If your business is actively involved in search engine optimization (SEO), whether you do it in-house or you’ve hired a digital marketing agency, you owe it to yourself to learn more about black hat SEO techniques.
Why? It might save your website from being delisted, or banned, by Google.
What’s Black Hat SEO?
Just like the stereotype in old movie westerns, where the bad person, the one who cheats and breaks the rules, wears a black hat, black hat SEO techniques are those that go against Google’s search engine guidelines. Instead of staying within the rules, black hat SEO tries to cheat the system to get higher search engine rankings.
Why You Must Avoid Black Hat SEO
It seems like such a good idea. All you have to do is change a bit of code, or rewrite a bit of copy, or include your link in blog comments and your Google rankings instantly go up. You can even get to the first page overnight.
To begin to understand why, even if it works, you should immediately walk away from the black hat, think about Google’s business. Yes, they may be building smart cities, researching AI and manufacturing autonomous vehicles, but they would be nowhere without their search engine and the reliable results it produces.
So how do you think Google feels when someone tries to game their cash cow? Interfere with the quality of search results and you put at risk the existence of their $200 billion business.
The consequences your business may suffer if it’s caught practising black hat range from a slight downgrade in search rankings, to being completely delisted from search results.
That last point is very serious. If you are delisted from search results, your potential customers have no way of finding you online. It’s like your business is invisible. For a retailer, the real-life equivalent would be if all your stores suddenly disappeared without a trace.
If you want to know how adamant Google is about penalizing black hatters, and how wide a net they cast to find them, the company has even penalized itself, on many occasions, even though they broke the rules unintentionally.
Avoid These Black Hat SEO Tactics
Now that you know why it’s critical to steer clear of any black hat practices, here are a few of the more common practices to look out for.
Cloaking is a technique of showing Google’s web crawlers, which it uses to check out websites across the internet, a set of content that is different from the content on the page.
The crawler can be fooled into thinking your content should be highly ranked, but the actual content isn’t worthy of the ranking. If you’re caught cloaking, there’s a significant chance your site will be banned for life.
Buying Backlinks; Link Farms; Private Blog Networks
As we mentioned, Google wants to deliver the best quality search results possible. One of the ways that search engine crawlers determine the quality of content is to see if other sites have linked to the content. If lots of other sites link to your content, especially if they are also high-quality sites, then your content must be good.
Instead of link-building the old-fashioned way, by creating high-quality content, black hat SEO uses techniques like paying for links or subscribing to link farms or blog networks.
If you contribute to a blog, you may have seen this one in action. Every blogger loves it when someone comments on one of their posts. But sometimes the comment makes little or no sense or is not relevant to the post, and it includes a link.
That’s comment spamming. When the commenter includes a link, crawlers can read that link as coming from your site, even though you didn’t actually link to the content.
Keyword Stuffing & Duplicate Content
Both of these are among the original black hat SEO tactics. Keyword stuffing means adding excessive numbers of keywords to your content for the purpose of attracting crawlers.
Duplicate content is content that’s copied from other sites, or even from other pages on your site. Duplicate content increases the amount of quality content on your site, without going to the bother of actually creating more quality content.
If Google’s crawlers detect two competing websites that are very similar, they may give a ranking boost to the site with the most content. All things being equal and legitimate, a site with more content has more to offer.
As a result, black hatters will often create lots of low-quality content in an attempt to scam the crawlers. Except the crawlers rate the quality of content higher than the quantity. So a website with high-quality content that searchers seek out and spend more time with, will outrank a website with lots of content that searchers bounce from shortly after landing.
If you have any questions about black hat SEO or want to find out if your business may be unintentionally guilty of using black hat tactics, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.