What is Black Hat SEO? Black hat SEO is a practice against search engine guidelines, used to get a site ranking higher in search results. White hat SEO consists of creating quality content and a better overall user experience for people visiting your site. Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO Black hat SEO goes against the guidelines set by search engines and manipulates them to gain higher rankings. Along the same lines as cloaking, this might include redirecting a search engine crawler to one page and all other users to another page. They state on their website that “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.” This includes sending a website free products in exchange for links. Why You Should Avoid Black Hat SEO While black hat SEO is not illegal, it does violate webmaster guidelines set out by search engines. Search engines have gotten better and better at spotting black hat SEO techniques. Many grey hat practices have become black hat practices over time, once search engines found out about them. Here are best practices to avoid black hat SEO: Treat the searcher and search engines the same way.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is a practice against search engine guidelines, used to get a site ranking higher in search results. These unethical tactics don’t solve for the searcher and often end in a penalty from search engines. Black hat techniques include keyword stuffing, cloaking, and using private link networks.
Appearing in search results is vital for business growth, but there’s a right and wrong way of doing search engine optimization. The dark art of black hat SEO is the wrong way. Black hat SEO seeks to game search engine algorithms, rather than solve for the user. Instead of earning the right to rank highly on search engine results pages black hat SEO uses shady tactics to get you there. Sustained use of black hat SEO techniques is likely to damage your presence in search engines rather than improve it.
If you are new to the search space, the purpose of search engines like Google is to provide the best results when someone completes a search. They want people to have a great search experience and ensure the results they provide do not include spam. They do this automatically through algorithms or manual actions that aim to recognize and penalize those engaging in black hat SEO.
Search engine algorithms have gotten more sophisticated over time, which is why you should avoid black hat SEO at all costs. White hat SEO is a much better method of doing search engine optimization. It’s a more ethical approach that abides by the terms and guidelines set out by search engines. White hat SEO consists of creating quality content and a better overall user experience for people visiting your site.
Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO
Black hat SEO goes against the guidelines set by search engines and manipulates them to gain higher rankings. It can lead to being wiped completely from search results or gaining a lower position. White hat SEO is a more ethical way of doing SEO by creating quality content and a good user experience.
This article will explain what black hat SEO techniques involve so you can make sure to avoid them when devising your organic search strategy.
Black Hat Techniques in SEO
Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of filling your content with irrelevant keywords in an attempt to manipulate where the page ranks on search results pages. Adding multiple variations of keywords where they add no value creates a bad experience for users. It may also cause your page to rank for irrelevant queries.
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.
Here’s an example of keyword stuffing for a website selling outbound marketing software:
“We are in the business of selling outbound marketing software. Outbound marketing software is what we sell. If you are thinking of getting outbound marketing software get in touch with one of our outbound marketing software consultants.”
I think you’ll agree, that sounds like a broken record. It’s pretty easy to spot and Google will be able to tell that the content sounds unnatural.
You may have heard the joke “an SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor…”. This joke is about keyword stuffing and it is another perfect example of the practice. The words are all similar to each other, but they are of no value as they don’t even string up a sentence.
You can do keyword research to find out what people are searching for but overusing these keywords in your content is not a good idea. Rather than filling your content with irrelevant keywords, concentrate on creating useful content that focuses on topics over keywords.
Cloaking involves showing one piece of content to users and a different piece of content to search engines. Websites practicing black hat SEO will do this in order to make content rank for a variety of terms irrelevant to their content. Spam websites will often do this to try and avoid a search engine bot finding out the spam content they serve to users.
Tailoring your content to different groups of users is acceptable. For example, you might shrink the size of your website when someone visits from a mobile device. You might also change the language of a page based on the country someone is visiting from. A publisher like Forbes or Inc might change the ads that appear on a page in order to fund their content. These examples are completely acceptable. As long as you are not just changing the content that appears for search engine crawlers.
While there is no hard and fast rule to determine what’s acceptable and what’s not, my best advice is to ask yourself, does what you intend to do solve for the user? If it does, then it’s acceptable. You should treat search engine bots that crawl your site the same as any other user.
If you are curious to find out how Google sees your website you can use the fetch as Google tool and compare this to what users see.
A redirect involves sending someone to a different URL than the one they initially clicked. Black hat SEO uses redirects outside of the purpose they are intended for. Along the same lines as cloaking, this might include redirecting a search engine crawler to one page and all other users to another page.
Another example is redirecting a highly authoritative page with lots of backlinks into another irrelevant page, just to boost its position in search results. A 301 redirect passes the majority of authority from one page to another. This means someone practicing black hat SEO could use redirects solely for the purpose of manipulating search results.
Poor Quality Content
Poor quality content that’s of no value to the searcher is also a common practice in black hat SEO. This includes content scraped from another website either by a bot or a person. At one point search engines like Google weren’t good at recognizing content that had been copied from other websites. The Google Panda update in 2011 resolved this issue. Many sites with duplicate content took an instant hit in search rankings. Since then, Google has gotten much better at recognizing duplicate and low-quality content.
Adding invisible keywords to your content is also a prohibited practice. Some websites that engage in black hat SEO do this by making the text the same color as the page background. This means the page may appear in search results for those invisible keywords, even though there’s no visible content about them on the page. When a user clicks on the result thinking it’s going to be about the topic they searched for, they don’t find any of the content they were looking for as the keywords are invisible. If you’re solving for the user, there should be no need to hide content on your website.
The “bait and switch” is another black hat means of misleading search engines. This involves creating content surrounding a topic you want to rank for. Once the page is ranking in results for this topic, the content is swapped out for something else. This creates a negative experience for searchers as the content they click-through to see no longer exists. These practices trick users and search engines and they are not a good way to do SEO.
Writing original, quality content is an important part of white hat SEO. Not only is it required to avoid a penalty from search engines, it will also set your website apart. Creating high-quality content builds trust with your target audience and turns visitors into customers.
Search engines like Google strictly ban the buying and selling of links. They…