Black Hat SEO: What is it and why should you avoid it?
5 Min Read
Black Hat SEO: What is it and why should you avoid it?
SEO can be tricky and it is tempting to find a quicker and easier way to get the results you want, but don’t get caught up in shady Black Hat tactics unless you want your website to ultimately suffer. The Implementation of Black Hat SEO tactics may look like the easiest and fastest way to improve your keyword and page rankings, improve organic traffic and gain more visibility over your competitors but it will damage your business and your website. In this article, we have answered your questions on Black Hat SEO including; what it is, where the term “black hat” comes from and what the dangers of using Black Hat SEO tactics are for you and your website.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
The term “Black hat SEO” is used to refer to a set of practices and processes that are used to increase a site or page’s rank in Google and other Search Engines through means that violate the search engine's terms of service. It is of the utmost importance that you realise and understand that the use of Black Hat SEO processes, practices and tactics can get your website banned from Search Engines like Google or Bing. This is not a set of instructions but rather a warning of what to avoid when implementing an SEO strategy, remember SEO is about longevity and building a sustainable growth model for your business.
Where Does The Term “Black Hat” Come From?
The term “black hat” originated in Hollywood Westerns where a Black Hat was used to distinguish the “Villains” from the “Heroes” who wore white hats. This is also where we get the term “White Hat SEO” which are those practices used by SEOs that follow the Search Engine Guidelines and SEO best practices. Recently, the term “Black Hat” has been used more synonymous when used to describe Hackers and Cyber Terrorists.
Black Hat SEO Techniques
If you are new to Search Engine Optimisation, it can be difficult to know which tactics you should and shouldn't use, especially if you don’t have senior SEOs or a team behind you to help you. While many SEO basic practices are distinct “White Hat SEO” strategies, many of the more advanced tactics require more consideration.This article is to ensure that you are following the right advice from trusted SEO specialists. Some recommended tactics that can be found online may sound like "advanced" strategies for quick gains, but in reality, they are just Black Hat techniques. The more you know about the actions that could lead to a disaster for your website, the easier they'll be to spot and stay away from. Below we had added some examples of techniques that are considered Black Hat by Google:
1. Keyword Stuffing/ Excessive & Unnatural use
Repeating your page's main primary keyword within the content and headings will not help you to rank higher within the SERP. Excessive use of the Primary keyword in a way that is unnatural or Keyword stuffing, as it's known, will almost certainly result in over-optimisation of the page which will have the opposite effect than you wantBlack Hat SEOs will sometimes attempt to exploit a site's rankings by including a keyword many times across a page. Keyword stuffing often occurs in random blocks that sit outside of the main content or within paragraphs meaning that they make no sense when read by a user.This is counterintuitive to what Google really wants, which is content that satisfies the user, something you can’t do if the content is unintelligible.
2. Duplicate Content
Creating great content that satisfies the user and the search engine is not an easy job, yet it remains one of Google's top ranking factors.Some Black Hat SEOs will automatically generate content to rank for a large number of keywords without actually creating something that is both useful and unique. An example would be a multitude of location pages created, and the same content is used for each one, except for the place name changing. For each page created on a website, we need to ask ourselves, what is the reason for it? And Does this solve the problem? If not, then it doesn’t need to be there. Be sure to take the time to think about the content and page you are creating and ensure that it is SEO-friendly to avoid issues caused by low quality or duplicate pages.
3. Hiding Content
This technique involves hiding text within the background or within some other area of the page. This Black Hat process is used to stuff in additional keywords.What we're outlining here is a clear attempt to hide text completely in order to add more instances of the keyword without making the content unreadable. We definitely don't recommend adding hidden text to your pages as Search Engines like Google will still flag this as keyword stuffing.
4. Gateway Pages
Creating a page that targets a specific keyword or keywords with content intended to act only as a sales funnel to one page is considered a violation of Google's guidelines. These types of pages are known as gateway pages.Every page and piece of content should be made with a purpose, and you shouldn't be creating pages in an attempt to rank for keywords that are not relevant.
5. Paid Links
Link Building schemes are one of the most common types of Black Hat SEO and also an area where the most confusion occurs. It is understood by many marketers that you should be writing content with your users in mind and that you shouldn't be hiding text, but link building is more complex.The bottom line is that links should be earned and not bought, especially when considering that they're votes of confidence and trust from one website to another.
6. Misused Structured Data and Rich Snippets
A common Black Hat tactic is to abuse or misuse structured data within websites. This usually means using structured data to give wrong information—for example, those who attempt to create more favourable structured data for their site. Many marketers write up fake reviews that give 5-star ratings to boost their business' SERP position and enjoy a higher CTR. This technique is deceptive and should not be used.
7. Redirects That Are Used to Mislead
The use of redirects is a common part of SEO. There's nothing wrong with it and it's the preferred method of ensuring your site is well organised and easily accessible by users and search engine crawlers.However, some redirects are placed by Black Hat SEOs to deceive search engines and display content that's different from what a user would see. Sometimes a search engine will index the original page, while users are taken to a different destination URL. This directly violates Google’s guidelines.
Reasons to Avoid Black Hat SEO?
There are huge risks involved with using Black Hat SEO practices in order to get your website to rank. The majority of the SEO industry agrees that these practices are unethical and will therefore not include them within their strategies.But the reality is that there is a small percentage of marketers who want to try and cheat the system and try to fast-track their site's organic success. These results are often short-lived. When looking at Google's Webmaster Guidelines, we can clearly see their guidance on the basic principles of SEO.
Reporting Black Hat SEO
So, you have analysed your competitor's websites and noticed that they are using Black Hat SEO tactics, what can you do?You can file a spam report with Google when you believe that a website is ranking due to paid links, spam, or other violations. While Google is ultimately becoming increasingly good at preventing such sites from ranking in top positions on the SERPs, there are still sites performing well, unfortunately, by leveraging black hat tactics.Depending on the severity, there's a good chance that they'll be flagged by Google anyway.
The key takeaway here is that Black Hat SEO tactics pose a real risk to any website that uses them as a way to rank. While they are nowhere near as commonly used as they once were, there are still SEO Consultancies that go down this route clearly violating Google's guidelines.All in all, we recommend avoiding Black Hat tactics on your own site. If you want some help to get your site more visible online, be sure to get in touch with us or head to our news page to learn more about SEO best practices.