Black Hat Tactics Used in Social Media (and what you can do about them)

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Google may be laying the hammer down on black hat search marketing, but a new side of darkness is emerging from the depths of Facebook and other social channels. Brace yourselves social media marketers, it’s getting dirty out there! Keep reading to pinpoint what tactics some blackhatters are doing and what you can do to thwart them-but first, let’s get back to the basics.

What is black hat?

Black hat was originally a term used to describe hackers that crack into security systems with malicious intent. As SEO began to grow and search marketers increasingly found ways to game the system and better rankings, search engines laid down guidelines. Any person that tries to manipulate or use tactics outside of a search engine’s guidelines for their own benefit is deemed as a black hat or using black hat techniques. This term also applies for the business of social media marketing. There are many companies that use illegal methods to promote a given twitter profile that sooner or later cause problems to the user.


Black Hat Social Media Tactics

Just as search engines set rules and guidelines for their use, so do social media sites. Below are a few of the most common black hat social media practices. Buying Social Shares & Fans or Followers If you have been on sites like Fiverr, I’m sure you have seen listings that claim to be selling Facebook Likes, Twitter followers, and virtually any other social metric you can think of. While this may boost a brand’s social media presence, it may also have an effect on SEO. Many digital marketers agree that social signals are used in Google’s ranking algorithms. These fake Likes, Tweets and +1’s can falsely give authority to inferior pages.

Linking from Low Quality Social Sites Links are extremely valuable in SEO. However, if your site gets linked to from the wrong site, it could mean bad news for you and your rankings. It’s very much of keeping the right company. In the past we have seen competitors build low quality links to competitor sites which negatively affect rankings. What is still yet to be seen is if building links from low quality social sites could have a negative effect on rankings in the same manner. This practice is relatively new, so definite answers are not available. Fake Reviews Fake reviews are a major problem that has plagued the service industry for years. Unfortunately, one (fake) bad review has the potential to ruin the online reputation of an otherwise decent business. With the inclusion of rich snippets in search engine result pages, users don’t even have to visit review pages to see the bogus feedback. Low star or numeric ratings will often lead to lower click through rates, resulting in less online conversion, orders or leads.

Creating and Optimizing Fake Accounts Believe it or not, we have seen competitors make fake social accounts with the sole intention of ranking well in the search engines. The idea behind this is to push the legitimate social site further down in rankings, thwart any effort put into social media and overall hurt the brand image of a competitor.

What you can do to fight off black hat tactics

Even though each situation will differ from site to site, here are a few ways you can fight off black hat tactics used against you or by your competitors.

  • Become a spam buster! Most social sites give users the ability to mark anything that may be spam. If you suspect a review is fake or a post isn’t authentic, let the proper people know.
  • Report spam to Google. If you see a suspicious ranking, use the Google webspam reporting tool.
  • Don’t be afraid to contact the legal team. The majority of social media sites have a legal team in place when things get murky. Don’t hesitate to put in a legitimate claim if you feel you or your brand is being violated.
  • Verify your account. As more and more fake accounts begin to pop up, take all measures possible to verify that your social site is the real deal.

o Get verified on Facebook

o Get verified on Twitter

o Get verified on Pinterest

o Get verified on Google+ & Local Listing (this one is very important if you plan to utilize local SEO)

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