If you are keen to increase the number of internet browsers who stop by your website to read, view, or purchase a product, then you are most likely interested in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Appearing in search results is crucial for website growth, but there is a right way and a wrong way to gain the attention of search engines. The practice of SEO helps search engines index your website and present it to internet searchers looking for whatever your website may offer.
When done right, SEO is a great resource for websites to increase traffic. However, when the rules set forth by search engines are not adhered to, the results may not be so optimistic. These rule-breaking tactics are generally referred to as black hat SEO, and the penalties for committing these acts are not worth the potential gain.
What is black hat SEO?
Black hat SEO practices work against search engine guidelines. These sneaky methods are used to enable sites to rank higher in search engine result pages, but do so in an underhanded way. Typically, these methods end up in search engine penalties, lower rankings, and sometimes even blacklisted domains. Black hat techniques include cloaking, private link networks, keyword stuffing, and more. Black hat violations are very expensive for websites to resolve, however the cost typically results from missed opportunities, lost traffic, and lost revenue. The majority of website owners will agree that the risk is not worth the reward.
SEO methods to avoid
Since black hat SEO methods are much more likely to damage your search engine reputation than improve it, there are definitely some techniques you will want to avoid in your SEO tactics. It’s important to remember that search engine algorithms get smarter and more efficient each year, so hoodwinking them is harder than ever. Below you can learn more about techniques you definitely want to avoid in your search engine optimisation efforts:
Search engines prohibit the buying and selling of links, which also includes trading links for discounts or products and services. Doing so is considered being part of a link scheme and can result in your website being blacklisted. However, this black hat tactic is easy to avoid: do not pay another website to link to your website and do not sell the privilege of adding someone else’s links to your website, simple as that.
Keyword stuffing is creating unnatural, unhelpful, and sometimes unpleasant content to match the keywords you would like to appear in search results for. Google explains keyword stuffing as:
- “Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value.
- Blocks of text listing cities and states a web page is trying to rank for
- Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural.”
Simply make sure that your content serves a purpose and is well written to avoid this black hat SEO cheat.
Poorly Written or Stolen Content
Similar to the point above, Google and other search engines will rank you according to the calibre of your website content. If your website is full of typos, misspelled words, or doesn’t read naturally, you may be penalised. You may also be penalised if your website content is not original, for example if you copied it from another website.
Redirects are the practice of sending website visitors to sites other than the URL they are expecting. Black hat SEO includes using redirects outside of the usual purposes. Often, redirects will begin with a highly ranked page with multiple links to irrelevant pages to boost the position of the irrelevant pages in search results.
Much like the title suggests, this black hat SEO move includes leaving your website link in blog comments, even when there is no cause for it. Fortunately, most search engines no longer crawl blog comment sections so this black hat technique no longer holds any appeal or benefit. Nevertheless, you will still find your blog comments stuffed with comments and links if you don’t have a proper spam filter in place.
What happens if you receive an SEO penalty?
Black hat SEO is not illegal and you won’t face any significant charges or fees. However, if you are caught violating search engine rules, you will most likely be penalised for a specific period of time by way of a Google-imposed drop in traffic, thereby leading to reduced performance in SEO ranking. To learn more about search engine rules and how to avoid them, be sure to have a look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Interestingly enough, even Google has broken its own rules in the past.
According to HubSpot, Google included a follow link in a Google Chrome sponsored post, violating their own SEO black hat rules since the link was sponsored content paid for by the company. As a result, the Google webspam team penalised Google Chrome with lower page ranking for 60 days and the black mark on their search record resulted in a lower ranking for the term “browser”.