Black Hat SEO: 7 Old-School Tactics You Should Probably Avoid
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Every marketer knows that ranking on Google means more than just eyes on your page. It also means that you have the opportunity to land more sales and bring in extra revenue. If you want to rank on any search engine quickly, you might be tempted to use black hat SEO which can boost rankings significantly.
But is it truly worth it to avoid solid SEO methods and instead skip to black hat SEO techniques?
The truth is that there is a risk associated with any black hat SEO technique.
If you've been debating between implementing some of these black hat SEO techniques instead of using the tried and true white hat SEO, here is what you need to know to make the most of your marketing.
- What is Black Hat SEO?
- Black Hat SEO Risks
- 7 Black Hat Techniques to Avoid
- Final Thoughts on Black Hat SEO
What is Black Hat SEO?
Have you heard of both black hat and white hat SEO and wondered what the difference was? Both are key to digital marketing and making sure that your content ranks.
Let's take a look at what black hat search engine optimization truly means before comparing the two tactics.
In a word, black hat means that you are using an SEO technique that goes against the grain of the guidelines spelled out by the search engines like Google.
The goal of search engines is to provide the user with a positive experience and an answer to their inquiry.
Search engines like Google comb the internet for the most relevant content, but black hat SEO makes it that much more challenging.
Black hat SEO tactics won't offer anything of value to the searcher, leaving them to bounce back to the SERPs and try again.
Unfortunately, this means that your website is likely to be penalized by the search engines.
Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO
With that being said, how does white hat SEO compare to a black hat digital marketing strategy? The primary difference rests in the idea that white SEO utilizes search engine optimization the right way.
Let's take a closer look at exactly what it means to use SEO the “right” way.
Black hat SEO techniques (like those listed below) are about getting to the top of the results pages – but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll stay there.
It's about optimizing for search engines to crawl your page rather than being about the reader experience.
On the other hand, white hat SEO is about the user experience AND search engines. Instead of focusing solely on the SERP ranking, you want to create an optimal experience for the reader.
To this end, you'll spend more time developing your content and using an SEO tactic that works naturally without sacrificing user experience.
You'll be rewarded with higher rankings that last as opposed to those that are likely to be penalized shortly for not offering up the best experience for searchers and readers.
Black Hat SEO Risks
We've already alluded to it a little bit here, but there are some serious risks to trying out a black hat SEO tactic. There are two major risks that are posed to your website when you consider this negative SEO experience:
Losing Ranking Spots
The search engines know that you're trying to game the system, especially when the people who click on your page quickly bounce back to the SERPs.
You're likely to lose that high-ranking spot which can cost you in terms of traffic.
The worst case scenario is that your page may even be removed from Google altogether.
Keep in mind that you can put in the work to get your content replaced on the search engines, but you'll have to prove that you aren't just using black hat SEO tactics to get there.
Negative User Experiences
This SEO tactic isn't going to be the best thing to use if you're looking for long-term results. If you want to start a blog or cultivate a side hustle through your website, then you need white hat SEO techniques instead.
Once people realize that your page doesn't deliver what it promises, they're likely to bounce which minimizes your likelihood of making a sale or earning affiliate income.
If you want your audience to view you as a reliable resource for every topic related to your niche, then you need to think about their overall experience rather than just your rankings.
Black hat SEO tactics focus on the opposite. Make your audience happy with what you provide, you'll get better rankings, and they're more likely to come back.
More sales for you in the future if you're willing it put in the initial work when building your site right now.
7 Black Hat Techniques to Avoid
By now, you should be pretty convinced that black hat SEO technique is best avoided. The question is: what qualifies as black hat SEO, and what can you do to avoid it?
First and foremost, you can think of your content through the lens of your audience. If it's helpful and answers their initial query, then you are likely operating within the realm of white hat SEO.
On the other hand, pages that are too focused on search engine optimization at the expense of user experience are likely black hat or grey hat SEO (using a combination of black hat and white hat tactics).
Look at your website to see if you can spot any of these pitfalls that could jeopardize your rankings.
1. Keyword Stuffing
We've all experienced it at some point: you click through to a page that uses the same words over and over again. The text doesn't flow, and it may not even make sense, but it somehow still finds its way to the first page of Google.
This is likely the result of keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is connected to the idea that using the main words that you want your page to rank for over and over again will boost your rankings.
Unfortunately, the opposite is frequently true. It ruins the experience for the user, and you'll be penalized for it.
Here are three examples of keyword stuffing given straight from Google itself:
- Including a list of phone numbers with no value
- Text that lists cities or regions that you want to rank for
- Constant repetition of a keyword where it doesn't make sense (as in the image below)
2. Paid Links and Link Farms (or Free Products for Links)
Many marketers know that links are a great way to direct more traffic to a given page. You want to create content that other people find useful.
When you do, you'll likely see an uptick in organic links that cite your page as a credible resource.
Unfortunately, black hat marketers are too eager for links and may move ahead with a scheme that's frowned upon by Google: paid links.
If Google catches you using this black hat tactic for link building, you will be penalized.
Take a look at what all Google categorizes under spam links because this also applies to giving out free products, goods, or services in exchange for links.
Keep in mind that this is different than a legit affiliate marketing link building campaign. If you have quality content, you may see some SEO success with outbound links to your website from other pages that have a great reputation on Google.
Google is pretty savvy when it comes to sniffing out black hat links, so be cautious.
3. Low Quality Content or Duplicate Content
Some niche site builders are guilty of wanting to churn out content quickly, which leaves them looking for content spinning rather than generating fresh and valuable content.
Unfortunately, this often means that they don't produce content of the highest value, which gives a negative user experience.
Another thing to mention here is duplicate content. This is where you may try to rank for a local page like “air conditioning in Charleston." If you also want to rank for an adjacent city like “air conditioning in North Charleston," then you may duplicate the content by changing only the name of the city.
This, too, will be penalized if Google catches you doing it.
Private blog networks (PBNs) can also fall into this category. This occurs when you create a network of different blogs specifically for the purpose of link-building.
You don't spend time creating high-quality content for each site. They have no real purpose apart from feeding link juice to the main page.
Have you ever seen a website that has a million links in the footer section? Many sites use the footer to successfully make their site easier to navigate, like the Niche Pursuits footer found above.
For example, it might include links to pillar content or the main navigation pages (about us, services pages, etc.).
However, some people are using these footer links to skyrocket their way to SEO success.
You could rank higher on a Google search if you have lots of footer links with commercial anchor text – at least, temporarily.
Google doesn't like to see an abundance of links in the footer, especially when they all have anchor text that ties into commercial marketing.
Keep your footer links lean and make sure they serve a purpose other than just SEO success.
Cloaking is a little more technical and goes against search engine guidelines. As the name implies, a site that uses cloaking will show one result to search engines and another to the end user.
The search engine will see useful material that promises to fulfill the query of the searcher, but the site itself is used for marketing something else entirely.
Chances are that you have come across cloaking before if you stumbled onto sites that display content you weren't expecting based on what Google promised you would be on the page.
Not all redirects are inherently bad and won't always be penalized by search engines. However, it's key to note that unexpected redirects are likely to be punished.
How do you know when a redirect is a little misleading?
This black hat technique shows one thing to Google and another to the user. Google sees the link to the original page that you wanted to redirect, as a result of a site migration, for example.
Instead, the user is directed to a different page with a different intent.
Make sure your links are clear and comply with search engine guidelines if you're doing a legitimate site migration.
7. Negative SEO
While many of the black hat techniques that we covered here relates to your own page ranking on Google search, it's also important to note that you can impact the SEO of other sites.
Negative SEO, which we mentioned a bit earlier, is the practice of trying to bump your competitors down in the SERPs.
To do this, you might list a high volume of links to their site, hoping that they will be penalized for this type of link building.
You might leave them negative reviews as well, with the goal being to ruin their reputation.
Instead of focusing on boosting your own site up on Google search results, you focus on tearing your competitors down.
Final Thoughts on Black Hat SEO
Are you paying close attention to your Google Analytics and making sure that your site ranks in the search result pages? You can achieve SEO success long-term by focusing on white hat SEO tactics as opposed to the sketchier options included here as black hat SEO methods.
Overall, the risk to the rating of your website simply isn't worth it when it comes to implementing a black hat SEO practice. Focus on your content marketing and creating your site to be a reliable authority site in your niche if you want to come up on the first page of Google.
If you've been using any of these types of SEO to rank higher, it's time to replace them now so that you don't get penalized by Google (which can be very difficult to fix!).
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