be seen across the whole range of search engine results. And the same factors in their algorithms that make it possible to exploit loopholes may make it possible for millions of people to find what they are looking for. Despite what Google says about the complexity of their algorithm, a minor change in it will cause a dramatic change in the ranking of the billions of pages it indexes. The algorithm's complexity does not compare to the complexity of the internet itself.

Think of it this way. The algorithm is the base of everything that Google does, like the foundation of the skyscraper. You aren't just going to run in and change it on whims or you're going to see a skyscraper flat on the ground.

But once a tactic gets around and more and more spam and cloaked sites show up in the search engine results, something has to be done. If they had changed it before, it would have a very dramatic change. And people jump from search engine to search engine for very minor reasons. I am not talking about people like you and me who do business online. I am talking about your mother who looks for crossword puzzles and buys Christmas presents online, the consumers. But now when the spam becomes a bigger issue for users jumping ship than the algorithm change does, time to change. Yet, the change is still gradual.

Will there ever be an end to black hat? Let's ask some questions along the same lines first. Will their ever be counterfeit proof money or ID's? The new RFID was hacked in minutes before it was even released. So I highly doubt that black hat tactics will ever end. Not until the ranking algorithms are just as complex as the internet itself, and that is going to take some time. So for now and for years from now, it is still a game where the streamlined mind of one person or a small team can run faster than the borg mind of Google. But for me, black hat is just too much work to end up with an empire built on instability.


Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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