View Full Version : The Dark Side Of The Black Hat

Patrick Wilson
04-17-2009, 05:29 PM
In a recent email correspondence that I had with a friend of mine, he told me about how he recently decided to invest a pretty hefty sum of money in one of the big-ticket products promoted with the last few months. He had, however, come across some difficulty when he attempted to claim the bonus offered by the affiliate whose link he had purchased from. Apparently, that affiliate had never been given credit for the sale. The commission instead went to someone else entirely. After about a week of going back and forth, the situation was finally resolved. It turned out that a marketer who owned one of the review pages that my buddy visited before ultimately deciding to buy from the affiliate with the best bonus offer, had a piece of code on his site that inserted a permanent cookie on the computer of his site's visitors and insured that he would get credit for any sale made for that particular product (as long as the customer visited his page before buying), regardless of whose affiliate link was clicked-- A sort of under-the-radar, black hat strategy for monetizing review traffic and further maximizing affiliate commissions.

When he told me this, I remember reading an email that I received a few weeks back from a fairly respected marketer -- one that I, myself have listen to in the past. In this email he discouraged the use of a certain black hat tactic that he had taught in a previous email training. A tactic that, indeed, turned out to be the exact one responsible for my friend's complications. He said that although the black hat strategy had increased his own bottom line quite substantially with his PPC affiliate marketing campaigns, in the long run, when looking at it from the customer's perspective, it's just not ethical.

After thinking about this for some time, I began to wonder about the ethics of certain black hat strategies such as this one and the long-term effects that they could have on a thriving business. There is no doubt that initially, profits would increase after employing tactics of this nature, but would a few extra sales really be worth the potential weight of several disgruntled customers and the negative image that you could be casting on your business. Not to mention how that could potentially affect long-term JV partnerships. After all, no one wants to be associated, let alone partner with someone who has established a poor reputation in the industry. How would that speak to their own credibility?

In all fairness, there is a flipside to this, I suppose. One could argue that if you shell out your hard-earned advertising dollars, and your marketing is what convinces the customer to buy, you should be the one entitled to the sale, not some random affiliate who simply happened to be at the right place at the right time after your offer had already presold the product.

For instance, let's say the customer did a search in Google for the term “weight loss”. They saw your ad copy, were compelled by it, and therefore decided to visit your site. While they were there, they read compelling testimonials and reviews and decided (based on your content) to click on your affiliate link. They read the sales letter but decided to think about the offer overnight. When they came back to their computer in the morning ready to buy, they simply did another Google search, this time with the product's name as the keyword, immediately went to the first affiliate site promoting the product, clicked on the link, and ‘boom’, made the purchase.

Now, the above example is certainly not farfetched. And yes, the aforementioned marketer would suffer the loss of a sale that arguably belongs to him/her. But the question is... even if all of that happens to be true, does it still justify the use of black hat marketing tactics that could ultimately cause serious customer complications and potentially harm you and your business's reputation? Do you even think that such a potential for long-term damage exists in the first place? And if not, where would you draw the line. I'd really like to hear your opinion on this. As both a marketer and a consumer in the marketing community I understand both sides. But still, it's quite an interesting dichotomy.

What do you think?


Todd Lamb
04-27-2009, 11:37 PM
Hey JP,

Looks like the length of your post might have scared a few off! ;D

Those who have mentored me along the way have instilled the importance of reputation above all. For example if someone comes to me and says hey I ordered through your link where's my bonus..I'll check and see they did not in fact order through my link...well I'll set them up with it anyway...good will goes a long way in my view.

Here's the irony in that however...that is a blackhat tactic used by some to get bonuses and access to members areas etc. I don't worry about because it is few and far between and I keep my reputation in tact.

What you are referring to is cookie stuffing and some have tried it and found themselves banned from areas when they get caught....so it ends up not paying off after all.

my 02 cents.


Patrick Wilson
04-28-2009, 12:57 AM
Thanks Todd. I appreciate your response and feel the same way. Short-term gain is greatly outweighed by the longterm preservation of a solid business rep.

Cheers :)

05-13-2009, 12:01 PM
It is unfortunate that many marketers are digitally myopic. They think of themselves and the short-term only and forget that making a few thousands today can easily ruin a few millions tomorrow!

It's not just worth it. Integrity in business - online or off it matters a lot. I have been scammed a couple of times like that, and it does not bode well. However, life is about moving forward and not looking back or getting stagnated. Once it has happened, live and let go.

Hope that helps :)