Blackhat Search Engine Optimization
July 12, 2005 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Blackhat Search Engine Optimization Techniques. Through the use of a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint, you can have competing web sites thrown out of Yahoo's search index. If you file a DMCA report against a site, Yahoo will quickly remove the "offending" site, leaving no trace of the site in its index. This has led to a rise in so-called "Blackhat SEO," wherein one seeks to become the leading search result not by improving one's own site, but by having competing sites removed through the DMCA.
posted by nlindstrom (15 comments total)
I don't especially recommend this as a method of delisting a competitor who has the resources to hire effective legal representation. You may find yourself on the business end of a pretty serious lawsuit.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2005

People still use Yahoo to search?

Actually, this is not an entirely frivolous question, since I use Teh Interw3bs for work every single day, and I can't even remember the last time I used Yahoo for a search. If someone got me bumped off the Yahoo search index, I don't know that I would even know -- or if I did, that I would care.
posted by jscalzi at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2005

Most of the research I've seen on search engine market share puts Google at approximately 35% and Yahoo at 30%. I use Twingine, which puts Google and Yahoo search results side by side.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:11 PM on July 12, 2005

Yahoo name value is huge. I remember when I worked in an area of Canadian government relating to internet issues - there were still all these people who had only a vague awareness of what Google was. To them, "Yahoo" was the only search engine.
posted by Marquis at 12:38 PM on July 12, 2005

become the leading search result not by improving one's own site

I would argue that page improvement is a quite distinct task from page rank improvement. In fact, they may involve entirely separate ways of changing the page, and increased rank may be accompanied by decreased page quality. Unfortunately. . .
posted by nervousfritz at 12:49 PM on July 12, 2005

I would suspect that there is a fraud or, at minimum, unfair competition cause-of-action agaist somebody who submits an unfounded DMCA complaint with the intent of getting a site de-listed from Yahoo. I'm sure Yahoo records and files who sent the takedown notice, so it shoudln't be too hard to get the evidence needed to get a verdict.

Upside of this form of SEO: Competitor's site is out of Yahoo until they notice why it's out

Downside of this form of SEO: Lawsuit for fraud with a pretty easy set of facts
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:38 PM on July 12, 2005

tddl: There's actually a cause of action for bad faith take down notices built right into the DMCA; it's at section 512(f), and provides for recovery of damages and attorneys' fees. And, as you said, under the right circumstances, a fraud or antitrust cause of action doesn't seem to far-fetched.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:01 PM on July 12, 2005

You can fight back if this happens to you (the following does not constitute legal advice). The "blackhat search engine optimization" actions are being taken pursuant to the DMCA, 17 U.S.C. 512 subsection (d), "Information Location Tools." Any action taken under this subsection (as well as the other subsections, 512(a-c)) is subject to reversal upon counternotification by the alleged infringer. The required contents of the counternotification are enumerated in 17 U.S.C. s 512(g)(3), but basically you have to identify yourself, consent to jurisdiction in an appropriate federal court, and assert that the material was removed due to a "mistake or misidentification" by the putative copyright owner.

See more info at, and especially the Safe Harbor Provisions page. Contact a lawyer if you are personally served with such a notice.
posted by rkent at 2:02 PM on July 12, 2005

To harmonize my post with monju's right before it: the 512(g) stuff is what you do immediately to get your stuff re-posted in the search engine; 512(f) is what you follow up with if you want to then take action against the person who had it removed.
posted by rkent at 2:04 PM on July 12, 2005

Can you file a notice anonymously? I.e. how much work does Yahoo put in to making sure that the takedown notices are legit, or even traceable to a real person?

I'd imagine that it would be pretty easy to use a fake name, or even a pirated identity to make these claims. Is Yahoo required to make sure the identity of the taker-downs is correct?
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on July 12, 2005

monju_bosatsu writes "I don't especially recommend this as a method of delisting a competitor who has the resources to hire effective legal representation. You may find yourself on the business end of a pretty serious lawsuit."

That assumes that the delistee is able to have you identified as the person who lodged the complaint. Generally a company will simply yank your account and refuse to answer any questions at all about the complaint, even if you make multiple requests for that information. That was certainly the case when Webshots yanked my screensaver collections.
posted by clevershark at 4:21 PM on July 12, 2005

Well, you could always file your lawsuit against the service provider and an unnamed defendant, and then subpoena the service provider for the name of the party that issued the take-down notice.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:05 PM on July 12, 2005

but with wifi everywhere I cant see that strategy working too well.
posted by Iax at 8:34 PM on July 12, 2005

What do you mean, Iax?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:42 AM on July 13, 2005

That a person that wanted to send a fake takedown notice to your ISP could just use their laptop and walk down the street until they found an open wifi, then there would be no way to trace them.
posted by Iax at 2:35 PM on July 14, 2005

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