Common SEO Heist Tactics

As ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence platforms grow, the benefits and disadvantages of AI become more apparent. Jake Ward introduced internet users to the effects of an SEO heist. He used AI to recreate thousands of pages of content to gain more than a million views in one month. The incident revealed how easy it is for people to misappropriate digital tools for individual gain or to harm others. Since anyone can become a target today, it is important to understand common SEO heist tactics and how to combat them.

SEO Heist

Content Hijacking

Content hijacking, also known as content scraping, involves copying someone else’s online content without permission or attribution. Although copying text is common, this practice can also target videos, images, or other forms of content. Today, some individuals use AI-powered bots to automate content hijacking.

Content hijacking can significantly harm the original creator by reducing search engine rankings. For example, the duplicated content may compete with the original, diminishing organic traffic to the creator’s site. It can also damage the creator’s brand reputation and result in financial losses. To combat content hijacking, creators can utilize watermarks and post legal or copyright notices. They can also leverage digital marketing tools like Ahrefs for keyword research and competitor’s sitemap analysis to monitor for unauthorized use of their content. Additionally, social media can be a powerful platform for reporting and addressing content theft. For proactive protection, integrating robust link building strategies helps maintain site authority. When hijackers are identified, creators can pursue legal action to protect their intellectual property.

SERP Manipulation

Search engine results pages (SERPs) are what people count on for accurate information. Most people click one or more links on the first page after they conduct an online search. Since the first page is crucial, dishonest people may try to use manipulation tactics to rank higher. One way they do this is by loading content with keywords. However, search engine algorithms are improving and can often detect low-quality content. Another dishonest SERP manipulation tactic is cloaking, which involves showing different content to people and search engines.

There are also link schemes that influence SERP performance. Some people may use JavaScript or CSS to include links that only search engines can see. Link farms are another problem that will be discussed more later. Reciprocal linking and buying or selling links are also dishonest tactics to manipulate search results.

To combat SERP manipulation, it is important to stay current with algorithm updates. Communicating with the SEO community and reading industry publications like Business Insider can help website owners learn about honest practices and more. Monitoring content and prioritizing website security are two important responsibilities.

Negative SEO

Negative search engine optimization involves targeting competitors to lower their search engine rankings. A common negative SEO tactic is building spammy backlinks to the competitor’s website. When this happens, a search engine can penalize the site for participating in manipulative tactics. An additional tactic is copying and reposting the competitor’s website content to confuse search engines. This can lead to penalties for the original site. Another form of negative SEO is posting fake reviews on third-party websites.

People who go to greater lengths for negative SEO tactics may hack a competitor’s website. They may delete content, make harmful changes, or inject malicious code. Some may overload a competitor’s site with traffic to cause costly downtime. Another tactic is removing quality backlinks. To do this, a person may contact websites that link to the competitor and ask them to delete those links. Search engines see websites as less trustworthy when that happens.

Combating negative SEO can be a full-time job. Website owners must monitor online review sites, Google Search Console alerts, backlink profiles, and more. They must regularly check for duplicate content. Also, they must monitor website security. Fortunately, SEO experts offer these services and others that help reduce the risks and effects of negative SEO.

CTR Manipulation

A person may use click-through rate (CTR) manipulation to benefit their website or hurt a competitor. Using click bait is one of the most well-known tactics to inflate metrics for personal gain. It involves using sensationalized article titles to entice readers to click a link. However, the content may be unrelated or misleading. Someone may also use CTR manipulation by generating artificial clicks. The goal of this tactic is to fraudulently create an impression of popularity. A person may also pay for a click farm, which is a dishonest entity that clicks on links from various devices and IP addresses to inflate metrics.

People may also use CTR manipulation maliciously to affect competitors. For instance, generating clicks on a competitor’s paid ads may skew the company’s metrics and drain its advertising budget for that campaign. These negative CTR attacks also hurt search rankings. Additionally, CTR manipulation can impact ad position and quality score. Companies must pay higher prices per click or may face reduced visibility.

It is important to run ads honestly and avoid CTR manipulation. In addition to hurting performance, it can negatively impact a company’s reputation. Staying current with ethical online advertising guidelines is important. Working with a professional SEO agency can help entities grow traffic through effective, ethical strategies.

Link Farming and PBNs

Link farms typically include a lot of low-quality links. People use or create them to exchange links and manipulate search engine rankings. Farms may include a network of participating websites that use a large number of links to one another. This strategy increases backlink volume. Since some links may be unrelated, they mislead search engines. Today, some link farms use bots or automated software to quickly produce links. The result is that websites falsely appear authoritative or popular.

Private blog networks (PBNs) are groups of websites that a single entity runs. Although they may not look related, they are connected to skew rankings. The blogs include links to the website that the entity wants to boost in SERPs. Many PBNs do not include high-quality content. It may be scraped from other sources and spun to appear unique. While it may relate to the right subject, it is typically unhelpful to users. People who misuse PBNs work hard to hide the connections between sites to prevent search engines from detecting manipulation. It is important to use high-quality links and blogs correctly to avoid penalties.

SEO Heist Summary

SEO Heist TacticDescriptionImpactsCombating Strategies
Content HijackingCopying someone else’s online content without permission or attribution, targeting text, videos, images, etc.Provides inaccurate search results, can result in penalties, and undermines user trust.Reduces search engine rankings, diminishes organic traffic, damages brand reputation, and causes financial losses.
SERP ManipulationManipulating search engine results pages by keyword loading, cloaking, or using link schemes.Stay current with algorithm updates, communicate with the SEO community, monitor content, and prioritize website security.Lowers competitor rankings, causes penalties for the original site, and damages trust and credibility.
Negative SEOTargeting competitors to lower their search engine rankings through spammy backlinks, fake reviews, or hacking.Monitor online reviews, use Google Search Console alerts, check backlink profiles, monitor website security, and hire SEO experts.Run ads honestly, avoid clickbait, stay current with ethical guidelines, and work with a professional SEO agency.
CTR ManipulationInflating click-through rates through sensationalized headlines, artificial clicks, or click farms.Skews metrics, drains advertising budgets, impacts ad positions and quality scores.Run ads honestly, avoid clickbait, follow ethical guidelines, and work with a professional SEO agency.
Link Farming and PBNsUsing networks of low-quality links or private blog networks to manipulate search engine rankings.Use high-quality links, avoid link farms, ensure PBNs are properly managed, and follow best practices to avoid penalties.Misleads search engines falsely inflate authority or popularity and can lead to penalties.

Maintaining Good SEO Practices

Many of the tactics listed above are considered malicious SEO practices. However, some similar methods are debatable in terms of being ethical. The ideal way to avoid unethical practices is to work with a reputable SEO agency. SEO North stays current with search engine rules, algorithms, and more. Also, SEO North focuses on high-quality solutions that improve clients’ reputations. Please contact for help with results-driven SEO strategies.


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Published on: 2024-06-18
Updated on: 2024-06-18

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Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.