A blanket term used to club together virus creators, hackers, and unethical internet users, that use malpractices like keyword stuffing, using private link keywords and cloaking, to increase site rankings. Black hat has come to refer to some seemingly questionable methods that websites use to increase rank through search engines, violating the latter’s service terms. Simply put, it is a practice that goes against search engines guidelines, so sites can rank higher in search results. These practices often harm users and also end up with sites incurring penalties from search engines.
What Is Black Hat SEO
Used to boost a page’s ranking in SERPs, Black Hat SEO can result in a site being banned from a particular search engine and its affiliate websites. A good place to check for a list of strategies that are banned by search engines is Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines. A good way to see whether an SEO technique is legit or not is to question whether the work done is adding some value to the user, and answering their search queries or not. If no such thing is happening and despite that, page rankings are increasing, those SEO practices are probably ‘black hat’. This applies to both free and paid search practices. Intentionally or unintentionally, it is best that you avoid black-hat SEO strategies. Here’s a list of some of them so you can quickly identify them during your campaign.
Backlinks and other relevant links can help Google judge whether your webpage is a legit source of information, helping you appear on top of search results. Don’t buy links, because it doesn’t work anyways and incurs a penalty, both automatic and manual, that could affect either the offending page or your entire website. You can’t possibly fool Google, which easily tracks bought links, since it’s so good at identifying unnatural patterns.
Free Products in Exchange for Links
Exchanging, giving, or taking free products or providing discounts/material gratification for links is not allowed. Always make your link a no-follow link, with a rel=” no follow” tag, so it does not impact Google’s ranking algorithm and isn’t considered a link scheme.
Ubiquitous at the bottom of every webpage, footer space is quite coveted. This is why Google is quick to catch footer links with commercial anchor texts, that twist results.
Concealed and Irrelevant Links
Do not try to hide a link or include irrelevant links in a website’s text, or make it blend into the site background, as Google will understand this con and make you pay. It won’t direct traffic to your target audience, cutting down your relevance. Refrain from hiding text behind images, CSS-based off-screen text, 0 font size for texts, etc.
Spamming Comments Sections
Don’t share your website link in the comment sections of other websites unless there’s some relationship between the two. Doing so will mark you as a spammer because using the comments section for link building is ineffective and disallowed.
Using Excessive Anchor Text
Don’t match your page title every time you share a link. The title and the page have the same goal, and despite implying relevancy it also, unfortunately, appears spammy. Keep anchor text brief, interesting and unique, relate it to the linked-to page, and refrain from keyword stuffing. Do this for both internal and external links.
Do not work Google’s penalty system to your advantage by deliberately linking with websites to drag down your page ranks, because Google has a form to help disavow links. This means that if you have any manual action against your website for unnatural links, and are unable to remove them, you can disavow them using this tool. If you go through your backlinks, remember to remove yourself from bad domains.
Prevalent earlier, but still found quite easily, Private Blog Networks are websites that place a lot of links on other websites. These often low-quality links can affect SERPs. This is essentially called a ‘webring’, and Google absolutely hates these, because they manipulate the latter’s algorithms.
If good keywords were all you needed to rank on top, then you could just fill up your site with a block of keywords instead of sensible content. Google aims to deliver high-quality results, so its priority is semantically-linked keywords in the content. That way, the algorithm finds real good quality content instead of content loaded with keywords, trying to pass off as good content.
Not unlike hidden links, this is content that is of the same color as the background and is a strategy that aims to overfill a page with keyword phrases, long-tail keywords, and semantically-linked keywords. Google’s smart algorithm easily catches these hidden keywords in the background because it can easily distinguish them from the keywords in the paragraph. There are many ways in which hidden content can find its way to your website. It could be through guest blogs that are from someone who uses hidden content. Your comment filtering system could mess up, failing to find hidden content. Your site could face hacking, and hackers could do parasite-hosting, i.e flood it with hidden content. Some users could put up hidden content by copying and pasting text with CSS styling from varied sources. Some content is visible to desktop visitors but not to mobile visitors. Such content is not counted as hidden content.
This is just one step above plagiarising content. Spinning includes re-writing and re-hashing content by just changing certain aspects of grammar. Technology or manual labor can do this, and Google quickly catches and immediately penalizes those who spin articles.
Duplicate Plagiarized Content
This is the ultimate sin. Copying someone else’s content, and passing it off as your own can have heavy legal ramifications. Violating copyright and trademark laws is never a good idea because Google only wants to share quality domains.
Overloading Snippets With Information
Don’t load snippets with information just to drive traffic, because there’s a Google support page that detects schema that generates snippets that could be manipulated.
Using a flash or animated page that hides information from users, but shows it to Google’s crawlers, is called ‘cloaking’. Heavy penalties can be incurred for practicing this. Another example of cloaking is doorway pages. Designed to rank for certain keywords, they redirect visitors to other pages. They’re also called bridge, entry, gateway, jump, or portal pages.
Misusing Alt Tags
Do not try to overpopulate alt tags with keywords, because this can hurt site rankings, dealing your site and its visitors a bad hand. Visually impaired visitors depend on alt tags, as do people whose browsers don’t load the image. They are also useful to search engines trying to decode images.
An unsecured website leads to a drop in rankings. Google can easily detect malicious code, blocking your site from people using the search engine. Any organic visitors will quickly be dissuaded from visiting your site again.
There’s only one shortcut to success. Hard work. Black hat SEO techniques are harmful to site owners, because they drop rankings, and for site visitors, because it provides them with poor content. This way, the quality of content on the internet falls overall. Stay away from black hat SEO techniques, and if you get caught and penalized, find ways to get back into Google’s good books. Read our blog on SEO insights that are important for a good online presence to find out how to judge your site metrics to work on them so you can rank higher.