Reddit a Target for Blackhat SEO

It is the dream of any would-be star or entrepreneur to go viral; if your video gets picked up and spread, like a virus, it can make careers. And it can do so for anyone from Susan Boyle to Justin 

Bieber. Similarly, if a tweet is re-tweeted or a blog post or news item “liked” enough, it can create great visibility for your website. Sites like Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon feature user-submitted content that visitors can read – or look at or watch – and then, essentially, vote on its merits. Interesting pieces get a thumbs up, quite literally if you are using Facebook’s “like” option that appears on many items. It has recently come to light, however, that these sites can be manipulated and used for black-hat purposes.

Esrun, a self-described black-hat SEO conducted his own experiment using Reddit. He wanted to find out if one could create enough “shill” votes to increase traffic because, he writes, “The thing with Reddit is that you need a little push to get a story going. No matter how interesting your picture, story or video is, if you don’t have that initial push of votes then it’s unlikely to go anywhere.” So Esrun created 100 fake accounts and then submitted stories that were of at least average interest. He mixed votes, disliking some while liking others, to see if he could jumpstart traffic.

With his test, which he conducted with an image, video, and article, he proved himself right. Traffic did surge; people saw the post had already been voted on, and this in turn creates more votes. Esrun writes, “The fake votes push the story up so that a lot of people see it. It will get an initial surge of traffic because people think it’s already been voted up by other genuine users. Then, provided it’s genuinely interesting, it will get genuine votes and comments from there.”

But does this work? One commenter (Esrun posted this piece on Reddit, naturally), the upvoting is “useless” and that if content merits attention, it will get it regardless of the upvotes. It may add a few initial votes, but you can’t get the traffic generated without quality, solid content.

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