In the SEO world, just as we have the best practices, we also have bad practices. In the quest to outrank competitors, improve visibility and drive more traffic, SEOs use quite a number of techniques - and tactics to achieve some of these goals.
Among these techniques are bad practices - which usually circumvents search engines' guidelines and are often flagged by one or several algorithms.
In SEO, any techniques with the intent to deceive search engines or users are grouped as black hat SEO.
This Black hat SEO has a long history and of course, has been in practice for many years - even more before search engines like Google became smarter. Way back then, it used to be the way-to-go to ranking on the front page of Google.
But that's no more!
Now that Google is more clever, does that mean it's no longer existing?
I want you to understand that SEO doesn't yield results overnight. Those who want to rank a week old domain and get results overnight, still practice some of these techniques.
…..but for you, my advice is, stay away from these bad techniques that I'm going to discuss with you now.
We're going to discuss them one after the other.
But, before we do, let's understand what the black hat means in SEO...
Why it isn't allowed and why it can ruin everything - I mean everything you ever invested.
I'm sure you don't want that.
What is black hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is the direct opposite of white hat SEO (best practices).
It's a practice with a set of techniques and unethical tactics that circumvent search engines guidelines such as Google's.
It's usually aimed toward increasing the site's ability to rank higher on the organic search results page (commonly referred to as SERP).
These techniques which can be described as bad SEO don't work forever.
Why Black Hat SEO is Bad And Not Advisable:
- It annoys the users.
- It's not sustainable as it's only a matter of days and Google will discover you.
- It's self-centred - you're happy that you got the ranks…and users leave your site back to the SERP - unsatisfied with the content you provide).
- It's not customer-centric.
- It can ruin your credibility - and relationship with your visitors.
- Your site's spam score increases and you lose the trust of your visitors.
- It violates Google's guidelines and other search engines.
- It may result in the total removal of your website from search engines.
Now, let's go straight to these points…..
8 Black Hat SEO Tactics to Avoid Immediately.
#1. User-generated spam
While user-generated content remains legal and valid means of getting more traffic & engagement, the comment section of your blog page can receive unnecessary links to unrelated topics and sometimes to spammy websites or ads.
The comments section is usually abused by spammers to post spams using software - to write and send scripts that leave random links on a site.
Allowing this sort of activity within the user-generated content platform can reduce the quality and relevancy of your content leaving you to battle with Panda 🐼 and Penguin 🐧 algorithms.
What should you do?
Keep your SEO eyes open and if you must allow comments, then ensure there is moderation. There are ways to protect your website and avoid being hit or flagged by Google and other search engines
#2. Content Scraping
Back in the days of SEO, before panda algorithms, content scraping or web scraping was highly practised.
Although, many SEOs still practice this in an attempt to develop a version of original articles which are already ranking high on search engines, copying and publishing it directly on their websites.
Content scraping is simply pulling original content from another website and publishing it on your own website.
Today, there are scripts written to scrape and spin articles but Google algorithms are clever to detect spin patterns from an original article.
This technique, first, is a forbidden act and against copyright laws as it's often done without the consent of the original source.
And secondly, it violates Google's guidelines and your website might be flagged by the Panda algorithm.
This can leave you battling with a penalty, which can result in the total removal of your website from the search engines.
Cloaking may be a "fancy word" but, it could get your website - hit or flag by panda.
Cloaking is another black hat tactic that involves presenting separate content to search engines and another to users.
It's a sort of doorway technique usually used as spamdexing to deceive search engines into giving the Webpages a better ranking - and also tricks users into visiting a site that's different from the one indexed.
4. Doorway pages
Doorway pages or gateway pages or entry pages - you can call it anything you want - are web pages purposely created to manipulate search engine indexes.
When visitors click through to a typical doorway page after searching for a specific query, they're redirected with a fast Meta refresh command to a different page.
Redirecting visitors to a different page without their consent is bad for SEO.
You must understand that the same users you're targeting are search engines' primary customers.
And their customers come first - which is why they spend a whole lot of money and time updating their algorithms - trying to please them.
This Meta refresh command was in use until Google started penalizing its usage in the head tag.
If you're one of them, this will get you nowhere!
5. Link Schemes
Google is clear and straightforward as regards link schemes:
"any links intended to control PageRank or a site's ranking in our search results may be considered as part of a link scheme and a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines".
Links scheme can have a negative impact on your SEO - it could damage your site's credibility and reputation.
It's like agreeing on a deal to link to each other and to one another with anchor texts of desired ranking keywords.
Some of the link schemes to avoid include:
- Paid links (without the sponsored attribute),
- Unnatural links,
- Links from low-quality directory listings, excessive reciprocal links,
- Keywords rich anchor text links such as - from guest blogging.
6. Hidden text with links
This is intentionally done to fool spiders (robots) by stuffing a certain part or entire content of a webpage with excessive keywords and rendering it invisible to users with CSS tricks.
The idea here is to make search engines crawl and index the web pages for those keywords which are hidden as well as to make search engines feel the webpage has a long-form of content in it.
This tactic can only earn you higher organic rankings in only a matter of a few days. And it could ruin all of your efforts when Google's algorithm catches on you.
Let me stress this….
Not all hidden texts are deceptive though.
For instance, in an attempt to make an image on your website accessible to screen readers and for a robot to know what that image is all about - in the context of the article, it's recommended to use alt attributes and readable captions that best convey your message. This also applies in the case of videos.
Text can be hidden alongside irrelevant links in several ways:
- Choosing to use white text on a white background.
- Placing text behind an image.
- Positioning text that contains links off the user's screen using CSS.
- Setting a specific content font size to 0 so as to make it invisible.
- Hyperlinking text on a paragraph and hiding it away from the users.
7. Sneaky Redirection
A redirect is a way of sending users and search engines to a different URL other than the one requested.
This process can either be to enhance the user experience (redirecting users to relevant web pages or moving the entire site to a new domain) or to circumvent Google's guidelines.
The latter approach is done by some SEO who don't mind violating the rules just to get higher rankings.
A sneaky redirect is an attempt to deceive crawlers or to display different content to humans and search engines.
Just like cloaking, this practise is deceptive because it attempts to display different content to users and to search engines' bots by taking visitors elsewhere.
For instance, sneakily redirecting mobile users to spammy websites could make Google not just penalize but remove your entire site from its indexing.
8. Providing False Information In Structured Data
Schema mark-up or simply structured data is a way of adding information about a webpage - article, author, or products and services to search engines.
This information provided is then used as part of the knowledge base and the larger knowledge graph which search engines use to display information on SERP.
As this becomes one of the strongest weapons to gaining visibility, people now manipulate structured data in order to mislead search engines' knowledge of an entity and information on web pages.
Whatever information is provided in structured data, must reflect on the page content that’s visible to the users.
Any mismatch may get you into trouble as it violates the guidelines and can result in a penalty.
Summing It Up…..
Choosing to navigate any of these paths to the top spot is a dangerous game.
And you may struggle to regain that top spot even after clean up and recovery - because you can't escape the penalties.
So, Instead of practising black hat SEO, if you really can't wait and want a quick result, then consider running paid search advertising while investing in SEO - keeping in mind - white hat SEO best practices.
Doing this will help you in both the short term (for the period you're running ads) and long-term (when SEO starts to pay off).
Do you need help with SEO but are afraid you don’t want to HIRE someone who’ll end up implementing a black hat and screw things up?
We adhere strictly to Google's guidelines and deliver quality services that will see your rankings improved.