High PageRank comment links from WordPress blogs, guestbooks and forums used to be a viable, but black hat SEO method for increasing a websites PageRank and Google rankings.

The most important part of the above sentence is “USED TO BE“, it’s April 2020 and Google moved the goal posts over 10 years ago to a point where commenting on WordPress blogs for directly increasing search engine rankings does NOT work and is dangerous (Google Penalty).

Google Black Hat SEO
Google Black Hat SEO

In the early days of SEO it was all about high PR backlinks, the black hat SEO’s would link SPAM the crap out of guestbooks, forums and blogs, basically anywhere a clickable link could be added, black hat SEO’s would be spamming their links with perfect SEO anchor text for PR and rankings: I know because in early 2000 I was one of them and managed to generate a PR8 home page for a website selling sexy lingerie and sex toys (my first online business).

I had top 5 SERPs like lingerie, sexy lingerie, sex toys and loads more and my less than a year old domain would regularly receive 8,000 unique visitors a day and sometimes over 15,000 unique visitors a day: these are unique visitors, not pageviews.

I saw the SEO writing on the wall just in time, I knew Google would act and my website would be banned and my online business ruined, so I changed direction and started offering white hat SEO services just one month before my business website was hit with a massive Google penalty.

Google traffic dropped like a stone, PR reset to 0 and I was lucky to see 2,000 visitors a day in the first few months after the penalty for link spamming, Within 6 months of the initial Google penalty traffic stabilised at around 200 visitors a day, not enough to run that sort of online business, it was over.

SEO Black Hat Risks vs Rewards

Black Hat SEO Techniques Gamble with your Websites Future
Black Hat SEO Techniques Gamble with your Websites Future

I’m explaining what happened to my first business domain as a cautionary tale, had I not spammed high PR links the website could still be making money today, instead it’s a crappy affiliate site (~1,000 visitors a month) that I could delete and not miss: I keep it for sentimental reasons, my first real business domain.

I did however make quite a bit of money from the black hat link spamming, can’t complain at £80,000 from a domain in one year, so some could argue the risk vs rewards was worth it, I don’t see it that way, had I used sustainable white hat SEO methods I could still own (or have sold) a decent ranking lingerie/sex toys website and though I’d have made less money the first year or two I’ve missed out on 15+ years of potential revenue: who knows could have been massive and have sold the business for millions by now.

If you are reading from the above that you can make a load of cash just by link spamming today consider this was 15+ years ago. Google has adapted to this black hat technique so avoid it, you won’t even generate a temporary high ranking domain using the same black hat SEO backlink building methods I used a decade plus ago. Google has clicked on, blog owners have clicked on, forums have clicked on and the guestbook phenomena is long dead.

SPAMMED backlinks are worse than worthless now!

Google SEO and rel=”nofollow”

Over a decade ago Google and the other major search engines adopted the rel=”nofollow” attribute, when added to links nofollow informs search engines NOT to pass any SEO benefit including PR to the link.

You will find all popular blogging platforms like WordPress and forum software like PHPBB adopted nofollow as the standard way to ‘prevent’ black hat link spamming.

What is a Black Hat SEO's Favourite Food MEME
What is a Black Hat SEO’s Favourite Food MEME

Reality is most people online trying to make money are stupid, they don’t follow even the basics of what currently works SEO wise today and so the introduction of rel=”nofollow” has had no impact on comment link spamming, it’s got worse with automated comment link spamming software.

Even though it’s failed to stop an epidemic of comment spam (most WordPress comments for example are spam) it has allowed Google an easy way to tackle comment spam without having to work hard, links with rel=”nofollow” are ignored when Google determines PageRank. Not much help to the poor webmaster stuck with tens of thousands of automated spammed links on a regular basis, but at least Google is sorted :-)

Quick SEO Tip Nofollow Deletes Link Benefit
Quick SEO Tip Nofollow Deletes Link Benefit

That’s not to say nofollow links have no ranking value at all, users do click links from forums and blog comments and this can have an indirect SEO benefit: send me half a million visitors through clicked nofollow links and some will convert to commenter’s, some will link from their websites, others will like/share your content on Facebook and Tweet about it and some might buy an SEO service. All help SEO wise, but you will NOT benefit directly from the link benefit (PR) of the nofollow links.

In my SEO experience the click through rate (CTR) from comments is not very high even from high quality blogs with high quality comments, if a website allows spammed links to stay live for months on end the odds are it’s not a popular site, so the direct CTR will likely be negligible.

Still Tempted with Black Hat SEO Tricks Like Comment SPAM for Backlinks?

Check for Manual Google Penalties via Google Search Console
Check for Manual Google Penalties via Google Search Console

Google might not count the backlinks in their ranking algorithm, but they certainly take action against those using black hat techniques and if this is one of a number of black hat tools you regularly use consider how it looks to a manual reviewer: Google has a team of people searching for websites breaking the Google webmaster guidelines and slaps them with manual penalties.

If you are a little greyhat in a few areas, let’s say you use some duplicate content or over use your keyphrases, not enough on it’s own to warrant a Google penalty, but throw in a campaign of comment link spamming and a manual reviewer might decide it’s worth a penalty.

Craig Campbell SEO Black Hat Link
Craig Campbell SEO Black Hat Link

For example I stumbled on an SEO consultant from Glasgow who had bought the expired domain of a well known EU MEP and was passing it off as still owned by the MEP (he rebuilt the old site which is also a copyright infringement!), on the homepage he had a black hat SEO hidden link to his SEO website with hidden anchor text Craig Campbell SEO. If Google noticed that one hidden backlink it probably wouldn’t result in a Google penalty, but what other black hat SEO tactics does Craig Campbell use to build backlinks etc… to promote his SEO services website?

David Law

David Law : Technical SEO Expert with 20+ years Online Business, SEO, Search Engine Marketing and Social Media Marketing experience... Creator of multiple WordPress SEO Themes and SEO Plugins. Interests: wildlife, walking, environmental issues, politics, economics, journalism, consumer rights.

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