SEO Case Study: Black Hat Techniques Are Dead, but Not Link Building

Marcus Howling
by Marcus Howling 16 Jan, 2023

Is the practice of SEO link building dead? Do not believe the hype! Continue reading to see how one amazing link helped improve rankings for a blinds, shade, and window treatments company.


 As with most SEO professionals, anxiety sets in when a client places heavy emphasis on specific keywords. It is good to have goals and know the project focus, but guaranteed rankings is never possible.


It is always a challenge to predict exactly how search engines will react to the changes made on a website. However, proper research and strategy can ease some of the stress and make the process easier.


Step One: Review the client's current rankings for the terms they want to rank for and assess difficulty using a tool like Spyfu. The competition can be seen in Google's keyword tool, but it is not a true evaluation of organic ranking difficulty. After assessing difficulty, it is also important to gage the starting point.


The following image shows the client struggling to rank for any motorization terms and one term had a 55 place drop for motorized shades between Nov 1st to Dec 1st.


Now that there is a benchmark for comparison, move on to step two and complete on-page research.


Step Two: Review the top 3 companies ranking for each term the client wants to improve. Look at the code to see all the meta elements. See how they use keywords in the tags, content, images, and other mark up. Are they including terms in the meta keywords or not? And do not forget to view the page specific link factors, internal and external.


This manual evaluation creates the opportunity to compare data. Keep an eye out for consistent elements on each of the high-ranking pages. Also, unlike with the tool, the manual review helps reveal any shady black hat techniques. Look for things like ghost copy, or headings that are in the code, but not visible on the page.


SEO Optimization Tip: Avoid black hat tricks! Once the competition gets penalized, it will be that much harder for them to reclaim their original position.


Step Three: Create a plan and implement. For this particular client, the plan was to update all meta information and publish content through guest posting.


Results: Take a look at the image below! After updating the meta, and getting a solid backlink, the client started to improve. Not only are they ranking for a new keyword, the terms that dropped saw major improvements.


Rankings: Feb 1st Compared to Dec 1st  



They even jumped up 60+ positions for two of the terms. This shows that when building links properly, they still have a positive impact on rankings. It also helps make the continued case for the quality of a BL profile over quantity.


It could also be suggested that links with anchor text still have a greater impact over branded links. Take a look at the image below, the link text created in this case study was motorized shades.


Anchor Text Created:




SEO Pro Tip: When creating backlinks try to make it look as natural as possible. Try to avoid buying links, building links too fast, and create links that go to all versions of the website. So, point links to the www, non-www, and https:// versions of the domain. When all the links are pointing to one URL type, it makes the link profile look more manual, and less natural.


Tools Used for This Project


To help with this project there were serval tools involved. First a simple google search for each of the terms listed above. After finding the top 3 companies for each term, the following tools were used to evaluate each page.


WebCEO was used to track keyword rankings month to month. SEO Quake helps when checking technical metrics like traffic signals, internal links, and density. As mentioned above, Spyfu was used to check ranking difficulty and also to view backlinks. Moz and Majestic were also used to check links, authority, and trust signals. As always, the link results were different, most tools rarely extract the same results. Because of this, it is good practice to run the URL through multiple platforms and view the code through the page source. This ensures recommendations are being made with everything in mind. That covers the how, now take a look at some of the challenges that could be encountered.




The biggest challenges faced during this process can be found in the list below:


1. Determining what elements are important for ranking pages for a particular category or terms the client wants to rank higher for can be a tedious process.


2. Determining if the link should go to home page, category, or page level will be a barrier to success.  


3. Obtaining an anchor text back link with high link juice from an authoritative source will not be easy.  


4. And as seen below, keeping the page ranked high for the terms month to month will be challenging because of constant indexing by Google and SERP fluctuation.


Rankings: March 1st Compared to Feb 1st  




What Does the March Data Mean?


The March data shows that once Google reevaluated the motorization page, they needed to make slight adjustments. Motorized shades, motorized window shades, and motorized window treatments all saw minor drops the following month. However, they still rank way better then when the client asked for improvements. They are also ranking on page one for two new Motorized Hunter Douglas terms.


Now that most of the hard work is over, the new plan and goal is to get the client ranked on the first page and keep them there. To do this, the top pages are now being reevaluated again, but for text on page, and deep heading optimization. The plan for April is to add more written text to the page in hopes that it pushes the client to page one for all the terms.

Check back in a couple months for part two. Does optimized long page content still help improve search rankings?


About The Author: Marcus Howling, the SEO Doctor, is a SEO strategist at Amuse - A Hearst Digital Marketing Agency. As one of the largest full-service digital marketing firms in Houston, Amuse has the ability to help increase online visibility. Marcus excels at on-page optimization, natural link building, keyword research, and analysis.