Marketers have been using techniques to boost their SEO for a very long time. Some of these tactics that are used are acceptable, also called white hat SEO, while others are illicit ways to boost a website’s SEO, known as black hat SEO. We always recommend to naturally use links for your SEO campaign and steer away from the black hat approach, which are unethical and violations of Google’s guidelines.
What exactly does Black Hat entail?
Black hat utilizes dishonest tactics that are only focused on search engines, while deceiving human audiences. They use these strategies to promote their business online. Black hat SEO strategies are focused on quick financial return. When it comes to SEO campaigns, using black hat techniques can hurt a business’s credibility and the sites traffic. Black hat can not only bring down value to a website, but it can cause Google to recognize the techniques and label the site as spam which usually causes it to be blacklisted from search engines. If these techniques are used the website’s ranking is sure to plummet. Below are 20 black hat techniques to steer away from.
1. Link Farms
Link Farms is a group of fake sites that are pointed towards one target website (the money site). Link farms will raise the quantity of incoming links to target the site’s popularity. Google will notice this tactic being used because it will recognize links between unrelated sites, which will in turn create the website to be penalized.
2. Sneaky Redirects
Sneaky Redirects is when someone clicks a URL and gets redirected to an irrelevant page. These tactics are used to manipulate the search engines because usually search engines are shown a completely different piece of content. This can cause the visitor confusion and frustration. However, the Google Fetch tool will be able show the audience how the search engine sees the page. Read more about that tool here.
3. Keyword Stuffing
Keyword Stuffing involves loading a website with out-of-context keywords. These “random” keywords create a bad experience for users because the repetition of words is not easy for the reader to follow what you are trying to convey. This can boost the CTR of the webpage, but the amount irrelevant keywords will be easily identified by search engines and penalized as a result.
4. Article Spinning
Digital marketers hear it all the time; content is king. The higher quality content a site has, the better its performance, however content creation takes time and effort. Therefore, a lot of blogs and articles are just recycled content from other sources. This is technically still white hat when you are reworking concepts, and appropriately citing your sources. However, Google praises authentic and creative content over recycled low-quality content.
Why this is black hat: Content for the sake of content is generally frowned upon. This particularly goes into the black area when spun content is less recycled, and more so paraphrased. There are even programs that will take legitimate articles and produce poor quality copies that can squeak by as not plagiarized. These practices are in fact clogging the internet with watered down duplicate content.
5. Doorway Pages
Doorway Pages are low quality websites that are created to rank high because of specific keywords. This will make users click on a webpage, when in return, the webpage does not contain the information they had originally been searching for. This causes users to have to click more and search harder for the information they are looking for, which is frustrating for search engines like Google, who want to make the user experience go smoothly.
6. Content Automation
Content Automation involves using automated ways to generate content for a website. This essentially will entail zero effort from the scam website, but this content is always unrelated to the user and will decrease engagement of potential interest of the webpage.
Cloaking is content that appears differently to search engine spiders than to a viewer. The search engines will find fabricated content with targeted keywords, this in turn, will boost SEO rankings based on false information. It is always recommended to steer away from cloaking because the risks of this technique strongly outweigh the benefits.
8. Reporting a Competitor (Also called Negative SEO)
Reporting a competitor is unfortunately common in black hat SEO. The goal of this is to falsely accuse a competitor website of engaging in black hat SEO. This could cause the competitor to be marked as spam, driving users away from their website. This tactic should be avoided because since it is a false claim, most likely the report will be invalid, and overall a waste of time for everyone involved in the report.
9. Private Blog Networks (PBN)
Private Blog Networks is essentially a link building method where a network of websites all consists of the same domain, which will point directly to a central webpage. This in turn, helps the website get backlinks. This tactic will eventually result in penalties on the dominant website.
10. Irrelevant Keywords
Irrelevant keywords are used in SEO quite often. However, this will not always cause a website to rank just by gaining traffic with unnecessary keywords. Being relevant is the key to achieving long lasting clients and website visitors.
11. Poor Quality Content
Poor Quality Content is something used frequently in black hat SEO. This involves copying content from other webpages. The search ranking will be negatively impacted with this technique because duplicated content is now recognized by Google. Putting poor quality content out there for visitors to see, will drive away potential customers and interest to the company.
12. Guest Post Spam
Guest Post Spam is a tactic where a website tries to publish a guest post of no relevancy to a higher-ranking company. They will pitch a site usually requesting a dofollow link, and if it gets published, the irrelevant links in the post will hurt both the ranking of the site who accepted it, and the spam site. It is best to stick with pitching relevant topics and links to send the audience back to your website for traffic.
13. Hidden Text or Links
Using hidden texts or links luckily is a scheme that is recognized by most search engines today. This technique is used by hiding links or texts within an article. Usually accomplished by using the same color font as the background, hiding a link to a single character, setting font size to zero, or positioning the text off screen so it cannot be seen.
14. Link Exchange
Link Exchange is another common practice in black hat SEO. Link exchange is a method of trading links with other websites and exchanging the URL between both websites. This can help generate page ranks and backlinks, but it will eventually catch up to those who use this tactic. Using link exchange will cause a site not to appear on SERP. Websites should continue to focus on building links naturally.
15. Paid Links
Paid Links involve paying another webpage to link to your website, blog, services, etc. This will bring your PageRank down significantly. This approach is one of the most popular because although it does cost money, it requires very little effort to be successful. It is illegal, and almost a guarantee to get shut down because most established business are aware of these profitable swindles.
16. Misused Structured Data
By using structured data to provide incorrect information (usually about the spam site) can boost up SERP and a higher CTR. However, providing false details, can raise red flags to visitors on your webpage and will have repercussions as other black hat SEO techniques suffer from. An example of this technique would be providing fake positive reviews to boost your website.
17. Google Bombing
Google bombing is a technique used to influence the rank of a page by falsely increasing the number of links to it. Money sites who use this black hat SEO will falsely control Google’s algorithm by allocating one page rank with irrelevant keywords. The anchor text is their key to the manipulation of Google. Wordstream provides a good example of using Google bombing in using the term “miserable failure” to rise above Google.
18. Blog Comment Spam
Blog comment spam is when links are generated just by comments. The website who uses this technique will comment on different sites that link back to their site. There is no connection to the site they are commenting on. If the comments are approved by the website, this can cause the targeted website to be penalized with having links to spam websites.
19. Mirror Websites
Using mirror sites is using plagiarism to essentially duplicate a website, which will then grow the popularity of that site and the links used. The bad guys who use this technique will hack domains and point links to themselves. They will try to redirect traffic from popular websites to their spam websites. If you own a website, this is something to always be on the lookout for.
20. Social Network Spam
Social Network Spam is used to send a massive number of non-related links in social media. They will send these fraudulent links through private messages and comments usually several times. Some people will be misled by this and click the link (a win for the bad guys), but usually they are not convincing and easy to spot. By reporting these pages who are sending the links, there can be consequences directly from the social media site, usually with ultimately banning the user.
Consequences of Black Hat
SEO is a long-term investment. Plain and simple; Google recognizes and rewards hard work. Within the constantly evolving world of digital marketing, new and dynamic SEO techniques are consistently developed. Therefore, digital marketers really need to stay current with SEO best practices. Using Black Hat SEO is really walking a tightrope, while these methods seem easy and tempting to use, it will cost you thousands of followers by a severe reduction in page rank, or worse, de-indexing. Unless this is a site you do not care about, the risk is not worth the reward when it comes to black hat SEO, and the above techniques should be avoided at all costs.
Amanda DiSilvestro is the Editor in chief for Plan, Write, GO. She has been writing about all-things digital marketing, both as a ghost writer, guest writer, and blog manager, for over 10 years. Check out her blogging services to learn more!