There was a time when SEO was wrongly assumed to be a manipulative marketing tactic. But over the years as SEO gained more attention, it became clear that SEO is not about cheating the search engine algorithm. And as a result, the manipulative techniques were identified as Black Hat SEO that should be avoided to prevent Google penalties. The search engine marketing techniques are divided into two categories- White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO. The experienced digital marketers always use white hat SEO techniques that comply with the algorithm and Webmaster Quality Guidelines. However, some marketers make use of manipulative techniques to simply ‘cheat’ the system. In this post, we will find out what black hat SEO is and how it can harm your website. So, let’s get started!
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO includes techniques that manipulate SERPs to achieve higher rankings. This practice is against search engine guidelines and if found, the website could face Google penalties and may even be wiped from search engines. The purpose of using black hat SEO is to take a shortcut for improving SERP rankings and gaining more visibility. However, violating search engine guidelines only leads to dropping metrics in the long run. White hat techniques, on the other hand, are ethical and follow search engine guidelines to boost rankings.
Reasons to Avoid Black Hat SEO
Using black hat tactics may give some quick results but there are significant risks involved in cheating the search engines. Search engines like Google and Bing have clearly warned against using certain practices that go against their guidelines. The fast results of using those unethical techniques are often short-lived and in the worst case, your site may even get removed entirely from the Google index. Google has made it clear in its guidelines that a site involved in spam activity may no longer show up in results on Google.com or its partner sites.
What are Black Hat SEO Techniques?
All search engines use algorithms to provide the best possible results for users’ queries. Black hat tricks can help in stealing higher SERP positions but these techniques can hurt your SEO more than they can help. Here are some common black hat SEO techniques that must be avoided.
The most common black hat technique that most marketers follow is adding too many keywords in their content to rank higher. Stuffing your content with keywords leads to a poor user experience and ultimately harms your site’s ranking. You can keep the keyword density percentage of a page very high to fool the search engine. However, Google is only getting smarter and it’s just a matter of time before you get caught. Sometimes, the irrelevant keywords are hidden from the user but are still indexed by the search engine. This technique can attract search engines for a time but in long term, it will only harm your site’s rating. Remember, your content should be written for your users, not for bots. Always use keyword optimization best practices that don’t violate search engine guidelines.
Over the years, search engines have become smart enough to detect duplicate or bad content. With the launch of the Google Panda algorithm, Google can now easily detect duplicate web content. Content that already exists online or article spinning easily gets caught. Google accords high value to original, high-quality content. It is highly recommended to avoid plagiarism and keep publishing regular, relevant content. Black hat marketers produce low-quality content that is paraphrased by a writer or computer. This plagiarized content is used for link-building campaigns that don’t offer any value to the reader. Sometimes, to rank for certain keywords, site owners also add keywords in the same font color as the page background color to ‘hide’ keywords.
Backlinks play a vital role in an SEO strategy. Getting more backlinks (external sites that link to your own) makes your website more trustworthy and authoritative. For a new website, it’s difficult to get links and gain authority. For this reason, some digital marketers buy links. Black hats use link farming and private blog networks that are created exclusively to link to sites. It is easy to find hundreds of sites and blogs that publish content and links on their site in exchange for money. However, buying links is against Google guidelines. Getting paid links is nothing but a way of manipulating search engines. Some site owners also engage in link exchange deals to manipulate a site’s ranking. Site owners simply exchange links with others to get backlinks. Getting more backlinks pushes a site higher in SERPs. However, if found, your site could be penalized and all your money will go wasted. It is best to produce high-quality content and use social media to get exposure. It will take a little time but your efforts will not go in vain.
Another technique considered as black hat is cloaking. In this tactic, the content shown to the web crawler is different than what users see. The site owner uses various keywords, titles, and descriptions that are to trick search engines into ranking content for a specific search term. For instance, a page heading is ‘Persian Cats’ but on opening the page, you find information about pet animals. The purpose of cloaking is to trick users, as well as search engine spiders. This is a risky practice that can easily get detected and the cloaking site could get de-indexed.
This practice is rare but a few years back site owners used to fill the comment sections to build backlinks. These comments were written by bots in the blog section with a link back to their website. To deal with this issue, Google updated its algorithm to identify links that arise from spam or bots. If you don’t want to get de-ranked, the links in the comment sections should carry “nofollow” HTML tags.
Doorway/Gateway Pages means creating pages that are visible to only specific search engines and their crawlers. Again, this is a trick to fool the search engine and get the site higher rankings. So, make sure to create pages for users and not only to rank for search queries.