Save time and jump to section.
- Buying Links
- Hidden Links
- Hidden Content
- Footer Links
- Keyword Stuffing
- Alt Text Keyword Stuffing
- Overusing Anchor Text
- Offering Free Products For Links
- Malicious Backlinking
- Article Spinning
- Plagiarising Content
- Portal Pages
Search Engine Optimization is a vitally important marketing technique that can literally make or break your website. If you get it right, you’ll be sitting high on the Google search results and enjoying the fruits of your labours but you may be tempted to take a shortcut and employ black hat seo.
However, if you Succumb to the dark side you will be caught eventually and face the wrath of the mighty Google algorithm.
In order for Google to remain as the number one search engine, they are constantly updating their algorithms, which is why website owners, SEO experts, copywriters, and everyone in between needs to stay updated with regards to these changes.
The problem is, Google won’t tell us because the information is commercially sensitive. Finding out about these changes is really a matter of keeping your ear to the ground. You should also be keeping an eye on your Search Console and Analytics for anomalies.
In terms of making your SEO campaign a success, it’s important to avoid being hit by the various documented penalties released by Google (think Hummingbird, Panda, Penguin etc), which is why you really need to avoid Black Hat Techniques.
Below we’ll be looking at some of these dastardly Black Hat techniques and how to spot them, as they will seriously damage your SEO – sooner or later.
What are Black Hat SEO techniques?
Black Hat SEO is referred to as such because it actually gets its name from those old Westerns where the bad guy would always wear a black hat. Think the legendary Lee Van Cleefe! Well, the internet was like the wild west in them thar days!
Another name for black hat seo is spamdexing
The more modern black hat practitioners are perhaps more like Dick Turpin, robbing people and by the time the Google grim reaper comes a-calling – they’re long gone!
You don’t even need to go to the dark web to find these people. They’re waiting with their adverts to lure you into their trap by tempting you with a fast track to the top of Google. Remember; Caveat Emptor!
Black Hat SEO “experts” think they understand the ins and outs of SEO and use this knowledge to take short cuts which are certainly not in the best intentions of Google or the searchers that they serve. They are certainly not in the best interests of website owners as they prey on their ignorance.
The problem here, is that these SEO practitioners seriously underestimate the power and ever increasing intelligence of the Google algorithm and often find themselves being penalized, or, even worse, having their clients penalized by Google, for using these shoddy tactics and practices.
So get educated and be aware that the sharks are always circling.
Black Hat techniques to avoid
Want to avoid facing the wrath of the almighty Google? Then pay attention and check out these Black Hat SEO techniques to avoid.
1. Buying Links
Having a high DA/PA link pointing to your website can be worth loadsamoney and can really boost your SEO. Buying links however, does not work. Have you done your due diligence on their quality control? It’s a mug’s game, don’t be tempted. Keep your cash for quality and authoritative content creation. We can help you with this.
Google can easily track links which are looking likely to have been purchased and if you are found to have done so, you will face a hefty penalty. In a nutshell you are wasting your time and money.
Having said that, there are a handful of reputable sources where you can buy links. Basically what they offer is creating link-worthy content with their eye on the top results for your target keyword. They then contact their database of existing high DA websites and market the content to the most relevant contacts. Make sure you do your due diligence checks!
Don’t even consider getting links to your website until you’ve correctly organised your own internal linking structure because doing so can reap rich rewards!
2. Using PBNs
Private Blog Networks are basically websites which link back to one another in a network. Typically they are websites based upon similar themes and topics, or the same themes and topics. Google considers PBNs as low quality webrings designed specifically for link building in order to manipulate its algorithms and as a result it is clamping down on them.
The more advanced ones use different C-Blocks but they are still traceable. There are many link building advertisements for these schemes. Don’t get sucked in.
3. Using Hidden Links
I can’t believe some people think this even qualifies as black hat as it’s so ludicrous but some Black Hat practitioners think they’re fooling Google by hiding links in the text of a website, or changing its colour so that it blends into the background.
Take it from us, hidden links don’t work and Google will find you out and penalize you.
Remember, Googlebot reads code, so it’s a waste of time anyway.
Also if their army of human reviewers spot that you’re trying to game the system, you’ve be in receipt of a rather unwelcome manual action.
4. Using Hidden Content
Just like hidden links, using hidden content will risk you facing the wrath of Google.
Hidden content is once again just like a hidden link, in that the colour of the text is altered so that it matches the background of your website and blends in.
Hidden content is all about keyword stuffing, as the idea is to hide as many keywords as possible in one page, including long-tail keywords, semantically-linked keywords, and keyword phrases.
5. Using Footer Links
Footer links should also not be used as part of your SEO campaign. It’s unbelievable who still does this – I’m looking at you, estate agents!
Footer links with commercial anchor text which have deliberately been used to manipulate search engine results will be found by Google, and again, you will be penalized eventually.
Too many links on one page is a red flag.
The footers therefore appear on each and every page of a website, so the temptation is always there to use footer links to boost SEO but don’t risk it, it’s simply not worth it and it looks awful.
6. Keyword Stuffing
Many website owners who attempt to handle their SEO themselves will try to create copy for their websites and blogs, and often make the mistake of keyword stuffing. I still tend to do it myself but I have a secret weapon that I use to stop me going OTT.
Keyword stuffing is basically a technique in which you will use the same keyword, or semantic keyword, over and over in an article or document.
I’m sure you’ve heard the joke;
“An SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor…”.
This joke is an extreme example about keyword stuffing and article spinning. The words are all similar to each other, but they are of no value as they don’t even string a sentence together properly.
It’s done for the search engines, not the human reader and that’s gonna get you in deep doo doo.
Google now realizes that SEO is all about providing useful, informative and authoritative content, which is why keyword stuffing creates an unhelpful user experience and is frowned upon. You will see user experience problems in your bounce rate figures. We recommend that you keep an eye on them.
By all means use descriptive keywords and phrases, but try to keep keyword density at a reasonable ratio.
What is an optimum keyword ratio?
Simple! It’s the ratio that the top search result has for that particular keyword?
Alternatively, hire us to create the content for you.
7. Keyword Stuffing In Alt-Text
We keep coming back to keyword stuffing, and for good reason too.
Attempting to stuff keywords behind images via alt-text may be considered harmless by some and an easy way to get some extra keywords in, but take it from us, it’s not worth the risk.
Technically this is misuse of alt-text and as such, this could result in you and your site being penalized. Also it created a negative experience for your visually impaired users.
8. Overusing Anchor Text
Anchor text can be useful when it comes to boosting your SEO, but beware of overdoing it, especially when blog commenting.
Overusing the same anchor text can put you in Google’s bad books as they’ll assume that you’re spamming.
Instead you should try to make anchor text brief and relevant to the page it’s linking to, rather than keyword stuffing and using the same anchor text over and over and over and over.
9. Offering Free Products For Links
Another lesser-known Black Hat SEO practice that is a risky area, is offering free products in exchange for links.
Google considers this a link scheme, whether you are taking, or giving products in exchange for links.
If you’re business is set up in this way and you have to do it, then the best way to avoid a penalty is to include a ‘no-follow’ attribute on the link, as this ensures that the link doesn’t have a negative impact on the search engine’s ranking algorithm.
10. Using Malicious Backlinking
This is a particularly nasty SEO practice that you will need to be aware of when it comes to monitoring your own SEO campaign.
Some Black Hat Hackers will attempt to make use of the penalty systems that Google has in place, by having spammy or disreputable websites link to you, with the very real risk of a manual action.
You should regularly audit your backlinks for penalty risk.
11. Article Spinning
This technique is very similar to plagiarizing content, or duplicating content, as you are basically taking existing content, tweaking it very slightly, and then trying to pass it off as your own unique work. It’s unethical and you can tell it a mile off because it’s horrible to read.
There are plenty of text spinning robots on the internet. Try it for a laugh if you’re bored. The results are unintelligible!
Of course you can write articles based on the same subjects, but if you do, make sure that the content you create is unique.
Don’t just assume that you can use a few different synonyms for words, or change a sentence here and there, and pass it off as unique because Google won’t fall for that.
When it comes to creating content, unique is always the way to go.
12. Plagiarising Content
If content spinning is frowned upon, plagiarizing content is most definitely off limits.
There is absolutely no excuse for copying existing content and there is also no way that you can possibly expect to get away with it considering how advanced Google’s algorithms are.
So, if you are using a UK site and your text has words like mommy, gotten, sidewalk, etc, that’s likely to flag up their natural language processing flag.
Also, you’re very likely to get a rather nasty email from the original author whose just run your article through a plagiarism checker like Copyscape.
Actually, you can easily fall into the trap of copying content without realising it.
Many ecommerce websites fall down this hole regularly!
For instance, a Samsung QE50QN94AATXXU 50” Smart TV description on an ecommerce site, is likely to have been copied and pasted from the Samsung official site.
The problem is, there will probably be thousands of sites which have exactly the same description. So our friendly Googlebot cant tell his algorithm friend which one to index higher
I know it’s a pain but you really should make the effort to create unique product descriptions. That’s a big ask if you have thousands of products. You also need to keep in mind the correct canonicals to show Googlebot the most relevant authority page, if you have different product pages and review pages.
I’ve never heard of this but it’s a valid point. The concept of Self-Plagiarism.
It’s a bit of a grey area but basically you shouldn’t submit articles (or large parts of it), that you’ve written previously and then pass it off as completely new.
It’s ok to take an old article and bring it up to date as long as you’ve marked it as updated. It all relates to user perception again. Here’s an excellent explanation from Scribbr that explains this in greater detail.
13. Using Portal Pages
Portal pages, sometimes known as doorway pages are another version of cloaking.
Who thinks of these sneaky black hat techniques anyway?
The basic idea behind doorway pages is that they are created in order to rank for specific keywords, yet they will then redirect visitors of these pages, to other pages.
14. Having Your Website Hacked
Not your fault! Mmmmm… Yes and no. You have a responsibility to your business to keep it secure.
As if having your website hacked isn’t stressful enough, you will also have to face the pain of a Google security action.
That means if Google finds that your site has been hacked or infected with a virus, they will show a security warning when people are trying to access your site and your site will be removed from the serps, so as to protect other users who may find you when searching online.
It gets worse because your hosting provider may quarantine your site and take it offline to protect the user users on their disk.
As you can see, it’s almost as if you’re being punished for being the victim, but in the online world, life’s tough! Plugins are often the culprits, so always keep them updated.
As you can see, even though some Black Hat SEO techniques can seemingly be simple to implement, very compelling to buy/implement and a quick way to get to the top of Google (for a limited amount of time), if you’re website is found to be using them, you will face the ranking fallout consequences which could prove to be incredibly costly for your business.
Also if you’re a junior seo, then you’re seriously risking your job.
Actually it really doesn’t make sense on any level if you’re serious about your website business, because the time you take messing about in the black hat world could be better spent doing seo properly and ethically.
If you continue to focus on providing authoritative, link-worthy content, then you’ll power your website to the top of your chosen keywords.
Confused by all this? Need help?
If your website has been affected by any of the issues here, then please contact us. We can assist with all aspects of SEO.
Oh, and we also build great websites!