Take a trip down memory lane and think about how things were ten years ago. When people incorrectly presumed that SEO was nothing but a manipulative marketing maneuver that was all about deceiving the search engine’s algorithm and using strategies to trick Google (or any other search engine) into thinking that your website satisfies the search query best.
This isn’t the way things should have ever been, and SEO professionals should have always focused on building a website that actually is the best result for a specific query instead of just giving a false impression that it is.
However, when it came to detecting web spam, Google’s algorithm wasn’t really that advanced back then.
Taking advantage of the situation, many SEO practitioners were abundantly using black hat SEO techniques to rank their websites, but fortunately, things have drastically changed.
In this blog, we will discuss what black hat SEO is, what risks are associated with it and which tactics you should steer clear of if you don’t want to come up against Google’s algorithm and Webmaster Quality Guidelines. It’s time to dive into the details.
What Is Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO involves using aggressive techniques that contravenes the guidelines of the search engines to rank a website on the SERPs. Simply put, black hat SEO tactics are used to manipulate the search engine’s algorithm to boost a website’s ranking in the search results.
Search engines, including Google and Bing, have been very clear on the types of practices that violate their rules and the potential outcomes of using them despite that. Practicing black hat SEO strategies can result in your site getting penalized, whether manually or algorithmically, which will lead to ranking lower in the SERPs and most probably a sharp decline in the organic traffic.
Risks of Black Hat SEO
Using black hat SEO techniques to improve your website’s ranking wrongly involves some significant risks, which is why most SEO professionals decide that they are better off without such practices. Most of the SEO industry considers these approaches to be utterly immoral, and practicing them is strictly frowned upon.
However, if truth be told, there has, are, and will always be a tiny percentage of SEOs who would want to cheat the algorithm and try to accelerate their website’s organic success. But even if the black hat SEO tactics do benefit your site, the results are usually ephemeral.
Let’s discuss the risks of using black hat SEO tactics and the reasons why you should steer clear of them.
3 Top Reasons to Avoid Black Hat SEO
Just out of curiosity, some people might still wonder what can possibly happen if they use black hat SEO to rank their website. To answer this and understand why you need to avoid using such techniques strictly, let’s discuss the worst-case scenarios.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines has been very clear about the consequences of violating the rules. If you delve deeper, you can see they’ve clearly stated that such practices may result in your website getting wholly removed from Google Search Index. Otherwise, your site may end up triggering algorithmic spam action, or Google itself may issue a manual action when a human reviewer ascertains that the site is contravening the guidelines. Moreover, the search engine also states that a website impacted by such spam actions might no longer be visible on Google’s search results or any of its partner websites.
Although SEO is all about improving your site’s organic search visibility and traffic, using black hat SEO tactics can actually cause the opposite. To help you understand its impact, we have broken down this further and presented three key reasons why you need to keep away from black hat SEO.
- Negatively Impacts Your Search Visibility and Rankings
First things first, the main reason you should refrain from using black hat SEO tactics is that it will eventually cause your website to lose its search rankings, visibility, and traffic.
Needless to say, but when a site loses its visibility, rankings, and traffic, consequently, conversions and revenue will decline too.
This alone can mean a business’s revenue loss, which can further result in job losses and even shutting down the company. In the best-case scenario, a sharp drop in organic traffic and visibility will mean that the business needs to supplement it with a greater investment into paid media such as PPC.
This decline in your site performance after using black hat tactics can be due to either manual spam action or algorithmic filtering.
- Drives Short-Term Results
In cases where using these manipulative tactics actually succeed in increasing a website’s performance and organic rankings, these are rarely preserved.
Although it may take a while before Google finds out that a website is engaging in unethical practices, losing your visibility and traffic is inescapable once it does.
The only thing which is worse than struggling to make a website rank at all in the search results is perhaps seeing a site’s rankings and traffic unnaturally bumped up only to decline abruptly any moment now. Companies need uniformity, which isn’t something black hat SEO can offer.
- Delivers a Poor User Experience
Over time, SEOs have begun to realize that all this time, Google wasn’t just trying to rank websites based on who has optimized their site the best for search. Instead, it also considers which websites offer a decent or at least satisfactory user experience that the audience is happy with.
Therefore, SEO professionals must take account of the users’ experience on their website and strive to offer the best content and user experience. But the black hat SEO does the exact opposite of this. Those techniques optimize a website for search engines (at least according to their understanding of what the search engines want to see) instead of users. And this alone can be troublesome.
Trust plays a great role in search success. If you prioritize search engines over users, then it is most likely that your site’s ability to drive traffic, rank higher, and generate conversions will be substantially limited.
9 Black Hat SEO Techniques You Must Avoid
If you have just stepped into the SEO world, it is usually challenging to determine which strategies you should use and which ones you should strictly avoid.
While a lot of SEO basics are well-defined white hat SEO tactics, numerous more advanced strategies need more attention to detail.
However, you must ensure that you are following the right direction. Few recommended techniques you read on blogs and social media or from your knowns might sound like more “advanced” tactics, but actually, they’re just ushering you towards a black hat SEO approach.
The more familiar you are with the strategies that can spell danger for your website, the easier it will be for you to identify them and keep away from them as far as possible. Here are the nine black hat SEO techniques that you should avoid using to make sure you don’t go up against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
- Excessive Keyword Stuffing
Repetition of your web page’s primary target keyword(s) isn’t going to help you rank higher in the SERPs. This practice, known as keyword stuffing, will probably lead to the opposite.
SEOs practicing black hat tactics will sometimes try to manipulate a website’s ranking by incorporating one or more target keywords peculiarly within a page. Keyword stuffing typically happens in random sections that stand outside of the main content or within paras that sound illogical when someone reads it out loud.
- Using Duplicate or Automatically Generated Content
Producing high-quality, engaging content sure isn’t a child’s play, but we just can’t hide from the fact that it still is one of the top-ranking factors of Google.
One of the most commonly used black hat SEO tactics is to use automatically generated content to rank on search engines for a vast number of keywords without having to take the time to create original and valuable content, for example, using the same content by just changing the location name for different location pages across the website.
Make sure that you take out some time to build SEO-friendly unique content to avoid troubles caused due to low quality or duplicate content.
- Adding Hidden Text
Text that uses the same color as the background placed off the screen or at the back of an image uses CSS to conceal it from the site visitors or uses a zero font size to become invisible is known as hidden text. This is deceitful, but at times it is used for keyword stuffing.
- Creating Gateway/Doorway Pages
Building pages that target a particular search query with content that is only meant to serve as a funnel to one page is deemed as the contravention of Google’s guidelines. Such pages are known as gateway or doorway pages.
Every content that you publish on your website should have a clearly defined purpose. You should not just go around building pages exclusively for the sake of ranking for somewhat irrelevant keywords, For example, building web pages to target geographical locations using keywords without your business even being present there. Another example is creating pages for the sake of ranking instead of satisfying the needs of the users.
Start developing content for humans, not for search engines.
Cloaking is another deceptive strategy that includes presenting different content or URLs to site visitors and search engines, virtually catering different experiences to both.
This is clearly a manipulative attempt to rank a web page based on the content developed for search engines while leading the visitors to someplace different. This practice again is a clear-cut violation of Google’s guidelines.
You should focus all your efforts on building the best possible experience for your user, and eventually, the search engine will love your page too.
- Link Schemes
Link schemes are the most common black hat SEO strategy, and this is where the most confusion stems.
Now while other things such as creating original content that offers value to users and not using hidden text on the site might come across as common sense to a lot of marketers, link building is the place where things get a bit more complicated.
Links serve as the editorial vote of trust given by one site to another, and therefore, it is crucial that you ethically “earn” those links. Here are a few techniques that you should strictly avoid:
- Sponsored or paid links that do not include attributes such as rel = “nofollow” or rel = “sponsored”
- Exchanging too many links
- Comment spam in blogs
- Forum spam
- Automated link building
- Links using exact match or commercial anchor text
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns
- Misusing Structured Data and Rich Snippets
Structured data helps describe organizations, relationships, and actions online, and misusing or exploiting such markup is just one of the many widely used black hat SEO strategies.
Typically, this means utilizing structured data to send out wrong information. For instance, a lot of marketers try to build more favorable structured data for their website by writing fake reviews and 5-star ratings to increase their ranking in the SERPs and boast a higher click-through rate.
Just like the other techniques in this list, this too is a deceptive practice that you should steer clear from.
- Deceptive Redirects
Whether you are updating an old web page to a new link or URL or getting ready for a website migration, using redirects is a fundamental part of SEO. And we assure you that there is nothing wrong with using redirects; in fact, it is an effective way of making sure that your website is well-organized and easy to access for users as well as web crawlers. So you might be wondering how this made its way into this list?
Well, just like cloaking, black hat SEOs position sneaky redirects to cheat search engines, and present content that is different from the content displayed to the site visitors. Often the search engine falling into this trap indexes the original web page while the users are directed to a different URL destination. Google’s guidelines particularly mention deceptive redirects as a manipulative black hat SEO technique that contravenes its guidelines.
- Using Negative SEO
Last but not least, it won’t be appropriate to presume that all black hat SEO practitioners use these deceptive strategies to rank their websites.
Some of them also use negative SEO to try and decrease the rankings of their competitor sites. Or phrasing it in better terms, black hat SEOs use manipulative techniques that contravene the search engine’s guidelines on someone else’s website instead of their own in an attempt to get it penalized.
Usually, this involves directing heaps of unnatural links to their competitor’s website, hoping that the search engine will spot it and penalize them for the same.
While this practice isn’t very common considering how smart Google’s algorithm is becoming day-by-day at neglecting links emerging from such attacks, it is crucial to keep your eyes open and analyze your link profile on a regular basis to make sure someone’s not trying to attack your website.
There are plenty of online tools that you can use to keep an eye on your link profile.
How to Report Black Hat SEO
While reading all about the black hat SEO, the dangers of using it, and strategies you should avoid using, it must have occurred to you that what should you do when you discover that a competitor is using these deceptive tactics and still not being penalized?
Well, when you find that they are violating the guidelines in any way, you can report them as spam to Google. Now, although reporting a website won’t lead to the search engine taking direct action right away, you are actually helping to improve algorithmic spam detection.
Being an ethical SEO professional, it is undoubtedly very upsetting to see a website deceiving the algorithm and still getting away with their wrongdoings. While Google is getting better every day at restricting such websites from acquiring top-ranking positions in the search results, there is no running away from the fact that there are still numerous sites that are performing well by leveraging black hat SEO strategies.
However, as we discussed earlier, sooner or later, these websites will be caught by the algorithm or human reviewers and end up getting their sites penalized for good. All it needs is one new update, and it’s over for them.
The main takeaway from this blog is that any website using black hat SEO techniques to improve their rankings will eventually fall foul of Google’s guidelines and jeopardize their site.
Even though black hat SEO is not being used as commonly as it used to back then, some SEOs still exist who follow this path or make their clients believe that these strategies are ethical while in reality, those tactics are clearly violating the search engine’s guidelines.
Concluding, when you are trying to get your own site to rank on the SERPs, never ever go down this way and use black hat SEO. If you find yourself struggling to achieve a better ranking position, learn the strategies that actually work in favor of your website without contravening the guidelines. Or you can take the easier way out and hire a reputed and established agency to help you with your site’s SEO “ethically.”
Hariom Balhara is an inventive person who has been doing intensive research in particular topics and writing blogs and articles for Tireless IT Services. Tireless IT Services is a digital marketing, SEO, SMO, PPC, and web development company that comes with massive experiences. We specialize in digital marketing, web designing and development, graphic design, and a lot more.