Stumbled on a fellow SEO consultant called Craig Campbell from Glasgow who I at first WRONGLY thought was stealing links from SEO clients via an old school black hat SEO technique!
I was looking at Craig Campbell’s website (for SEO research related to local SEO) and checked out his backlinks via Neil Patel’s free Ubersuggest backlink checker tool, see his domains backlinks at: https://app.neilpatel.com/en/seo_analyzer/backlinks?domain=https://www.craigcampbellseo.com/&mode=url&locId=2840&lang=en
Pop a URL in the Ubersuggest form and it lists some of the URLs back links.
I was about to close it down as I didn’t find anything interesting on Craig Campbell’s website, just wanted to quickly see it’s DA: gives a rough idea of the quality of backlinks and noticed a link from Nigel Farage’s MEP website: https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/ which peaked my interest.
Coincidentally, as I was doing the SEO back link research I happened to be listening to Nigel Farage on LBC: I have an interest in politics and own a popular Brexit Politics Twitter account and an old and neglected general election website which used to rank high for general election SERPs, also own a news website, but it’s more of a Google news SEO test which I didn’t finish.
I wrongly assumed Craig Campbell who offers SEO services in the UK had been hired by MEP Nigel Farage to build his MEP website or maybe do some SEO work and he’d added a footer link: web designers and SEO companies adding footer links from websites they build/work on is a common way for them to build backlinks. As long as they have permission for the links, no major problem, but some add them without permission which is unethical/blackhat.
I took a quick look and couldn’t see the backlink reported by the Ubersuggest backlink checker tool with anchor text “Craig Campbell SEO“, it looked like the link might be hidden.
Craig Campbell SEO Black Hat Link
So Viewed HTML Source of https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/ and searched through the HTML code and found the Craig Campbell SEO text link and some other uses of the phrase “Craig Campbell SEO”:
<meta property="og:description" content="Enter your email if you support Nigel! Nigel in Brussels after Commons' Brexit Vote https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR2snMKWbUM Nigel Farage MEP Follow @Nigel_Farage Craig Campbell SEO">
<meta property="og:url" content="https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/">
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Nigel Farage MEP">
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image">
<meta name="twitter:description" content="Enter your email if you support Nigel! Nigel in Brussels after Commons' Brexit Vote https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR2snMKWbUM Nigel Farage MEP Follow @Nigel_Farage Craig Campbell SEO">
Take into account at this point I believed the Nigel Farage MEP website was owned by Nigel Farage, so this looked wrong. At this point my thoughts were either Nigel Farage has hired Craig Campbell to work on the sites SEO and he’s hidden text links and affiliate links or he’s hacked the domain to add the link etc… A third remote option was Craig owned the domain: this was later confirmed to be the case: Craig has wrote about this site and how he bought it as an expired domain.
The code above is related to sharing content over social media: Facebook, Twitter etc… When the homepage is shared at the end it might include “Craig Campbell SEO”.
How to Hide a Link in Text Badly!
The code below is a text link with anchor text “Craig Campbell SEO”, this passes SEO ranking value to the Craig Campbell website for the keywords “Craig Campbell SEO”. This link basically helps the SEO consultant gain better rankings for searches related to his name “Craig Campbell” and the important keyword “SEO”.
<p><span style="color: #ffffff;"><a style="color: #ffffff;" href="https://www.craigcampbellseo.com/">Craig Campbell SEO</a></span></p>
I immediately noticed the CSS color code for WHITE text, that’s color: #ffffff; used for the text link!
That’s a really old school black hat SEO technique to hide a link in text, make the anchor text of the link the same colour (white) and the background (white), so visitors to the website can’t easily see the text link.
This is a terrible way to hide a link in text, it’s clumsy to say the least and shows a lack of SEO skill on the part of Craig Campbell. The green link at the end of this paragraph is using the same black hat SEO technique, but I’ve not matched the font color (green) to the background color (black). if I did you wouldn’t see this link!
The HTML code for the link above is:
<span style="background-color:#000000;"><a style="color:#00bd02;" href="https://seo-gold.com/how-to-hide-backlinks-aka-black-hat-seo-fail/#how">if I did you wouldn't see this link!</a></span>
To actually hide the link in the text above would need two minor modifications, simply changing “background-color:#000000;” to “background-color:#ffffff;” and “color:#00bd02;” to “color:#ffffff;” would change the anchor text of the link to white and a casual viewer wouldn’t see it easily.
By hiding links in text this way a black hat SEO can insert text links to websites unrelated to the content without visitors noticing. Here we have a website about an EU MEP linking out in the middle of the content to a Glasgow SEO consultant’s website offering SEO services. If Nigel Farage owned the Nigel Farage MEP website (he doesn’t) it would look weird.
Or how Discourse forum software has millions of semi-hidden backlinks using the noscript tag and a little bit of Googlebot cloaking!
Craig Campbell says he’s been working in SEO for 18 years, so have I, I started around 2001 and used to see this easy to spot black hat SEO technique to hide links in text all the time in the early 2000s, but not so much over the past 10 years since it’s really easy for Google to spot and penalise.
Don’t Hide Links in Text this Way!
Googlebot isn’t stupid in 2020, they can now ‘look’ at the DOM: that means they can pretty much see what we see, BUT unlike your average visitor, Googlebot can easily compare it to the HTML code like I did.
Basically if we (real visitors) can’t see the backlink when looking at a webpage in a browser window, Googlebot can’t ‘see’ the backlink as it spiders/indexed the webpage, but it can compare what it ‘sees’ to the HTML source code and hiding links with color CSS code is easy to catch.
Craig, after 18 years in SEO you can do better than hiding links with font colours, this is amateur SEO hour!
Adding hidden backlinks this way is a HUGE SEO risk for both the website linked FROM (the Nigel Farage site) and the website linked TO (the Craig Campbell SEO services site).
If Craig Campbell added the hidden text link (99% sure he did, he owns both websites) he’s an idiot SEO wise, hard to believe he’s worked in SEO for 18 years!
Is Craig Campbell a Black Hat SEO?
Clearly Craig Campbell is a black hat SEO: Craig owns the https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/ website, he bought it as an expired domain and has added a black hat SEO hidden text link from his own website to another site he owns.
Not sure why he added a hidden link this way, as the site owner he could have added it to the footer, not as good as in the middle of the body text, but at least it’s not black hat and SEO risk free.
If you are a web designer or SEO and have permission to add a link to your website, avoid sitewide footer links. I suggest (with the permission of the owner) add a single footer link from the homepage.
Over 10 years ago I released a set of free AdSense ready WordPress themes and added sitewide backlinks in the footers to my AdSense themes site: the links were visible, nothing black hat, the site owners could see the link easily. It resulted in over 2,000,000 backlinks which was awesome at first, sadly a couple of years later Google seriously penalised the domain for unnatural backlinks! My site was punished badly because I did too well giving away a free set of AdSense themes: they were the best WordPress AdSense themes at the time!
I can only speculate Craig wanted the text link to his SEO website in the middle of the content for the SEO benefit, but doesn’t want search engine visitors to his expired domain (which he is passing off as owned by Nigel Farage) to see his SEO link.
It is reckless to add a hidden text link that way, though it is his domain, he can do what he wants with it.
Almost forgot the two Amazon UK affiliate link on the homepage to Nigel Farage books (example Amazon affiliate link code below) and they use what looks like Craig Campbell’s Amazon UK affiliate code: craiggolfsite-21. I guess Craig owns a golf site.
<figure id="attachment_90" aria-describedby="caption-attachment-90" style="width: 196px" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1849548633/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=1849548633&linkCode=as2&tag=craiggolfsite-21&linkId=e210c403af6ad3c7e1beb15bb076568c" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener"><img class="wp-image-90 size-medium" src="https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/thepurplerevolution-196x300.jpg" alt="The Purple Revolution" width="196" height="300" srcset="https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/thepurplerevolution-196x300.jpg 196w, https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/thepurplerevolution.jpg 652w" sizes="(max-width: 196px) 100vw, 196px"></a><figcaption id="caption-attachment-90" class="wp-caption-text">The Purple Revolution - The Year That Changed Everything</figcaption></figure>
The above is concerning, but there’s worse on the Contact page!
Craig Campbell SEO Passing Off as Nigel Farage MEP
Craig Campbell owns this domain https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/ and he is clearly passing it off as a Nigel Farage owned website. Nigel Farage used to own this domain, but he allowed it to expire, Craig Campbell bought the domain for the backlinks to the site.
The Nigel Farage MEP website has backlinks from Wikipedia, Channel 4 and even the EU’s website, so a lot of people still believe this is Nigel Farage’s website. This has some SEO value, but to stop those links from being removed by the EU etc… Craig has rebuilt the site so it still looks like a legitimate Nigel Farage website.
He is passing it off as Nigel Farage’s MEP website.
Had Craig not wrote about owning this domain and taking advantage of the links, I might still be unsure who owns it:
Now, if anyone knows who this guy is, it’s Nigel Farage. Even guys like this got a list of domain names with amazing backlinks from Wikipedia, the Guardian, BBC, Independent, Fox News, New York Times, the Forbes, so many great backlinks there and feature snippet as well.
I got the domain name, and within a couple of weeks I’ve already got the website getting 13,000 monthly hits, ranks with 223 keywords. So that is how quick and easy you can get websites making money if you take advantage of expired domain names. I’m not sure how much money you’ll make off of Nigel Farage. That was just a kind of off the cuff example for a laugh.
Look at the contact page https://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk/pages/contact.php, there is NO indication this website no longer belongs to Nigel Farage.
See what the contact page looked like in 2015 when it was owned by Nigel Farage: http://web.archive.org/web/20150525165549/http://www.nigelfaragemep.co.uk:80/contact
This is the text from the contact page in January 2020:
If you have any questions or would just like to get in touch, please complete the form below: I will be in touch very soon.
For media enquiries please contact Annabelle Fuller on 0044 (0)7826 924412 or Email
Annabelle Fuller was until recently a political aide to Nigel Farage. I believe the phone number and email address are valid.
Reads to me like Nigel Farage (or someone working for him) wrote it and if you fill in the contact form with your name, email, home address and query, Nigel will be the recipient of the information.
What happens if a constituent of Nigel Farage (he is an EU MEP) fills in some private information into the contact form, who has access to it?
WTF is Craig Campbell thinking collecting home addresses etc…?
The contact page also includes a Subscribe to Newsletter signup form, there’s a similar form for collecting email addresses on the homepage as well!
This goes way beyond a black hat SEO using a website to earn a few £quid and backlinks to their SEO website!
Do you agree with me that passing off a domain this way is an unethical SEO business practice?
Update April 2020: The Craig Campbell SEO hidden link has been removed from the Nigel Farage website and though he is still passing the site off as owned by Nigel Farage it is no longer as blatant.
Update June 2020: Craig Campbell SEO has sent me a legal threat email:
Now I’ve passed this onto my solicitor as its both defamation and liable as what your trying to do is paint a picture of me that isn’t true, you know a snippet of information and have ran with a story on your site trying to cause damage to my reputation as there is absolutely no evidence i do black hat SEO for my own site, I may have tested stuff, I don’t even do client SEO, however if I did you would be causing me a bit of a problem.Craig Campbell SEO email dated June 4th, 2020
Craig appears to have misunderstood some of what I wrote. I didn’t say he uses black hat SEO techniques directly on his Craig Campbell SEO website, I’ve no idea if there’s anything black hat on his main business site. I’m saying he used black hat SEO techniques on the Nigel Farage site which has an SEO ranking benefit to his main Craig Campbell SEO website. I believe a reasonable person would view both onsite and offsite SEO as working on a websites SEO.