About a decade ago, many people assumed that search engine optimization (SEO) was a way to manipulate search engine algorithms to rank websites higher. Cheating the algorithm to get ahead in rankings is called black hat SEO.
Many marketers utilized black hat SEO to get their websites to rank higher. However, with the advancements in Google’s algorithms, the landscape has significantly changed. Search engines have refined and advanced their assessment factors to a level where unethical black hat SEO techniques can do more harm than good to websites.
Instead of using shady black hat techniques to rank your website higher, you should aim to use SEO in a sustainable way so that search engines do not dismiss your website as fraudulent. So, to stay in the graces of Webmaster Quality Guidelines and follow ethical SEO practices, let us explore what black hat SEO is, and why you should not rely on it for ranking.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO is a set of ill practices carried out in order to rank higher in Google search results. These techniques are called black hat as they are against the search engine guidelines laid out by Google. Some such commonly used SEO techniques include Keyword Stuffing, Cloaking, Paid Links, Doorway pages, Hidden content & Duplicate Content. Let us discuss each one in detail.
White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO methods go directly against the various guidelines set up by search engines. Manipulating these guidelines and cheating your way to the front can lead to penalties levied by search engines. Still worse, you can be dropped entirely from search results. White hat SEO, on the other hand, is the most ethical and sustainable way to carry out your SEO activities without worrying about negative consequences.
Marketers should always rely upon white hat SEO methods. Offering a good user experience while simultaneously following search engine guidelines can prove to be a great benefit for websites. Not only is this technique sustainable, but can also result in higher rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs) for long periods of time.
Black Hat SEO Techniques
Keyword stuffing is the stuffing of multiple keywords in one sentence. This technique refers to stuffing a page with keywords in an effort to rank higher in search results. Repeating and rehashing of the same words and sentences is done in order to manipulate the Google search bot and get better rankings.
This is one of the techniques where content from one page is simply copied by the website owner onto his own website. Stealing others’ goods is a crime, right? The same would apply to content. Google is strictly against this practice and believes in originally created content.
Considered as one of the hacker-man techniques, this practice involves showing one version of your website to the Google bot and another version to the user.
This is done in two ways:
- Showing an HTML text page to search engines, while showing a page full of CSS, JS, and image-heavy content to users.
- Embedding text or keywords into a page and displaying this page only when the user-agent crawling the page is a search engine, not a human guest.
This is an ill-practice where the website owner pays money to another website to give them a link back. There are many agencies selling such paid links, which are often scrappy and low-quality. You’d be better off without such toxic links on your website.
Door pages, bridge, or jump pages are specifically created for focused queries and intended to rank high for specific keywords. These pages provide no value to the user and are exclusively used to deceive the search engine and move a guest from a searched query to another set of websites, i.e. a vague destination.
A link farm is a site or group of sites created exclusively for link building. Every site in a link farm points to a site that is to be ranked higher on search engine results pages. Web crawlers rank a site by taking into consideration the number of websites that point to it, among other elements. Black Hat SEO makes use of this by increasing the number of backlinks a specific site gets from such link farms.
Invisible Text or Links
A rather shabby attempt, this technique involves placing white text on a white background. The intention here is to match the text colour to the colour of the background. By doing so, website owners hide their keywords from users but make it visible to the Google bot. A similar practice is carried out for links.
Spamming in Blog Comments
Ah, the intellectuals and scholars in the comments section. This is a strategy that involves adding comments on blog pages, along with a link to their website. This is purely and solely done with the expectation of getting a backlink from that particular site. Google now disregards such links from blogs; the website owners set the links as no-follow by default.
Redirects are a great technique to redirect the user to a proper functioning page if the current page is facing issues. Website owners use 301 redirects in such cases. However, the black hat “experts” use these redirects to lead the user to another page altogether. In this way, they deceive both the Google bot and users by showing them to a page with a bad URL which they did not intend to visit.
Private Blog Networks(PBN)
A private blog network (PBN) is a group of authority websites used primarily for link-building purposes. The PBN sites link to the main website using low-quality links with the intention of influencing the search engine. Each of these PBN sites links to the main site without linking to one another. Usually, PBNs make use of expired domains to link to, which are sites that had previously earned some kind of authority. PBN is one of the black hat SEO techniques as these expired domains are solely purchased to be made into private blog networks to create manipulative outbound links.
Overly optimized pages
Do you know the saying: too much of anything is bad for you? The same applies to your pages. Sometimes SEO professionals get so busy trying to optimize their pages that they end up doing a tad too much. This includes using a lot of On-page elements like over-optimized anchor text, an extensive number of internal links, keyword-stuffed titles and descriptions, and content.
All of this can backfire and may end up getting you penalized by Google as your efforts will be considered as black hat SEO practices.
Bait and Switch
When using Bait and Switch, the initial step consists of writing a page for Google while including a set of keywords and, after ranking improves, changing it to different products and projects. Hence, a user gets to see something completely different from the topic they clicked on. This practice is also called Page Swapping, and it is used to trick users and search engines. Such unethical practices make up what is Black Hat SEO.
Clickbait means an impressive and noticeable headline written to tempt the users to click on the link. This is a copywriting approach often used to draw attention by overemphasizing a topic in order to encourage a visitor to click on a link that leads to irrelevant content. Methods such as these are used to bring in income derived from the number of clicks. It is an algorithm excessively used in tabloids and makes up a huge chunk of what is Black Hat SEO.
Guest Post Spam
This is a Black Hat Technique used to get backlinks where messages are sent to bloggers to publish an irrelevant article with a do-follow link. Links to such articles during guest blogging activities can affect a site’s ranking. Despite being of poor quality, these linked blogs are still posted on irrelevant websites just for the sake of link-building.
This refers to the practice of using black hat SEO practices to disrupt a rival’s rankings in search engines. The steps include:
- Hacking the website
- Building numerous spammy links to the website
- Copying the content and spreading it all over the internet
- Pointing links to the website using various keywords
- Removing the best backlinks from the website
Automated Google queries
This is a black hat SEO practise where software is used to generate automated searches for particular keywords to make the site rank higher in search results. Automated queries are not allowed without prior permission by Google. Sending automated Google queries means the software is used to expand the total searches for a specified keyword to rank higher in SERP.
Rich snippet markup spam
Rich snippets provide more information about the content in a website. You can change the snippet in such a way that your content stands out from the competition on the SERP. This great opportunity is now being misused by spammers so much that Google has issued a strict ‘report rich snippet spam’ tool. When web admins mark up content not visible to users or provide misleading and unrelated content, reviews, and videos, it is considered rich snippet spamming. Providing false reviews and ratings, inaccurate or misleading information, fake or nonexistent videos in the rich snippet content is a classic example of black hat SEO techniques.
Article spinning belongs to the notorious black hat SEO techniques and is a rather popular one as well. While search engines appreciate great content, a spun article is highly penalized by Google. Usually, an article is spun manually or using a computer program – where the content is rewritten using synonyms and manipulating the sentence structure. The main intention of using spun articles is to spin thousands of content and post it to many websites simultaneously. The spun articles are not unique, don’t provide helpful information, and are generally not readable.
How to Report Black Hat SEO?
There may be two scenarios in which to report black hat SEO techniques. The first could be when your website is attacked by a malicious hacker, virus or negative SEO activity involving spam links. Another could be when interlinked black hat techniques find spam-ridden Web results for a competitive keyword that your website ranks on. To tackle these, you need to file a webspam report using Google Search Central. Making false reports of competitor pages is also considered a black hat technique.
If a virus or malware has attacked your website, you can request a malware review once you’ve eliminated the malicious code.
In case the website is a target of negative SEO campaigns, use the Disavow Links Tool in Google Search Central once you contact the Webmasters pointing such links to your website to get them removed.
Why Should One Avoid Black Hat SEO?
- Although black hat SEO is not unlawful, it breaks the webmaster guidelines regulated by search engines.
- Mostly, pages that indicate the usage of black hat SEO tactics are de-ranked instantly, with the probability of “domain blacklisting” as one of the measures in domain penalties.
- Google penalty will result in dropping down the search results or being removed absolutely. This means the website will be earning less traffic and hardly any customers. While some agencies do offer Google penalty recovery services, it is best advised to refrain from the activities in the first place.
How to Avoid Black Hat SEO?
- Avoid Cloaking: Providing inconsistent details to the search engine and the users can cause your site to be banned.
- Write good quality content: Nothing beats the power of high quality and valuable content that visitors find helpful.
- Follow structured data guidelines: This will help you show up higher on the search engine’s list and rank much better without having to use black hat SEO tricks.
- Never buy or sell links: Buying or selling links for better traffic might seem worth it in the short run, but is a huge risk not worth taking.
- Avoid private blog networks: Private blog networks can be the kiss of death for your website. Google will penalize your website or ban it from appearing on the search list.
- Stay up to date with search engine guidelines: Once you understand what is black hat SEO, researching the updated search engine guidelines will keep you on track with the latest rules and regulations to avoid black hat methods.
The final word
It is understandable that we all want to rank higher in Google search results and achieve better sessions. Any technique is a good technique unless it hampers or does not abide by the Google Search Engine Guidelines.
So now it’s your choice whether you want to be the villain who tries to get things in a faster but rather crooked way or the hero who does all the right things to achieve results.
White Hat heroes or Black Hat villains? Which side are you on? Let us know in the comments section.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO is a set of ill practices against the search engine guidelines laid out by Google to rank higher on SERPs. It is the practice of manipulating SERPs through unethical SEO.
Why is Black Hat SEO Unethical?
Black hat SEO is treated unethical as it not only goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines but also tricks both users and the search engines for improving rankings.
Does Black Hat SEO Still Work?
Black hat SEO works but for a shorter period of time. Performing black hat SEO will get you penalized, resulting in dropping down the search results or being removed absolutely from the SERPs.
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