Recently my team and I uncovered a dirty secret with automotive websites. One of our clients using an unnamed website company had become victims of Black Hat SEO tactics. Our client’s website had over 1000 pages of cloned content that was added by the website company. Content cloning is done by using a script or program to automatically generate and modify website content
There was an article for each and every vehicle sold in the U.S. The only difference between the content in the article was the vehicle name. Everything else was identical. See example below:
To make it worse, this Black Hat cloning tactic is being used across each one of the unnamed website company’s sites. This means not only is the content cloned but it duplicated across hundreds of other Automotive websites. See example below:
When we inquired about this tactic, we were told by the Director of Client Relations that, “the articles are necessary to [the unnamed clients] SEO.”
What is Black Hat SEO?
Blackhat SEO is tactics is designed to increase website traffic that strictly goes against Google’s guidelines. Examples of black hat SEO consist of:
- Buying backlinks
- Keyword stuffing
- Duplicating or cloning content
How does Black Hat SEO affect my site?
Black hat SEO can affect your sight in numerous ways such as:
- Reduced organic traffic
- Manual penalties set by Google
- De-indexing your website (very rare)
In this particular case, the site did not receive a manual penalty from Google. Instead, Google refuses to index any of the pages as the pages contain clone content which Google views as Spammy content. See a screenshot taken from Google search console below:
Spammy content is low-quality content that is overly stuffed with keywords, and written for the sole purpose of ranking in search results. If caught by Google, Spammy content, actually works against its intended purpose as seen in the screenshot above. As a result, this type of consent negatively affects domain authority. Two weeks after removing the content we saw the domain authority increased by 2 points.
How do I find if my dealership has been affected?
Finding Black Hat SEO can be tricky. The unnamed website company has a 7-second crawl delay and used Cloudflare to block all site audits. We requested to have Cloudflare and the crawl delay removed but our request was denied. This was most likely to prevent us from finding the thousands of articles hidden within the site. To find out if you have been a victim of black hat SEO tactics, you must manually check your site.