3 Black Hat Marketing Tricks That Don’t Work


Marketing is a lot like supplements – while there’s certainly a legitimate reason for it to exist, there are a ton of snake oil salesmen. They give the industry a bad rap.

A friend of mine found a similar situation in his path for spiritual enlightenment. Far too often people selling you on enlightenment are also trying to sell you on magical crystals infusing us with energy. It’s a placebo, and both digital marketing and SEO often have a placebo effect.

Here’s the thing – regardless of how much data you have, when you see a McDonald’s commercial, you don’t immediately go buy McDonalds. I still occasionally crave McDonalds as an adult because I was drenched in ads as a kid and begged my parents to take me. Anytime I’m lazy in life, I fall back on McDonalds, but it wasn’t a direct correlation like many digital marketing agencies try to preach.

You have to focus on the long-haul in order to drive quality leads and generate an ROI, so be sure to avoid making any black hat mistakes. These sneaky tricks may get you a couple ticks on a graph to show you’re doing something, but it’s not in any way affecting your revenue. In fact, they’re likely getting you penalized with Google while lowering public opinion about your brand.

1. Buying Followers

For every social media site, forum, and online community, there’s another subcommunity of people willing to sell you followers, likes, views, and more. Content mills and croudsourcing platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk enable these methods to look like they’re a lot more effective than they really are.

Small businesses get duped by black hat marketing agencies and snake oil salesmen into thinking that upward tick is affecting the bottom line in the wrong way. You’re not spending good money on a good service that’s getting your name in front of people. Instead, you’re overpaying someone to perform a magic trick with robots that isn’t getting you anywhere.

Instead, buy targeted ads on trusted platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and more to ensure you’re reaching the right people at the right times. An effective digital marketing agency gets your name in front of everyone and keeps you in the conversation.

2. Rewriting Content

I’ve been published in mainstream media outlets like Forbes, Huffington Post, and Fast Company as both myself and ghostwriting for clients. I’ve also worked for content mills like Lifehack that have a business model that just regurgitates content. While both business models may be profitable, one is more sustainable because it’s providing a real value.

Lifehack will eventually run out of content to rewrite and have no direction. The others are leading the pack and driving originality. That’s what Google is looking for because at the end of the day you’re not the end-user. Quality search results are what matter. Quality products.

Quality People. Quality in production is a business, and everything else is just a waste of time and money.

3. Automating Social Media

Now although I have a personal issue with Hootsuite, I don’t hate the automation software itself. It’s quite handy to be able to automate and repeat messages throughout social media. I’ve seen people like Russell Simmons pull it off perfectly. Although you’re not Russell Simmons, and far too often people try to flex brand power they never earned through sweat equity.

If you just flatly use your social media as a promotional tool, people will see you as just another commercial. There are a million people just trying to make money from nothing, and it never works. There has to be elbow grease put in from passionate people willing to roll up their sleeves, interact with the community, and drive content.

Each social media platform is a community, and you need to interact with that community as a real person – not just some bland salesbot. Brands like Oreo, Denny’s, and Burger King excel at social media because they interact with customers rather than constantly trying to sell to them.

Don’t just hire another agency filled with drones doing just the bare minimum to get by – look for an agency that has professionals who understand community outreach and can get your name in front of people to make you a household brand like McDonald’s. Anyone can have ideas, but few agencies have their shit together enough to implement them right.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.