It’s crazy that it’s 2022 and we still feel the need to create an article about black hat SEO. “Black hat” SEO is a term that refers to any type of attempt to manipulate search engines. The methods used by black hat SEO are intended to get your site higher rankings in search results, which can lead to more visitors and more sales. However, many people consider black hat tactics to be dishonest or even illegal and may report them as spam if they see them being used on their sites.
Google also does not like black hat SEO tactics and can penalise your site if they catch you using them. The penalties are really serious too (including getting banned from Google forever!), so it’s definitely not worth engaging in black hat SEO.
We put together this article because many people do not even realise that they are doing something bad. Or they’ve hired a supposed “SEO expert” who is doing these things and then their business is suffering.
What is black hat SEO?
Black hat SEO gets its name from old cowboy movies where all the old villains used to wear a black hat! The people who perform black hat SEO actually know a bit about SEO because they find the loopholes to take shortcuts!
Google is rather secretive about its algorithm and how it ranks its sites, but it does release a set of Webmaster Guidelines for SEO professionals to abide by. Black hat SEO deliberately ignores these guidelines and tries to get quick wins.
However, Google is pretty savvy at stopping these things and issues penalties to anyone seen breaking these guidelines.
What are some examples of black hat SEO?
Please note that this section is not here to encourage you to use any of these tactics, but it’s more to alert you that these are against Google’s guidelines and if you have an SEO expert using these strategies, then you should have a word before your site gets punished!
This is where you excessively use your keyword in your website. For example, people may use the same phrase 6 times in a sentence, so that search engines will pick it up, but it will sound very unnatural to any human.
Google always wants to produce quality results, so remember, quality over quantity!
This is similar to keyword stuffing, but just a more subtle version of it! Crafty developers hide text in the same colour as the background and put it all over the website so that search engines pick it up but humans don’t. They also write it in the CSS and include it in the code.
Writing good content takes time, so I can understand people’s pain for wanting to get more from the article they wrote. However, duplicating content is absolutely not allowed. This also includes copying content from other people’s websites. Obviously (we say obviously, but people still do it!) plagiarism has never been allowed, but even article spinning is considered to be a black hat tactic!
This is where you take an article and just change a few words to try and make it “your own” but it’s essentially the same article as the source. Not allowed!
Cloaking including Doorway/Gateway pages
Cloaking is essentially where you create different content that displays different to search engines compared to how it does to users. Developers often use a flash or animated page to hide the information from the users and Google can then only read the content via the HTML.
Doorway/gateway pages are a form of cloaking and they are purely designed to rank for a particular keyword but then redirect to another page.
Link schemes are probably the most common type of black hat SEO and there are so many of them! Backlinks are thought to be one of the most powerful things when it comes to SEO, but good quality backlinks are not easy to come by, so many people try to cheat.
Common black hat SEO tactics involving links are:
- Buying links
- Footer links: just putting hundreds of links in the footer, as they show up on each page
- Hidden links (like hidden text)
- Comment spam: if you have a site that allows comments, you will probably see hundreds of these on your blog!
- Free products for links
- Forum spam
In general, whenever you’ve seen an offer for “Guaranteed Backlinks” or “100 backlinks for just £10”, these are going to be spammy links that hurt your website. They will generated by bots and be forum spam.
Private Blog Network
This is a form of link scheme, but we thought we’d put it in a separate section as this is something many people have tried. They either join or try to create a network of websites that have built up authority and get them all to link back to a main website to boost that site’s SEO.
Some of them do not link to each other at all, and they just link to the main site. Other blog networks all link to each other to help each other out.
However, Google notices this and punishes all the sites in the network!
It’s also possible for a webmaster to employ multiple black hat strategies at once. For example, they may add hidden links on their website that point back to their own site (or those of partners), which helps them manipulate search engines into ranking higher on certain words or phrases. They may also send out e-mails with hyperlinks attached — again pointing back at the site being promoted — so readers will click on them and further help boost page rankings for targeted keywords.
How do search engines detect black hat SEO tactics?
The secret search engine algorithms are the primary means that search engines use to find spam. They can also detect spam by analysing the content on a website and determining whether it’s relevant or not, as well as looking at other factors such as user behaviour and other websites’ links.
Search engines use a variety of methods to detect spam, including:
- The quality of your site’s content – search engines look for high-quality content that provides users with answers to their questions. If you provide low-quality pages, search engines may penalise your site by lowering its ranking in results pages. In addition to detecting low-quality content (e.g., thin or duplicate), search engines are able to identify content plagiarised from other sources (e.g., Wikipedia).
- Links pointing to your site – links play an important role in determining how well a page ranks in search results—so if you have too many links pointing at one page on your website, this could be seen as an indication that something is wrong with that particular page or even with the entire site itself since most people don’t link randomly; rather they tend only link when there’s something interesting about what they’re linking too! When people do link randomly though, it usually means something negative about those sites so expect penalties from Google when this happens!
How can you tell if your site is using black hat SEO?
To find out if your site is using black hat SEO, it’s best to check the following factors:
- Backlinks: are you getting links from spammy sites or other websites in the same niche? If so, that might be a red flag.
- Content quality: does your content look spammy? For example, do you have strange headlines with lots of keywords crammed into them; do they contain spelling errors and grammatical mistakes; are they written in all caps; are there obvious attempts at cloaking (giving two different URLs for the same page)? Spammy content can also include hidden links or hidden text that promotes one thing but says another when clicked on.
- Website structure & design: look for redirects (where people go when clicking on something), hidden links and URLs, cloaking (where one URL shows one thing but actually does something else) and more!
Black hat SEO could get your site banned from search engines.
The best way to avoid being banned is to not use any black hat SEO techniques. If you do, and Google catches you, there’s no guarantee that your site will ever be reinstated into their search results.
If your site has been banned, it may take months or even years before it can get back in the good graces of Google. One example of a site that was banned was a travel agency that gained an unfair advantage on price comparison sites by using keywords like “cheap” and “discount.” This quickly got them removed from search engines for several months before they were able to get back on track with their marketing strategy.
There are many ways to get a website ranked higher in Google. Some methods, such as content creation and social media marketing, are legitimate. Others, like black hat SEO, can get you banned from search engines if they’re discovered by Google. Before starting any SEO campaign on your own website or another site that you’re working on, make sure you understand all of the risks involved so that you don’t accidentally do something illegal or unethical (like hacking someone else’s site).