Black Hat SEO: What Is It And How To Avoid It?
Business owners rarely comprehend the depth of understanding and effort it takes to land on the first page of Google’s search results. Many will feel discouraged about their lack of ability to achieve the desired effects overnight and will turn to what is known in the industry as ‘blackhat SEO techniques. These tactics are not only frowned upon by professionals, but Google amply punishes those websites that use these unorthodox methods.
Why Are Blackhat SEO Tactics Penalized?
Search engine optimization or SEO is considered the starting point for every successful company’s website. All of the tactics that are employed by SEO are done so in an effort to increase search engine visibility in the SERPs or the search engine results pages. Studies have conclusively shown that most consumers (up to 68%), whether looking for a product or a service, will use a major search engine to see their options. Ultimately, this requires all modern businesses to partake in SEO in order to gain visibility and the necessary number of website visitors.
When it comes to choosing tactics for SEO, there are two kinds: white hat and blackhat SEO techniques. What makes these two techniques so vastly different is that blackhat SEO can significantly boost websites in search results in a short amount of time. However, if a site owner gets caught employing the use of these techniques, they suffer negative consequences and get ‘blacklisted’ by major search engines.
It isn’t hard to see why many companies use blackhat SEO tactics when only a mere 5.7% of all published articles ever reach a wide readership on the first page of Google’s results. Marketers recognize the fierceness of the competition at hand and will often turn to the dark side of SEO to make website owners feel accomplished. Unfortunately, it is these same tactics that have heavy negative consequences set forth by Google and like-minded search engines as they want to deliver valuable content to their users.
The ultimate outcome of using blackhat SEO techniques involves a website getting permanently banned from ranking in search results. There are instances where a site isn’t completely banned, but rather, ranked lower which results in a significant loss of traffic and revenue in the long term.
Google is a constant ebb and flow of changes as the company is always working towards delivering highly accurate and desirable search results. As a way to improve the displayed results in searches, their algorithm changes at regular intervals to measure the added value each website provides. Ultimately, Google gets better and better at recognizing so-called blackhat SEO techniques, and that means the penalties are even graver for those that get caught.
8 Common Blackhat SEO Techniques
Below are some provided examples of what Google and other search engines consider blackhat techniques. It is important to use the information provided as a learning experience and not to actually employ them. It may seem like a good idea for many to assume they won’t get caught if using these methods, but it is only a matter of time before Google catches on.
Blackhat SEO techniques include the most common ones such as:
1. Knowingly using bad links or paying for backlinking to boost results.
Google uses backlinks to consider the validity and usefulness of a website. That means as a website increases in popularity, so do the number of links shared that directly link to written content. Not only is backlinking effective in honestly gaining organic traffic, but it also helps Google separate the good sites from the bad. Unfortunately, up to 66% of Internet websites do not use backlinks at all.
There are instances, however, where backlinks can actually hurt a website. Usually, these websites either fail to follow Google’s comprehensive guidelines and policies or will simply publish poorly written content. One common example of a blackhat SEO tactic is to pay a company to share backlinks, hence the fake traffic from backlinking causes Google to ban the site.
A private blog network or PBN can also flag a website in Google’s algorithm if fake URLs are used to link back to a website. It isn’t stressed often enough, but marketers should always avoid the use of these blackhat tactics as often the positive results are short-lived and the penalties high.
2. Manipulating footer links with commercial anchor text.
Where links are actually placed on a website also plays an integral role in how search engines perceive them. The footer of a website is considered prime real estate as it is visible on every page of the site, therefore, it can help boost a site in search rankings. In order to manipulate results, some website owners will place commercial anchor text at scale. This is considered a common blackhat SEO practice and easily accrues penalties. It is important for website owners to choose pages they link to wisely and to avoid the use of deceptive marketing practices.
3. Spam commenting on one’s own blog posts or content is also prohibited conduct.
Though considered vastly outdated by now, there was a time when marketers would comment on their own blog posts and add backlinks to show user engagement. By having these extra backlinks, the ranking of the site would increase in search results.
Due to the fact that so many marketers employed blackhat tactics, Google no longer places as much weight as it once did in comments and backlinks. Regardless of this fact, some marketers will still pay a company to spam their comments full of backlinks. This is a tactic to avoid at all costs as it is easily shut down by search engines.
4. Using plagiarism to add content to a website.
Many website owners recognize the time and effort it takes to brainstorm and author professional content for their sites. Ultimately, this lends itself to many using the art of plagiarism to boost their viewable content. This involves checking out industry-related articles and content that ranks well, then simply copy-pasting it to their own websites without any changes. Though short-lived, this does provide a boost in search results.
At the end of the day, no one can deny the effectiveness of this blackhat SEO tactic as it does deliver quick results. However, the penalties for using duplicated content are harsh, which is why marketers and website owners alike should avoid publishing anything that’s plagiarized or similar to existing content.
5. Using article spinning software to create a “new” article.
As duplicated content became easier and easier to penalize, unscrupulous website owners searched for another solution. New software called article spinning software appeared on the market and achieved decent results for many. This basically entails taking a highly-ranked article and sending it through the article spinner. Basic words and occasional phrases are switched out to make the article appear unique and avoid the label of plagiarism.
This is a blackhat SEO technique that is still quite common, but Google is getting better at spotting these articles. Each algorithm update the search engine goes through enables its ability to get smarter and rule out articles that partake in this practice.
6. Tricking Google by cloaking content and delivering a low-quality experience.
Cloaking is a fairly simple and standard blackhat SEO practice. It essentially means that a code is written to trick search engine crawlers into believing that a certain website features X content, only to deliver different Y content to human visitors. Though clever and filled with trickery, it coerces Google into thinking that a website offers more value than it really does.
Google doesn’t take kindly to this kind of trickery and will mete out punishment for those that choose this blackhat SEO method. All images and content on a website must reflect exactly what Google is able to view and what visitors experience.
7. Keyword stuffing or spamming content with popular phrases.
When SEO was still in its infancy, keyword spamming or stuffing was common practice. It entailed marketers searching for highly ranked keywords and placing them randomly as many times as they could throughout their written content. As Google’s updates rolled out, its algorithm became vastly smarter and this once standard practice is now highly outdated.
Search engines can now easily crawl through a site and find those that use keyword spamming. Getting caught always means serious penalties for those involved, which is why it’s so much more honest to simply create well-written content with thoughtfully placed keywords.
**Alt text is another zone that some will take advantage of as it is used by those visually impaired. All content should be easily readable out loud and make sense for search engines when certain content fails to load. Stuffing keywords in this scenario also leads to serious penalties with negative long-term consequences.
8. Using a white background to make text and links invisible.
Marketers took advantage of yet another blackhat SEO tactic when they realized that white text on a white background is unreadable. Another dated method of tricking search engines is to stuff keywords and links in white on a white background. This makes it unreadable to the average viewer but search engines can still find it. Google has made many updates to its algorithm and this practice is easily found out.
Honesty Wins In The End!
Google is getting smarter with every update and blackhat SEO tactics are mostly outdated. They yield short-lived results that penalize website owners for many years, which is why it makes sense for marketers and website owners to focus on delivering honest content.