To monitor a search engine algorithm closely, you need to operate near and over the boundaries that you know. Inevitably, you take the risk of receiving penalties from search engines.
I keep close ties to ex-clients in industries known for their less ethical approaches, just to see what does and doesn't work. Not surprisingly, all the old black hat tricks I used to play keep working.
Here's a look at some of the darker shades of search engine optimization (SEO).
Making the Wrong Page Rank
Influencing the SERP ranking of one's competitor might be hard. Influencing which page on their domain ranks is much easier. If the wrong page ranks, they're likely to miss a conversion.
This is a trick derived from a specific search engine reputation management (SERM) tactic. Instead of pushing a negative result down, you can replace it by a neutral/positive page on the same domain. This way you don't have to match all the domain related factors before focusing on relevance and page importance.
The new result replaces the old one, thus removing a negative result from the top 10.
Both these pages are relevant for Viagra. You can influence which one ranks.
To exploit this on a competitor:
1. Find an alternative page on their domain with some search term focus.
2. Find PageRank (link value without particular relevance) anywhere on the Internet.
3. Link from the page with PageRank or redirect it to the page you want to have ranking.
4. If enough link value is passed, the second page outranks the original one.
Re-using Link Value for a Different Sentiment
The way you get websites to link to you can be different from the way you use it to rank. As long as these links aren't removed, you can even spread an opposite message.
Research focused on the death toll caused by Viagra is probably much more linkable than a website selling it. Even mainstream media might link to this.
Once the newsworthiness of the research is over, all these links will have ended up in news archives and many links will never be removed. Re-using the link value then becomes easy.
If the new message focuses on the same search term, it will take over the original ranking. Your "Buy Viagra Now" page probably makes you more money than the old research.
To use this to your advantage:
1. Create a linkable message with the theme of the desired search term. Being against something popular or proving a popular statement is very linkable.
2. Make sure the links will remain after you change the message.
3. Change the message on the old URL or use a 301 redirect to re-use the link value.
Ratting Out Your Competitors
This is the most common type of black hat SEO. I know quite a lot of SEOs that report on every paid link they can find. Do so many people want to help Google, or is it in their own best interest?
There are many things your competitor purposefully or accidentally does, that might be seen as spam. If they benefit a lot from it and if it can even get them a penalty, you can choose to point this out to Google.
The most important tip for submitting a spam report: "Make sure you don't violate any rules yourself!" Because you submit a spam report from your Google Webmaster Central account, they could know who you are.
New Black Hat Options Keep Arising
Most old black hat tactics keep working and new ones are continuously being added. When search engines like Google fill one hole, they open another.
It is fun to be on the forefront of this battle, but illogical for most websites to even consider.If you're not experienced enough to oversee the possible consequences, don't get into black hat. If you're certain about wanting this uncertainty, look me up at a future conference.