5 Signs of Black Hat SEO to Avoid - Virtual Stacks U.K. Ltd.
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5 Signs Blk Hat SEO

5 Signs of Black Hat SEO to Avoid

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If you have a website, then it is crucial to be aware of SEO, or search engine optimisation, in order for your website to bring you success. SEO is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of visitors to your site through organic search engine results. A few weeks ago, we discussed how to get started with SEO on your website. Starting an SEO strategy may be easy, but it can also be just as easy to fall into what are known as black hat SEO practices. 

Broadly, search engine optimisation practices can be divided into two main categories – white hat SEO and back hat SEO. While white hat SEO strategies use legitimate methods to rank for keywords that are relevant to its content, black hat SEO practices are designed only to entice the search engines without any meaningful consideration for users. The purpose of black hat SEO is to mislead both visitors and the search engine algorithms. Using black hat SEO to help a website rank higher on Google might help you in the short term, but you stand to lose everything in the long run. If you follow black hat SEO, your website can be penalized by search engines.

When first starting out with your SEO strategy, you may not even realize black hat practices are being followed. Let’s look at five signs of black hat SEO to avoid in order to find success with your website online.

1. Paid Links

Google’s algorithm takes link popularity into high account when ranking websites in search results. This means that websites that are often linked on other websites have developed a strong domain authority, signaling to Google that your content provides valuable information to users. Paid links, however, are defined as links on other websites that are exchanged for money or other goods. 

There are many easy steps to discover if a website is buying links. Examine the hyperlinked text on the page. Words and phrases that seem to be hyperlinked at random, especially if there are many of them, are most often paid links trying to cheat the system. Usually, these links are bought in bulk as a way to attempt ranking higher. However, these links are generally low in authority or are simply spam, and they do little to nothing to improve a website’s ranking.

2. Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing occurs when SEO keywords are used repeatedly, at times without rhyme or reason, as an attempt to rank higher in search results. As this is one of the most common black hat SEO techniques, it is not always easy to pinpoint due to Google’s ever-changing algorithms.

Keyword stuffing can occur in page titles, introductions, and meta descriptions, as well as in irrelevant places on the page. Avoid keyword stuffing by using your keywords only where necessary. Keyword stuffing gets picked up by search algorithms, and it makes your content less engaging for readers.

3. Hidden Text and Links

It may seem smart to hide your website’s keywords and links to make your content appear more legitimate, but search engine algorithms have caught up to these shady black hat SEO practices. Text and links are “hidden” from view by being placed behind an image, blending the text into the page background, placing text off-screen with CSS code, using a font size of zero, or by hyperlinking only one single character (such as a period or a hyphen).

While hidden text is most often associated with black hat SEO, there are some circumstances in which it would not be seen as such. Descriptive image alt-tags or JavaScript are acceptable as long as these texts focus solely on improving the existing content of your website, not attempting to trick search algorithms.

4. Copied Content

Copied content, or duplicate content, refers to the exact same content appearing across multiple websites, or it could also be content directly stolen from other websites. Recent updates in search engine algorithms force search engines to only display the single most relevant page to users out of all copied content. This means that copying content will actually cause your website to not appear at all in search results.

The best way to avoid duplicate content is to properly cite any information you collect from other places — otherwise you will also be at risk for plagiarism. Additionally, only post your original content on one single page per piece of content.

5. Clickbait

Clickbait is a misleading and attention-grabbing headline designed to entice users to click on the link. In such cases, the headline does not match the content on the site. Examples include titles like, “You won’t believe what happened next!” While these titles may entice some readers to click on the link, they will instantly abandon your website when they see your content is not what was expected — thus decreasing your click-through rate and harming your search engine ranking. Clickbait is most often used by scam services that earn money purely on the number of clicks per link.

Why Is Black Hat Controversial?

The simplest reason why black hat practices are controversial is that black hat SEO defies Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, which can lead to penalization of a website with the search algorithm. However, there are other reasons why these practices are not seen as ethical.

Black hat SEO is sometimes associated with hackers, but this is not necessarily the case. While black hats do ignore Google’s guidelines for best SEO practices, they are not explicitly breaking any laws, unlike computer hackers. This doesn’t mean that black hat SEO is an ethical practice just because no laws are being broken, however. Google doesn’t work to limit the success of black hat SEO for no reason — it’s because they have the best interests of consumers in mind. Using black hat SEO practices generally leads to poor, unengaging content that provides no value to readers.

The best way to make sure you are avoiding black hat SEO tactics is to simply provide original, engaging content for your audience. It might take more time to see positive results this way compared to using black hat methods, but the authority of your brand will benefit in the long run.

Stay on Google’s Good Side with Content and SEO Specialists

These five signs only scratch the surface of black hat SEO that should be avoided. How can you really be sure you’re not unintentionally harming your website’s performance with black hat SEO? To be certain, the only way is to enlist the help of content and SEO specialists. Virtual Stacks Systems UK provides results-driven SEO services from our content and SEO specialists, who know the ins and outs of how to rank high on Google while also providing valuable content for your audience. Contact us today to discuss the marketing needs of your website!

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