11 Jul What Is Black Hat SEO, and How to Avoid It
If you have a website, you likely want it to be found by internet users via search engines like Google. Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies are essential to bringing web traffic to your site to ensure that your website ranks high on the search engine results pages (SERPs). However, there are unethical methods of artificially achieving high page rankings on Google and other search engines. These unethical practices are known as black hat SEO.
What is Black Hat SEO?
According to Webopedia, “In search engine optimisation (SEO) terminology, black hat SEO refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus on search engines and not a human audience, and usually does not obey search engines guidelines.”
Essentially, there are two types of search engine optimisation—white hat SEO and black hat SEO. Websites that follow white hat SEO employ legitimate methods to earn high page ranks. Black hat SEO methods target and try to cheat their way to the top by taking advantage of search engine algorithms. While both types frame website content to rank higher, black hat SEO focuses only on getting around the system and not at all on the real users who will be searching for relevant content.
Why Is Black Hat SEO a Bad Idea?
It’s crucial to understand the penalties and stigma of black hat SEO, which affect both your website and your business. For your website, black hat practices offer a very poor user experience for visitors to your website. For example, the web content will be misleading, confusing or difficult for users to navigate. This is bad for your business reputation.
In addition, black hat SEO practices will cause search engines to downgrade the ranking of your website, which will drastically decrease web traffic. Today’s search engine algorithms have been engineered to quickly recognize and tag websites for using black hat SEO, making the practice even more difficult to get away with. Finally, black hat SEO methods can even get your website banned from appearing in search engine results.
Black Hat SEO Practices to Avoid
To satisfy both website visitors and search engines, it is important to use ethical web techniques. Be sure to avoid these black hat SEO practices:
- Poor Quality Content — While search engine algorithms can’t necessarily read your content for quality per se, they can track how long users are staying on your web pages and engaging with your content. The longer visitors stay on your page, it signals to search engines that your page is providing high-quality, relevant content and should be ranked high. Valuable, high-quality content isn’t always easy to generate, however, so black hat practitioners will opt to publish a high volume of low-quality content that doesn’t provide users much, if any, value. This causes bounce rates to increase and search page rankings to go down.
- Comment Section Spam — In ethical white hat SEO practices, earning links back to your website from other websites is an organic process that takes patience while building your brand’s credibility. A black hat SEO practitioner, on the other hand, will forego the waiting by spamming links back to their website in the comment sections of other websites, blogs and forums. This is unethical because the links earned are not genuine, and users will quickly catch on to the tactic, thus making them not want to visit your website.
- Content Duplication and Keyword Stuffing — Duplicating content means posting the exact same content (such as a blog, landing page, etc.) across multiple pages of your website as a way to gain the recognition of search engines. This counts as black hat SEO because every page of your website should offer new, engaging content for your visitors.
The Bad Practice of Keyword Stuffing
Similar to duplicating content is keyword stuffing, which is when a web page fits in as many keywords as possible in order to get a high page rank for the specific keyword. Keyword stuffing is considered black hat SEO because it makes your content difficult to read for your users and generally causes poor quality content. Search engine algorithms are able to track and rank lower the pages with high keyword densities. It’s important to find a happy medium for your keywords.
- Structured Data Misuse — Schema markup, also known as structured data, is the web code for a website that transmits to search engine algorithms the rich information to show to users on results pages. Manipulating the schema markup to show different and misleading information in the search results than what is present on the actual web page is a deceptive black hat tactic.
- Cloaked Content — Similar to manipulating structured data for search results, cloaking web content to rank for specific key terms unrelated to the actual web content is yet another black hat SEO practice. Cloaking takes malicious advantage of search engine algorithms. However, search engines and users are quick to catch on to cloaked content, causing the website to rank poorly over time.
- Backlink Purchases — As your website credibility grows over time, other high-ranking websites will link back to your web content, known as backlinks. With black hat SEO, backlinks are purchased by paying other websites to link to theirs. This practice is unethical, and higher ranking pages are often unlikely to take money in exchange for links, anyway.
- Deceptive Redirects — Redirect links redirect users to other page URLs, which is a common occurrence on the internet as domains and page titles can change over time. However, redirect links that mislead users and search engines by taking users to pages drastically different in content and quality from the expected web page is considered a black hat SEO practice. These practices are deceptive and hurt a brand’s credibility.
- False Competitor Reports — As opposed to trying to boost a website’s own search ranking, negative SEO practices target competitors to make it appear as if it is the other who is utilizing black hat SEO. Even more direct is giving a false report on a competitor claiming that they engage in black hat SEO when they, in fact, do not. These practices and claims are facetious, unethical, and bad for a brand’s reputation.
- Private Blog Networks and Link Farms — Other black hat SEO practices to quickly, deceptively, and unethically build links are through private blog networks and link farms. Both of these elements are generated by a website owner paying to use website networks whose sole purpose is to link sites together in order to boost search engine results page rankings. Thankfully, Google and other search engine algorithms have started to pick up on when link farming occurs and thus penalize those websites.
Avoid Black Hat SEO with the Help of an SEO Expert
Search engine optimization is a complicated, ongoing process. The algorithms are constantly changing, even when search engines like Google don’t announce an official update. Internet user behaviors are also ever-evolving. Therefore, SEO isn’t a “one and done” method for your website.
It takes an SEO expert to keep your website constantly up-to-date with the latest trends, using only ethical white hat practices. Our SEO specialists with Virtual Stacks Systems UK will help you reach your audience by focusing on local SEO, target keywords, and organic backlinks. These methods will help boost website traffic, increase brand awareness, and drive up conversion rates. Contact us today to start your brand’s personalized SEO strategy.