Black hat tactics that work? And 20 of them? Skeptical? Don’t worry–this is not yet another article that “enlightens” you on hidden text, link exchange, paid links, cloaking, keyword stuffing, doorway pages and sneaky redirects, and warns you to renounce such sinful deeds if you’re indulging in them. Search for black hat seo techniques or black hat seo tactics and you’ll find umpteen sermons on the above-mentioned methods.

If you’re a fledgling online marketer (like me) new to the SEO scene, you’ve heard about the evil, immoral webmasters who, awash with big-brand cash, buy links and run blog networks. You’ve heard more about Chinese wild animals unleashed by Google that cause “pandamonium” among them lowly plebs. But you didn’t go the black hat way, did you? Or perhaps you missed the bus?

All you SEO noobs (and noobettes) probably know Google’s Webmaster Bible—sorry, Guidelines—by heart. But what do you know about black hat SEO? Have you tried them underground tactics? Are you raring to or afraid to? Have you been there and done that? As is the case with computer & network security, the WMDs used by the dark side are closely-guarded (I mean expensive) secrets, although they cause less damage (and consequently, sell cheaper) than exploits and botnets. However, to be a top cop, you must comprehend the modus operandi of good criminals. (Good criminals?)

To appreciate the light, you have to know darkness. – Indian Proverb

OK, I made up the Indian Proverb to appear wiser than I am.

Legal Disclaimer: Before we move on, please allow me to solemnly affirm to whomsoever it may concern the following: (because I’m scared of the big bad search engine that gave me my email address, browser and phone OS—Please don’t hurt me!)

Neither I nor my employer use any of the techniques I’m going to outline below. I have not developed or discovered any of them. Though the language I use is instructive, such as “You do this, and then you do that…” I do not recommend or refrain from recommending these tactics. I do not know the extent of their effectiveness, primarily because Google hasn’t told me yet. By the time you’re reading this (I wrote this two months ago and got around to posting it today), they might have become bamboo (Panda food).

A word of caution: All the techniques described herein are for illustration purposes only. They have been performed by trained professionals under the watchful supervision of bear-like Chinese wild animals. Please, please do not try this at work. Or at home.

That said, fasten your seat belts…

Feather on Black Hat #1

Big Game Fishing: Expired Domains that have High Authority

Buy domains in your target niche for which the name registration is about to lapse and which have a number of pages with high authority and rank. These are easy to find, right? Who said black hat = no work? Snapping up high PR domains that are about to expire or be released by the registrar is an excellent way to get valuable backlinks. This is a time-consuming but widespread practice.

Look for PR3+ domains relevant to your niche, preferably more than three years old, with loads of content, oodles of natural backlinks, and if possible a DMOZ or Yahoo listing (or both). Is that a big ask? You can type “” in the Google box with the SEOQuake plugin enabled to see how many pages on the site have PR.

One tool that might be of help is:

Typically, once people have got the site they want, they leave all the pages in the domain just as they are in the hope that they will retain their PR/PA. They then pepper these pages with links to their target site. You need not bother. Just 301 redirect ALL the pages to the appropriate target pages.

There are some caveats that are pretty obvious but I will state them nonetheless.

Before purchase:

  • Check that the domain is a live one and isn’t parked.
  • Buy domains that are in the pre-release stage. Don’t go for pending-delete domains—they don’t have the juice no more.

After purchase:

  • Make a sitemap. If there is one, update it. Duh.
  • After you’ve transferred the hosting, redirect every single page to whatever pages you’re trying to get ranked for.

Feather on Black Hat #2

Anti-Ageing Forum Cream

Beauty is only skin deep, they say. So are PageRank and Domain Authority. Forum commenting does not yield particularly valuable links even when the topic page is highly-ranked because of the sheer number of comment pages. Usually, commenting freaks watch helplessly as their posts get buried by similar grime from their muck-splattering brethren.

Hark! There is a method by which you can use Google itself to get some new makeup, if not a whole facelift. What I mean to say is you’ll probably get links in the low-to-medium PR range (1 to 3) from this. But low-PR links are better than no-PR links, right?

Go to Google Groups (Warning: Google Groups is a-changing.)

Type your keyword followed by “1 of 1” followed by in the search box. For example,

cheap manicure “1 of 1”

This gives you threads from forums other than (which uses rel=nofollow) that have only a single page of comments or replies. These are pages that might actually have rank/authority.

Now all you have to do is check whether the page has good PA or PR, register on that forum, create a signature with relevant anchor text, and post an insightful comment that links back to your site. Who said black hat = no work?

Feather on Black Hat #3

Get Richer with Rich Snippets

There’s a way to abuse microformats to exhibit higher ratings in Google’s rich snippets. Not only can you get superior listings in search results, but you can also have an intercontinental ballistic CTR by showing large numbers of phony reviews and positive ratings.

Ever since the big 3 launched, purportedly to help us help them help us get better search results, they have asked webmasters to populate their page markup with “structured metadata.” Sorry, I won’t explain what that is here (thus, you won’t know that I don’t know). Structured metadata is something that crawler bots can read and get additional information about the items on your page. These “items” could be anything from movie reviews to malt whiskey. The more structured metadata (specific information) you provide, the better search engines understand the attributes of your products and the less irrelevant search results become.

Microformats are metadata extensions to HTML that Google Rich Snippets can use to gather more information about people, blog posts, reviews, etc. You can insert microformat code such as the following in your HTML:

<div class=”hreview” style=”color:white;z-index:-5; width=1px;”>
<span class=”hreview-aggregate”>
<span class=”item”><span class=”fn”>Himachal Highland Malt Whiskey</span>
<span class=”rating”><span class=”average”>4.9</span> out of <span class=”best”>5</span> based on <span class=”count”>5,500</span> ratings</span>

Googlebot does automatic whitelisting for rich snippets such as the above. When Google crawls your site the next time, it discovers the new code, and bot willing, you get the cool orange stars under your listing! Searchers are fooled into thinking Himachal Highland Malt Whiskey has been given a 4.9/5 rating by 5,500 reviewers (that’s one drunken lot), and they go click-click-click, and your till goes ting-ting-ting!

What’s more, you can do the same for your WordPress, Tumblr and blogs. Yay! I’ll get the next round.

Please report any rich snippet spam you see (or suspect) here.

Feather on Black Hat #4

Making sure Paid Backlinks, Reciprocal Links & Forum Signatures are Indexed

These methods are the blackest of the black. Darth Vader would hang his head in shame. I DO NOT remotely suggest that you buy, sell, trade or exchange links, be they in posts, comments or forum signatures. I WILL NOT tell you where to buy 1001 backlinks for $9.99.

There are gazillions of forums where SEO dorks (and dorkettes) are actively seeking and offering reciprocal links. If you need help finding such forums, you need help—please visit your neighbourhood shrink. About four or five weeks after you’ve exchanged links with these funny guys, simply remove their link from your website or nofollow it. The choice is yours. Most webmasters don’t keep tabs on the status of links they’ve swapped for lack of time and inclination. Moreover, many of them might have traded with you as part of a one-time link-building exercise. Just remember that frequently, your karma will run over your dogma—i.e. there will be people who do the same to you.

Who hears a tree falling in a forest? What good is a link if it’s not indexed? Once you get a list of your newly created backlinks, you need to verify them and tell the search engines about them. Head over to and do the needful. Don’t ping more than 25 links a day, to be on the safe side. If you need to, use a proxy to mask the IP from where you’re pinging. Don’t know how? Please contact your system administrator.

If you spend quality time and $20 a month buying targeted links and forum signatures regularly, you can get plenty of relevant inbound links (many of which are high PR) over time. I STRICTLY PROHIBIT and EXPRESSLY FORBID you from doing so.

Feather on Black Hat #5

A for Apple, B for Banana, P for Profile Links

Profile links are evergreen, low-hanging fruit that continue to leak juice. Create your profile on sites with high domain authority. Add relevant information about yourself and what you do. Link back to your target site by specifying the URL or using a href or bbcode in your bio/signature. Boom! Your profile page is one more link source!

Duh. You already know that. But what you probably don’t know is that Angela, the founding foremother of this technique,  used the ID “angelae8654” for creating profiles. Type that into Google. I see about 85,000 results. Many of these sites have high domain authority. Visit these, register for an account, and create your links where possible. Now you don’t have to pay Angela or Paul for their “high quality” backlinks. All you have to do is follow the damn train. Big Smoke will do the firing.

Feather on Black Hat #6

This WordPress Theme is sponsored by…

How do you get a site to link to you from EVERY page on its domain? Simple. Get a site-wide link. How? Sponsor a child in Africa—sorry—sponsor a WordPress theme. Sites running WordPress are increasing in number exponentially day by day. If a domain running a theme you’ve sponsored has pages with decent Page Rank, you get some serious link juice flowing through your site veins.

This is a long-term strategy that takes effect as more people use the themes or templates you’re sponsoring. You can do the same for Drupal, Joomla, Magento or any other CMS. And just imagine the rewards if a popular news site or a blog relevant to your niche uses a template with your links in it! After you’ve imagined that, come back to earth because hardly 1% of themes that are downloaded more than 100 times are used in an actual website. Who said black hat = no work?

This spammy link sums up how this tactic works: — Note the funny seal proclaiming how it’s a “100% White Hat Technique.” If it’s white hat, it’s not a technique.

Over the past two years, footer and sidebar links have lost nearly all their link value. But the sheer number of links built by this method (if a site that uses your theme has 10,000 pages, you could get 20,000 links) may have started to overwhelm Google, and they are now penalizing large-scale theme sponsors. See this discussion for further details:

Feather on Black Hat #7

Thank you, Mario. But our princess is in another castle.

The method I’m going to describe next is foul. Very, very foul. Doesn’t appeal to anyone but GTA fans. Go to Elance, Guru, Freelancer, vWorker, oDesk, ScriptLance, or a similar site. Create an employer account.

Post a new job/project and specify your requirements like this: “Looking for a high PR link builder who does forum and blog commenting. Links need to be on PR4+ pages that have less than 50 outbound links on the same page. If the page exceeds 100 outbound links or gets bombarded with spam in future, rest assured I will bad mouth you everywhere. A verifiable sample of your work is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY before we move ahead.”

This will get you at least four or five quotes with good samples. Start posting to these very pages! They’re sure to earn you good links as people tend to send you their best work as a sample. Links from comments still pass on a lot of juice; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. As for the freelancers who replied to you, politely let them know that the princess is in another castle.

Feather on Black Hat #8

Copycat Kaizen

What you can do, I can do better. This method can be used as an extension to the one above. All of us have seen blog crapments such as “Great post! Thank you for sharing valuable information. Keep up the good work,” haven’t we? Such comments add absolutely no value, but serial commenters post similar filth to hundreds and hundreds of sites. After all, when they’re doing a 10-cents-a-link job, can they be bothered?

Armed with your “sample” of high PR forum/blog pages, search for spammy comments similar to the above. Copy one of these and paste it in the Google search box. You’ll see all the pages where Captain Crapmenter has discharged the same bilge. Make sure your MozBar and SEOQuake plugins are enabled, so that you can see the PA and PR of the result pages. Now all you have to do…

Rinse and repeat for other spammy comments.

Feather on Black Hat #9

Fossil Fuel: Software PAD Files

During the 90s, software archive boards were all the rage. They had massive inventories of shareware and freeware. What they lacked was an automated way to classify, archive or share software. For this, they needed shareware authors to provide specifications, version information and detailed product information about their software, not unlike the of today. Thus, the Portable Application Description file was born. A .PAD file contained info such as the license, cost, where to buy, etc. It could be packaged along with the software and uploaded to the board/directory, so that the application could be classified properly.

Hello, good morning! Don’t go to sleep yet. I know you’re thinking what the puppy (Joey uses “puppy” instead of the f-word) does this have to do with backlinks? Today, PAD is not dead (unlike SEO). Most (read thousands) shareware archive sites, or software directories, accept PAD submissions even though they already have tons of software listed, because they want to be the biggest and baddest of them all! These software archives are aged—they’re proper elderly. Google respects them and showers them with high PR.

So, all you have to do (no, don’t follow the damn train yet) is create a small application (such as a calculator, browser extension, toolbar or screensaver) that’s relevant to your target niche, make a PAD file for the application and feed it to the hungry masses. The software directories will list your software and link back to your page. Sometimes, it is also possible to influence the keyword and anchor text they use.

“But I don’t know programming!” I hear you. There are heaps of sites that help you create custom branded software within a few hours. Find one and create a cool tool. Next, go to and download PadGen. You can use this to generate a PAD file for your tool. Make sure you use your keyword as the software name. You can also give links to different pages in the various description fields. You’ll need a URL for your PAD file, application file, screenshot and icon. You end up with a programname-pad.xml file.

Next, head over to and submit your PAD. If your file is valid, it will be added to the Association of Software Professionals archive, from where hundreds of software directories will eventually scrape it into their own archives. You can then proceed to force it down the throat of other software PAD submission sites.

I’m not sure this is a black hat technique, but then nowadays I’m not sure about Title tags either.

Red Feather on Black Hat #10

Extra-Testimonial Affairs

You may not realize it, but there are lots and lots of online businesses that are thirsty for your admiration. They want to hear those three words from you. No, not I love you. “I recommend product-name.” Many of them would be happy to link to you from their testimonial page in return for a positive review on their site.

How do you find your soulmates—sorry, linkmates? Type testimonials or inurl:testimonial followed by your keyword in Google. For example,

inurl:testimonial wine

Make sure your MozBar and SEOQuake plugins are enabled, so that you can see the PA and PR of the result pages. Now, find some high authority pages that also link back to their customers. Contact the webmasters/owners and tell them you used their product or service a while back and you’d like to offer a glowing recommendation. If they ask you for details which you used for the purchase, just fib that you no longer use them. DON’T ask for a link, but do let them know how to link back to you.

Feather on Black Hat #11

Star Crumbs

Google’s Rich Snippets are increasingly “influencing” CTRs with their propensity towards displaying rated stuff. Want to find a good book? Restaurant? Dentist? Just look for cool orange stars below the listings that tell you what other people think of it. Google wants you to click on ones with more stars.

There are some five-stars you cannot afford. For everything else, there’s black hat. Want to see a live example?

Log out of Google if you’re signed in. Go to Search for “SEO India Best SEO Company for Google SEO in India SEO Services Agency”.

Do you see the “SEO ★★★★★ Rated” in green? How did the webmaster trick Google into thinking there’s a page like that on the website? By spooking RDF for Rich Snippets! This is the code that does the trick:

<div xmlns:v=’’&gt;
<span typeof=’v:Breadcrumb’>
<a href=’; property=’v:title’ rel=’v:url’>Gabblet</a> ›
<span typeof=’v:Breadcrumb’>
<a href=’; property=’v:title’ rel=’v:url’>Free Report</a> ›
<span typeof=’v:Breadcrumb’>
<a href=’; property=’v:title’ rel=’v:url’>SEO ★★★★★ Rated</a>

Put something like that anywhere on your page and not only can you display a 5-star rating, but also have each element of the breadcrumb trail pointing to a different page. That would make Hansel proud but the Brothers would take a Grimm view! Sorry non-coders, go learn HTML.

Feather on Black Hat #12

Tag Cloud 9

Taking another leaf out of our friend Gabblet’s book, you can create a keyword stuffed Tag Cloud for your site. Tag clouds are normally found on ecommerce sites to enable people to tag products with apt words or on blogs to allow readers to tag posts with appropriate keywords. But of course you can fill them up with tag words that link to your landing pages with optimized anchor text. This is what Gabblet has—he hasn’t even bothered to change the heading Tag Cloud:

Rand Fishkin advised against putting spammy text content blocks on your pages in this WBF. However, a tag cloud is still a legit web element in most cases. Remains to be seen whether the Penguin update can freeze it back to the Ice Age.

Feather on Black Hat #13


There’s a zip zap zoom way to get instant backlinks from blog comments.

DISQUS is a commenting platform that millions of blogs use. It enables people to create one profile and use it to comment on various articles and posts across the web. Create a profile at with a variation of your niche-relevant keyword as your Name. Go to Google and type “powered by DISQUS” followed by your main keyword. For instance,

“powered by DISQUS” wine

You’ll get lots of listings, most of which would be blogs. If you want to be sure, you can select More > Blogs from the sidebar on the left. What’s more, many of the posts returned have few comments on the page, giving you the opportunity to place a comment on the first page of the topic thread.

Make sure your MozBar and SEOQuake plugins are enabled, so that you can see the PA and PR of the result pages. Simply go to the high authority pages, make sure they’re using DISQUS and start posting your comments. Take a minute to read the actual article and don’t post crap.

The best thing about this method is that your comments with backlinks are almost always approved instantaneously.

Feather on Black Hat #14

Squiddy Diddy Doo…

Squidoo is a site that Google loves with all her heart. (“Her” heart? Yeah, she gives you 10 answers even before you’re done asking the question.) The more backlinks from Squidoo lenses you have, the higher your site soars in the rankings. Ironically, squids are penguins’ favourite food.

First, create a Squidoo account. Then go to Google and type a general keyword for your target niche followed by “add to this list” For instance,

real estate “add to this list”

I hope I don’t need to remind you to keep your Mozbar or SEOQuake plugins enabled. Find pages with high PR or PA. Search on the lens (which is what Squidoo calls its pages for some strange reason) for “add to this list” and follow the instructions to add your link. Select a lens with less number of links on it because if there are more than a certain number of links, say 5, 10 or 20, they are displayed on another page that doesn’t have PA/PR. You could use the Google search options on the left sidebar to display only pages that have been created in the past 24 hours or past week—these will have less links on them—and take a chance on which ones will go on to rank well.

Remember that the lensmaster (creator/moderator of the page) has to approve your link. It is extremely difficult for you to get a backlink from Squidoo for keywords such as “make money online” or “best pharmacy.” If, however, you cannot get a link to your page of choice, there is a mission you can complete—

Go through the rest of the links on the lens you like to get a better idea of what they are about. Then find a good resource page that’s relevant to the lens and one that the lensmaster is likely to approve. We’ll call this page X for the sake of clarity. Now set up a 301 redirect from the target page that you’re optimizing (which we’ll call Y) to X, and then submit the URL of Y to the lens in question. When the lensmaster clicks your link, it will lead to a resource that appears legitimate and relevant. After he or she has approved your link, simply remove the 301 redirect from Y. Hey, who said black hat = no work?

Rinse and repeat a thousand times over, and give yourself a Squiddy Snack every time you get a link.

Feather on Black Hat #15

And Tumblr Dumblr Doo Too!

Let’s look at a nifty technique that’ll help you get loads of backlinks from PR2 – PR7 pages. Now, now, before you rub your hands in glee, remember you’ll have to get them dirty first.

I’m sure that you’re a true raven hat and you already have throw-away accounts in hotmail, yahoo and other free email services for use with the site you’re optimizing. Use one of them to create an account on Tumblr. If you don’t know how, ask Jill (she came tumblring after).

Tumblr asks you for a custom URL path, after which they add Choose your main keyphrase for this. Use a hyphen to separate words. If your keyword is “bar designer” you can enter bar-designer. But chances are that bar-designer is already taken. If that’s the case, you can use a “stop word,” which is a word that Google ignores. Go for the-bar-designer.

Now, go on to set up a blog (choose a theme and all quickly) on Tumblr and then create a simple text post in it. Enter your keyword as the title for both the blog and the post, say “Bar Designer”

Now, you need to do some serious tumblring without bunglring. Follow these steps:

  1. Create a subdomain on your target site that you’d like to get ranked. e.g.
  2. Point its CNAME record to
  3. Head over to Tumblr and click your blog’s name at the top of your dashboard or under the list icon at the top right.
  4. Click “Blog Settings.”
  5. Check the box that says “Use a custom domain name” and enter your subdomain (e.g.
  6. Click “Test your domain.”
  7. Correct problems if any and click “Save.”

After configuring your subdomain, you’ll have to wait 24-72 hours for the changes to take effect. Thereafter, when a user visits, they’ll automatically be redirected to

Head over to Google and do a search for “liked this”. If you want to be more relevant, you can type your keyword followed by “liked this”. For example, “liked this” (for all links)

bar designer “liked this” (for relevant links)

Make sure your SEOQuake plugin is enabled so that you can see the PR of the result pages. Open a high PR page. Now you have two options:

  1. Click the love heart shaped icon at the top right. This is a Tumblr Like and it will give you a nofollow link at the top of the “Notes” section of the page (which you can see if you scroll down). Your link gets pushed down as more people do the same. This used to be a dofollow link; however, it was abused so much that Tumblr dried it low.
  2. Click the “Reblog” option next to the Tumblr Like. This gives you a dofollow link in the “Notes” section. This is kind of like a link exchange I guess but you’re getting a link on a page with higher PR. Plus, if you do it right, your blog gradually turns into something of a resource for your niche without you needing to create content.

Be warned: Tumblr has blacklisted and banned many users, pages and URLs that have resorted to these tactics and continues to do so. Just make sure you use an email account you don’t care about.

Feather on Black Hat #16

Donate Liberally to the Internet Monetary Fund

This is not exactly black. It’s a bit grey but I’m sure you won’t mind. Star SEOs don’t do it so explicitly but they do it in more subtle ways.

It has been advised in SEO conferences to sponsor activities organized by your local community, school/university, government department or other organization, so that you could get a link from them in return. Since these can give you .edu, .org or .gov links and are more often than not considered very trustworthy by Big G, your backlink garden could potentially get a beautiful rose bed.

What you could do instead is aggressively pluck roses from thorns… er, seek out people, firms, associations and companies who need money for their pet projects. And if their pets are not pandas or penguins, you could give them the money that you’d instead spend buying links. In return, simply solicit a backlink from a high PR page instead of “Thanks a million!” or “You’re a star!”

How can I find these wildflowers, you ask? Head over to Google and type inurl:donation, inurl:donate, inurl:sponsor, inurl:contribution, inurl:contributor, or inurl:support. What see you? Try setting Google to display 100 results at a time instead of 10 if you want to dig faster and deeper. Now all you have to do is select sites with high authority and PR and inquire if they’d like some things that MasterCard can buy.

Many webmasters won’t be interested or allowed to link back to you regardless of your generosity. Wish them luck and take your MasterCard to those who are willing to give you a dofollow link on the main landing page for a particular project or a /sponsors page or even a site-wide link. I’m not asking you to turn into a venture capitalist overnight. Many high PR sites accept small donations of $20, $50 or $100 and are happy to link back to you in return.

One area where you’ll find lots of agreeable webmasters is open source software development. There are lots of heaps of tons of application developers who badly need donations to keep their software, protocols or forums alive. Most of them have respectable PAs and PRs due to their constantly engaged, active and passionate communities. And many of them already have a page where they link to their sponsors/investors.

Type this in the Google search box:

“open source software” inurl:sponsor

Instead of “open source software” you could try permutations and combinations with actual popular open source software names such as “wordpress”, “joomla plugin”, “drupal developer” and so on. And I’ve already told you what to substitute for sponsor.

Charity begins on the home page.

Feather on Black Hat #17


I simply can’t let go of Wikipedia, .edu, .gov and open source. Allow me to introduce you to a big low-hanging fruit—the wikimelon. I’m assuming you’ve already created profiles on forums, blogs and community sites, and you know that many of these yield some sweet link juice.

For the uninitiated, Mediawiki is open source wiki software written in PHP, originally intended for use by Wikipedia. It is now used by several prominent wikis. Wikis are websites whose users can add, modify or delete content via a web browser using a simplified markup language in a text editor.

Tons of .edu and .gov sites use wikis that allow you to register with them and post articles with—you guessed it—backlinks! So, let’s go wiki hunting… Type this in Google:

mediawiki inurl:index.php


mediawiki inurl:index.php

You’ll have to go through the results manually and find ones that have a “Log in / create an account” link at the top right hand side of the window. If a wiki doesn’t allow you to create an account, move on. In the ones where you are able to successfully register, you can post articles with keyword-specific backlinks to your site!

Feather on Black Hat #18

Please Don’t Fake (PDF) it

What follows is perhaps the simplest method of getting good quality contextual backlinks. First, create a useful, remarkable, informative and unique article, document or white paper that is relevant to your niche with an attention-grabbing headline. And oh, do pepper it with links optimized for your keywords in the appropriate places. Make sure the best links are in the top half of the first page. Who said black hat = no work?

Turn it into a PDF and upload it to PDF directories such as Don’t know of any? Here are 10 others to help you set the ball rolling:

These are high PR sites that Google crawls often. You don’t actually need to make your links prominent; even if they are not obvious to people, you can rest assured Google will index them. Now don’t go mailing me asking for lists of 10,000 PDF submission directories!

Feather on Black Hat #19

Dancing with the Elephants

Some people would like you to believe that links from blog comments are highly devalued and do not work any more. As of this writing, I disagree more than I agree with that statement. The reason being, most of the top-ranking sites for some of the most competitive keywords incorporate comment links as a major part of their link-building strategy. If you can find where these sites do their commenting, you’ve got the latest and yet-unspammed promised blog land. You no believe? I show.

Go to the Google Keyword Tool. Think of a highly competitive (I mean super mega competitive) keyword such as “fast weight loss” or “online dating site.” Check the Only show ideas closely related to my search terms box, just to be sure Google doesn’t throw you off track. From the results, copy the keyword that has the highest number of searches and paste it into the Google search box.

For example, I queried the Keyword Tool for life insurance and found that there are165,000 global monthly searches and 90,500 local monthly searches in the United States for life insurance quote. So I type life insurance quote in Google.

Single out one of the top three results and run it through Open Site Explorer. Thanks to SEOMoz’s unrelenting efforts, OSE is the tool that IMHO lists out the backlinks of a site/URL in an order that most closely matches the authority assigned to them by Google. (Do I get a million or two “Mozpoints” for saying that?)

Regrettably, deplorably and lamentably, most if not all of the top ranked sites buy links or indulge in blog commenting to get to the top, and they are willing to take on black and white endangered species to stay there. So all you have to do…

…is follow the damn train and rummage around the list of backlinks that OSE throws at you. Find out which ones are blog pages (OSE will list them in order of importance) and make a list. Verify their PR using (which shows the toolbar PR of individual pages rather than the entire domain) to make sure you’re not wasting your time. Start posting your own comments on them. Bear in mind that these will be high quality blogs with comment moderation, so make sure you post niche-focused, informative and valuable comments. A further advantage is many of these pages are likely to have a low number of outbound links (up to now); otherwise the top sites wouldn’t be using them.

This is high-adrenaline hunting the hunters. These sites are probably paying a lot of money and using expensive software to find high authority, good quality blogs with fewer comments. Along you come and uproot a few stalks from their bamboo fields…

Feather on Black Hat #20

Create a “Top” Network

How many of the following have you used for SEO?

  1. Submission to Online Directories
  2. Creation of Top 10 Lists (in a blog post or standalone page on site)
  3. Localization
  4. Private Blog Networks
  5. User Generated Content

Imagine using all of them in one place! How often do #4 and #5 go together? What you can do is this… and bear with me, because the read is long and the work is ardous. This technique works especially well for SEO agencies.

The idea is to create a site where you showcase the so-called “Top” or “Best” companies of your city or state or country. These companies would fall into every conceivable category including driving schools, wineries and web developers. Albeit, don’t bite off more than you can chew and include only as many categories as resources would permit.

Register a domain name for your site with a country-specific TLD such as or Yeah, yeah, they’re all taken, but use your three pounds of grey stuff. Further, register a separate domain name for each category of firms, keeping the “top” or “best” or similar part common. For instance, you could have,, and so on.

You know how to entice the top accountants in a city to get themselves listed on your site. I don’t need to tell you that (maybe your company developed websites for them). But you also need content to go with your lists. Want UGC? Send these companies a questionnaire with about 10 questions (which is not too many, not too less). Pose some general questions that you can ask any organization (such as “What differentiates you from your competitors?”) and some industry-specific ones (such as “How does your region influence your wine production?”). However, ask the same questions of all companies in the same category. Get five great images from each of them while you’re at it.

By now your brain is spinning and you’re thinking one or both of the below:

  • This guy is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. What’s he rambling about?
  • I’d have been happy with 19 tactics. He didn’t have to pad it with you-know-what.

I’d love to finish up with another live example. So if you’ve dozed off, please wake up and visit while I catch my breath—er, fingers.

The “About Us” section is empty, but in the video clip on the home page, Gabriel, the site owner implies he built the site to compensate for “a lack in Australia of information about people” (1:31 to 1:38).

I’ll take the liberty of being your site guide. There is a cool map of Australia with pins resembling Google Places, followed by pictures and information about “top” companies grouped by category. There is a list of categories and links to websites with the naming convention on the right sidebar. I suggest you either put the category list on the left or the category-site links in the footer.

When you click on a category-name, such as “Limo Hire,” you’re taken to, which lists all the companies in that category. If you click on a particular company (either on the home page or on the category page), you’re taken to On clicking “Read More” on the company details page, you’re taken to On this page, you have a link to the company’s actual website. Just imagine the interlinking possibilities!

The top-category-name(dot)your-country’s-tld sites that you create can have the states on the main menu if your country has few states (such as Canada or Pakistan), or some sort of collage or list if your country has many states (such as USA or India). If you have money, you can go ahead and register a domain for each state. Then provide a way for businesses to contact you, answer your questions (create UGC) and list themselves (directory style).

The goal is to eventually control the “top” listings for businesses in your region.

The question that begs asking is how would you gain authority or credibility? How will you monetize it? Let Big Smoke do the firing.

That’s about it! No more nuclear tests—sorry, black hat SEO posts—scheduled for the near future. I have signed the non-proliferation treaty.

I humbly remind you that the above information is not intended for real world use. The aim of knowledge is not always action. I request you to use the information in this post to find ways to sustain ethical, resourceful and productive ways of internet marketing. Let Batmen be Batmen.

Having said that, you can beat them…

…or join them.

I don’t give a monkey’s tummy.

Watson, hand me my violin.


Nearly 200 techies to follow on Twitter…

# General Technology #

Chris Anderson (@chr1sa) Editor in Chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail
Michael Arrington (@arrington) Founder of TechCrunch
Patrick Beja (@notpatrick) French podcaster and tech commentator
Bianca Bosker (@bbosker) Technology Editor for The Huffington Post
Henry Blodget (@hblodget) Controversial Wall Street journalist who covers tech sector
Rick Broida (@cheapskateblog) CNET blogger scours the Web looking for the best deals in tech
Brian Cooley (@briancooley) CNET car-tech editor
Charles Cooper (@coopeydoop) Veteran tech reporter for
Dan Costa (@dancosta) Executive editor at PC Magazine
Robert Cringley (@cringely) Long-time technology writer and pundit
Chris Dawson (@mrdatahs) ZDNet blogger on technology in education
Michael Dell (@michaeldell) CEO of Dell
Sam Diaz (@sammyd) ZDNet news hound on the Between the Lines blog
Larry Dignan (@ldignan) ZDNet Editor in Chief; prolific tech news blogger
Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) Co-editor of Boing Boing; digital rights activist
Jack Dorsey (@jack) CEO of Square; creator and co-founder of Twitter
John C. Dvorak (@therealdvorak) Famously cranky tech pundit
Esther Dyson (@edyson) Veteran technology pundit
Mike Elgan (@mikeelgan) Widely-published freelance tech writer
Rob Enderle (@enderle) Long-time analyst of the PC industry
Michael Gartenberg (@gartenberg) Gartner analyst on consumer technology
Denise Howell (@dhowell) Lawyer; commentator on technology and law
Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) Canadian tech writer for GigaOm
Shibani Joshi (@shibanijoshi) Fox Business Network reporter on tech and the NASDAQ
Mitch Kapor (@mkapor) Lotus, Mozilla pioneer; angel investor
Vinod Khosla (@vkhosla) One of the tech world’s most influential venture capitalists
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes (@the_pc_doc) Technology hardware commentator at ZDNet
Martin Lamonica (@mlamonica) CNET writer on green technology
Leo Laporte (@leolaporte) Host of TWiT network and former TechTV host
Cali Lewis (@calilewis) Host of GeekBrief.TV
Katie Linendall (@katielinendoll) On-air geek tipster for CNN, CBS, and others
Jim Louderback (@jlouderb) CEO of Revision3; former editor of PC Magazine
Om Malik (@om) Founder of GigaOm
John Markoff (@markoff) Science writer for The New York Times
Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken) Founder of Technologizer and former editor of PC World
Declan McCullagh (@declanm) CBS News correspondent on US tech policy
Tom Merritt (@acedtect) Host of Tech News Today on the TWiT network
Clayton Morris (@claytonmorris) Fox TV personality covering geek topics and social media
Natali Morris (@natalimorris) CNET TV host of Loaded and tech correspondent for CBS News
Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) Tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal
Patrick Norton (@patricknorton) Tekzilla host and former TechTV personality
Andrew Nusca (@editorialiste) ZDNet news writer; editor
John Paczkowski (@johnpaczkowski) Tech news hound for All Things Digital
Jason Perlow (@jperlow) ZDNet technology columnist
Chris Pirillo (@chrispirillo) Tech geek turned Internet personality
David Pogue (@pogue) Tech columnist for New York Times and CNBC
Jason Pontin (@jason_pontin) Editor in Chief of MIT Technology Review
Seth Porges (@sethporges) Tech editor at Popular Mechanics magazine
JR Rafael (@jr_raphael) Tech news writer for PC World
Gabe Rivera (@gaberivera) Founder of Techmeme
Jack Schofield (@jackschofield) Computer editor at The Guardian
MG Siegler (@parislemon) TechCrunch news writer
Dwight Silverman (@dsilverman) Technology editor for the Houston Chronicle
Brad Stone (@bradstone) Technology reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek
Robert Strohmeyer (@rstrohmeyer) Freelance tech columnist
Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) Silicon Valley blogger for
Baratunde Thurston (@baratunde) Editor, writer, and comedian; one of the funniest techies on Twitter
Dan Tynan (@tynan_on_tech) Tech humor columnist and veteran tech writer
Lance Ulanoff (@lanceulanoff) Editor in Chief of PC Magazine
Padmasree Warrior (@padmasree) CTO of Cisco Systems
Molly Wood (@mollywood) CNET TV host and writer; creator of the famed “Molly rant”
Becky Worley (@bworley) ABC technology reporter, TWiT network host

# Mobile Computing #

Bonnie Cha (@bonniecnet) CNET mobile tech editor
Jessica Dolcourt (@jdolcourt) CNET mobile tech reporter
Bob Egan (@bobegan) Analyst on mobile tech; Wi-Fi pioneer
Ina Fried (@inafried) mobile reporter
Jonathan Geller (@boygenius) Founder and Editor in Chief of Boy Genius Report
Kent German (@kentgerman) CNET mobile tech editor
Nicole Lee (@nicole) CNET mobile tech reporter
Stuart Miles (@stuartmiles) Founder of
Matthew Miller (@palmsolo) ZDNet blogger on mobile computing
Maggie Reardon (@maggie_reardon) CNET reporter on mobile and wireless technology
Sascha Seagan (@saschasegan) Mobile writer for PC Magazine
Mark Spoonauer (@mspoonauer) Editor in Chief of Laptop Magazine
Kevin Tofel (@kevinctofel) Mobile site editor for GigaOm
Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent) Writer on mobile tech and IT in education

# Enterprise #

Marc Benioff (@benioff) CEO of
David Berlind (@dberlind) TechWeb Editor-in-Chief
Toni Bowers (@tbowers928) TechRepublic IT career columnist
Tony Bradley (@tony_bradleypcw) PC World tech writer
David Davis (@davidmdavis) Author, blogger, expert on Cisco and virtualization technologies
Bill Detwiler (@billdetwiler) TechRepublic’s Head Technology Editor
Erik Eckel (@erikeckel) IT consultant and TechRepublic writer
Scot Finnie (@scotfinnie) Editor in Chief of Computerworld
Steve Gillmor (@stevegillmor) Veteran tech journalist
Bob Gourley (@bobgourley) blogger; government IT expert
Dion Hinchcliffe (@dhinchcliffe) Blogger and consultant on Web 2.0 for business
Chuck Hollis (@chuckhollis) EMC CTO and blogger
Alex Howard (@digiphile) Government 2.0 Correspondent for ?O’Reilly Media
Doug Kaye (@dougkaye) Founder of IT Conversations
Michael Krigsman (@mkrigsman) Watchdog of IT project failures
Scott Lowe (@otherscottlowe) CIO, author, and TechRepublic columnist
Abbie Lundberg (@abbielundberg) Former editor in chief of CIO Magazine
Steve Ranger (@steveranger) Editor of UK IT site
Deb Shinder (@debshinder) Popular tech tip writer for TechRepublic and other publications
Don Tennant (@dontennant) Former editor in chief of Computerworld
Rick Vanover (@rickvanover) Senior IT professional and TechRepublic blogger
Werner Vogels (@werner) CTO
Alex Wolfe (@awolfe58) Editor in Chief of InformationWeek

# Microsoft #

Todd Bishop (@toddbishop) Seattle-based Microsoft reporter
Ed Bott (@edbott) Microsoft Windows expert, blogger, book author
Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley) Notable source on all things on Microsoft
Bill Gates (@billgates) Microsoft co-founder and former CEO
Mark Kaelin (@markwkaelin) TechRepublic editor covering Windows and PCs
Frank X. Shaw (@fxshaw) PR chief at Microsoft
Paul Thurrott (@thurrott) Microsoft Windows columnist, editor, and podcaster
Stefan Weitz (@stefanweitz) Search chief at Microsoft

# Apple #

Jacqui Cheng (@eJacqui) Apple editor for Ars Technica
Jim Dalrymple (@jdalrymple) Editor of The Loop, veteran Apple columnist
Philip Elmer-DeWitt (@philiped) Apple reporter for Fortune Magazine
John Gruber (@gruber) Author of Daring Fireball
Andy Ihnatko (@ihnatko) Apple pundit
Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) Venture capitalist, former Apple employee, former Mac columnist
Steven Levy (@stevenjayl) Author and columnist on Apple topics
Tim Robertson (@mymac) Podcaster; founder of
John Siracusa (@siracusa) Apple writer for Ars Technica
Jason Snell (@jsnell) Editorial Director of Macworld
Brian Tong (@brian_tong) CNET TV host of AppleByte and Prizefight
Seth Weintraub (@llsethj) Columnist covering Google and Apple

# Google #

John Battelle (@johnbattelle) Author and pundit on Google and Internet search
Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) Google engineer, blogger
Chris DiBona (@cdibona) Open source spokesman at Google
Vic Gundotra (@vicgundotra) Google VP of engineering for mobile apps
Marissa Mayer (@marissamayer) Google product development executive
Andy Rubin (@arubin) Head of Android development at Google
Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) Chairman of Google
Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani) Host of This Week in Google podcast

# Open Source #

Matt Asay (@mjasay) Former COO of Ubuntu and open source columnist
John “Mad Dog” Hall (@maddoghall) Free software advocate
Doc Searls (@dsearls) Tech journalist, author, open source advocate
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (@sjvn) Long-time Linux and open source columnist
Jack Wallen (@jlwallen) Linux enthusiast, columnist, and tip writer

# Web and Social Media #

Randall Bennett (@randallb) Founder of TechVi, Web video specialist
Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) Inventor of the World Wide Web
Paul Boutin (@paulboutin) Reporter for VentureBeat, The New York Times, and Wired
Danah Boyd (@zephoria) Academic/researcher in new media
Jason Calacanis (@jason) CEO of Mahalo, founder of Weblogs Inc.
Pete Cashmore (@mashable) CEO of Mashable
Mrinal Desai (@mrinaldesai) Tech startup founder; tech news junkie
Caterina Fake (@caterina) Co-founder of Flickr
John Furrier (@furrier) Silicon Valley entrepreneur
Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) Professor and author who covers tech and new media
Sarah Lacy (@sarahcuda) Freelance author covering Silicon Valley
Shira Lazar (@shiralazar) Web video journalist covering the intersection of tech, culture, and new media
Jennifer Leggio (@mediaphyter) ZDNet blogger on social media for business
Charlene Li (@charleneli) Author and social media thought leader
Amber MacArther (@ambermac) Tech journalist and broadcaster
Richard MacManus (@rww) Editor and founder of ReadWriteWeb
Andrew Mager (@mager) Web developer and ZDNet blogger on Web 2.0
Caroline McCarthy (@caro) CNET writer covering Web 2.0
Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) Founder of WordPress
Rafe Needleman (@rafe) Editor of CNET’s Webware
Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly) Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media
Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) Forrester analyst on new media technologies
Aza Razkin (@azaaza) Former creative lead for Firefox
Kevin Rose (@kevinrose) Founder of, host of Diggnation
Joshua Schachter (@joshu) Creator of Delicious, a.k.a.
Erick Schonfeld (@erickschonfeld) TechCrunch co-editor
Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) Tech writer and social media flag-bearer
Stephen Shankland (@stshank) CNET News reporter, covering the Web
Joel Spolsky (@spolsky) Co-founder of Stack Overflow
Owen Thomas (@owenthomas) Writer at VentureBeat
Alexia Tsotsis (@alexia) TechCrunch reporter
Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) Tech venture capitalist in New York
Dave Winer (@davewiner) “The father of blogging and RSS” (BBC)
Jonathan Zittrain (@zittrain) Author and Harvard professor covering the Internet

# Electronics and Gadgets #

Donald Bell (@donald) Gadget reporter for CNET
Veronica Belmont (@veronica) Host of Tekzilla and Qore, and former CNET TV host
Ryan Block (@ryan) Former Engadget editor and co-founder of GDGT
David Carnoy (@davidcarnoy) CNET editor of mobile gadgets
Jason Chen (@diskopo) Gizmodo editor
Brian Lam (@blam) Editorial Director of Gizmodo
Erica Ogg (@ericainsf) Gadget reporter for CNET
Nilay Patel (@reckless) Managing Editor of Engadget
Don Reisinger (@donreisinger) Gadget columnist for CNET
Peter Rojas (@peterrojas) Founding editor of both Gizmodo and Engadget
Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) NPD head analyst on consumer technology
Joanna Stern (@joannastern) Engadget reporter
Jeremy Toeman (@jtoeman) Consumer electronics startup advisor
Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) Editor in Chief of Engadget
Dave Zatz (@davezatz) Gadget and digital lifestyle blogger

…and of course, yours truly Rohan Ayyar(@maven_infosoft) Jack of all trades at Maven Infosoft

*Technorati Token RZQETFW9R4UD

Stieg Larsson has presented a never-before insight into the psychology of the characters of a crime novel, not to mention an exceptional portrayal of gender relationships in Sweden.

Mikael Blomkvist, investigative financial journalist, who for most of the story appears to be the hero (unless you’ve read the reviews first, according to which Lisbeth Salander, delinquent researcher, is the main protagonist), is recruited by leading industrialist Henrik Vanger for a seemingly improbable task—find out what happened to his niece who went missing more than thirty years ago. Blomkvist, with Lisbeth’s help, meticulously uncovers subtle leads that ultimately result in a stunning outcome. He has to open a whole consignment of Pandora’s boxes on the way and deal with a large family of oddballs who would put a prime-time soap opera to shame. The way the unpredictable Lisbeth goes about her business leaves you in awe.

However, “Kalle” Blomkvist unwittingly comes across as a wannabe James Bond who beds practically every other woman that he bumps into, leaving you to speculate how much Larsson (who was an activist-journalist) saw of himself in his hero. At the beginning of each part, there are some purported statistics about sexual excesses committed against Swedish women. I would venture to say that if the behaviour of the average Swedish woman resembles that of the female characters of this book, then they’re probably asking for it. Further, the story is unnecessarily padded in places with descriptions of walks, meals and sleep.

There is a financial/corporate intrigue angle ripe with possibilities but Larsson fails to exploit it. When it comes to gathering critical information, the methods depicted are a bit fanciful—Lisbeth simply hacks into people’s computers and proceeds to gain absolute control. Practically speaking, installing a simple key-logger in your coworker’s PC is an uphill task, let alone remotely manipulate laptops of people to whom you’re not connected in any way.

A fresh approach to a stale crime, but doesn’t live up to the hype.

The Art of SEO is one tree in a billion-tree forest. Gazillions of books have been written about the subject (if online marketing books were oil, your granny would be a Sheikh) and more are guzzling out as you read this, not to mention the tons of information (and multiple tons of misinformation) you find on the net. So, what’s the fruit on this tree? Does it have a USP?

The undoubted fact is that each of the authors is an expert on the subject. They steadfastly stick to the fundamentals and steer clear of the grow-beard-overnight tactics that are prevalent in the SEO industry. The content of your website is of the utmost importance and the book makes it abundantly clear that if you don’t build it, they won’t come. You build your house first and then the book tells you about the nooks and crannies where the search engines look for you; from which windows, which balconies and which verandahs you can call out to them.

There are loads of examples and references which you can stop and check out on the net before proceeding further. Though some of them are outdated or changed in structure as you would expect, you always get the gist of the topic. There is comprehensive information on how search engine algorithms work and change over time, how you can put web analytics to use and how you can convert metrics to ROI on paper. A section at the end that attempts to outline the perceived evolution of the business over the next five years is what is warranted in every book on technology.

On the downside, there is a lot of repetition of the same ideas and elaboration of basics that marketers and project managers have known since time immemorial. There is a technical part involving Apache in the middle which is best skipped. If you read the book cover-to-cover, you increasingly get the uneasy feeling that what the authors took 600 pages to say could have easily been articulated in less than 350 pages.

All in all, a good read if you’re in the process of putting together an online marketing strategy or wondering why yours isn’t working.

Tarquin Hall announces his arrival on the Crime Writers scene with a superbly smooth-paced mystery. Modern day India is splendidly portrayed with rich Punjabi traditions expertly depicted in detective Vish Puri’s lifestyle.

Puri, aka Chubby, is a presumptuous foodie who heads Most Private Investigators with a controlling streak. His sidekicks are efficient and have amusing names like Handbrake, Facecream and Tubelight. They are both awed and wary of their “Boss” at the same time. Puri’s modus operandi of investigation involves sticking to the basics and going after his prey with pitbull-like determination. A thorough student of India’s age-old detection techniques formulated by Chanakya (administrator par excellence of the Maurya dynasty, 300 BC), Puri is not impressed by Johnny-come-lately detectives like Sherlock Holmes.

The mystery itself unfolds and is cracked in a way that is not typical of present-day Western novels. The primary reason is the differences in interaction amongst the primary characters in accordance with prevalent norms of Indian society. The average Westerner might find a throwback to the days when butlers, helps and cooks were commonplace while the story is actually set in the contemporary and progressive suburbs of New Delhi. With his client in jail, the police as his opponents and the media playing truant, Puri methodically puts together each piece of the puzzle and succeeds in maintaining his record of never leaving a case unsolved.

Hall does a commendable job of trying to weave multiple parallel stories, one involving an attempt on Puri’s life and the other concerning a matrimonial investigation (Puri’s flagship line of business), alongside the main plot, Mortimer-style. Vish Puri comes across as a healthy combination of Poirot and Rumpole. Let’s hope that he continues to milk his newfound market for probing serious crime.