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Search engine Optimization can be done in a variety of ways. It’s flexibility and boundaries are almost limitless. There are two popular ways or methods to do SEO and they are called the ‘White hat’ method and the ‘Black hat’ method. You are either of the two or you’re in between.
I’d like to keep my posts simple and short so that the newbies in this particular profession would easily understand. For this post, I would focus on the black hat method.
First things first, why is it called ‘black hat’? I’m sure a lot of us have played RPG games in our PlayStation when we were kids. There would always be a ‘black mage’ character somewhere in the game. Black magic is known as the darker side of the arts. It is used to destroy, hurt or kill (which is the opposite to white magic). The term ‘black hat’ has been derived from this concept. Why?
Because the black hat method is used to hurt some websites (and sometimes even your own) in order for you to gain Google juice. These used to be legit until some people started abusing these practices, which led to them being generally frowned upon by search engines and the SEO community at large. Now if you get caught using these dark arts of SEO, you run the risk of getting your website banned from the search engines – which will definitely hurt because 89% of the people use search engines to explore the internet.
If you get banned from the search engines it will also hurt your brand, which you are most probably trying to build. And trying to rebuild after getting penalized due to black hat techniques? Good luck with that. Reputation is vital on the internet these days. That’s why there’s such a thing called ‘Online Reputation Management’ and ‘Search engine reputation management’ – 2 services (which I do provide by the way).
Examples of Black Hat SEO Practices:
Keyword stuffing is the art of packing keywords into your site even when it’s not making any sense anymore. It greatly lowers user-friendliness and information reputation and quality of your site in exchange for a temporary increase in rankings. While this is something that Google can sniff out much faster nowadays, it is still very likely that users can encounter this issue.
While it is important for keywords to get ranked, it is also equally important to ensure that the content you would be writing comes off as natural and informative instead of something that would only generate a temporary spike in traffic.
Invisible Texts and Links
Using invisible texts is simply putting some keywords with the same color as your background so that it would be invisible to the site visitors. At a glance, these web pages may look similar to regular pages, but a simple hover over your mouse (or by pressing ctrl+a) and you would be able to see the hidden text. This is an attempt on adding more characters and keywords to a web page to increase rankings but is also a tactic that tries to take advantage of Google’s algorithm.
Likewise, hidden links are also another issue as well. There might be times that you will encounter a page that suddenly takes you to a different page despite not being able to see the link in which you clicked on. This negative link building technique not only aims to mislead but also create low-quality web pages that would not get traffic.
Recently, this is something that Google will instantly be able to track down and penalize, but many web pages that apply this technique remain.
Doorway pages are web pages or a collection of web pages that are merely put up as a dummy. This is done for search engine spiders to crawl links and keywords for the main site (which the doorway page would most probably point to). Usually, the users would never see or find these pages.
These are just some of the practices that a black hat SEO practitioner uses. There are so much more. And even now, new ones are in development.
One of the oldest black hat SEO techniques, cloaking is the act of misleading users into content that they did not search for. Imagine searching for a keyword like “school” and clicking on a link to a related website, only to lead to an entirely different set of content. This is a practice commonly done to generate traffic to a website. However, this technique is misleading, which seriously dampens the user experience, and can lead to Google penalizing your website.
Website quality and authority is measured through trustworthiness and informative content, which means any form of deliberate misinformation would always be a negative on a website. It is best to make sure that your links get to the right pages, as this would not only allow GoogleBot to crawl, but also bring in more traffic and much-needed link juice.
Links are essential in generating traffic to any website and allow users to discover and connect new content. This makes a link building team a very crucial element to any SEO effort, as tactics like guest blogging and outbound linking are some of the best traffic generating methods. However, some people have created methods to abuse this system, leading to web pages whose purpose was to only place an abundant amount of links, with barely any relevant and informative content.
These web pages are called link farms and are examples of black hat SEO. While most of these websites have been made harder and harder to find thanks to Google’s strict standards, these still remain a common issue. Other than having low-quality content, some of these links can lead to malware and other similar kinds of software that can harm your computer.
Sneaky and shady redirects
Along with hidden text and links, there are also instances that web pages would contain sneaky and shady links in places that you might not be able to notice upon first glance. Some of these links are modified expired links aiming to capitalize on the link juice of the previous link to gain traffic. While 301 redirects are a standard SEO practice, abusing the system would lead to penalties you wouldn’t want to happen.
This type of black hat SEO practice can commonly found in websites that are ad-heavy, which means that users would most likely inadvertently click on them. A notable example of this kind of website would be ones that offer illegal downloads, as almost all kinds of shady and malicious links would be present whether you actually clicked them or not. There’s a good reason that these websites do not show up in SERPs that often, and Google would make sure that these would be penalized accordingly.
Comments are some of the best ways to create meaningful discussions that encourage interaction and expand your connections. It is also a sign that your content has constant readers and viewers. This makes comment moderation an important task to ensure that harmful comments would be screened and remove, and only productive and informative ones remain.
This means that other than offensive language and nonsensical discussions, the comments section can also be used to post spammy content that only aims to try and get links to their own websites. While adding links in comments isn’t exactly a negative practice, creating comments with the intention of solely trying to get traffic is something that should be avoided. There are times that these comments can come en masse, crowding the comments section with nonsense that people would only avoid. This negatively affects traffic, causing it to get penalties, which means that you would not be appearing on search that often anymore. The best solution to overcoming this issue is to use comment moderation tools, as they would help you filter out comments more efficiently, making sure that spam would not be present. This also means avoiding to have a dozen or so comments that would instantly get posted on your content.
Automatically generated content
Auto-generated content is a type of content that has been generated through the use of programming. The main purpose of using programming to automatically generate content is to manipulate a website’s search rankings while putting in less effort. This means that the quality of the content that website’s that use these are extremely low and are not able to provide any helpful information to the users that visit them. Google does not condone these types of strategies and will immediately penalize a site that has been found to use auto-generated content. Some examples of auto-generated content:
- Content that has no meaning and nonsensical but still contains keywords that the website ranks for
- Published auto-translated content (using tools) that was not curated by humans
- Content that has been created through the use of synonymous words – copied content from other websites and paraphrased it using synonyms
- The use of obfuscation techniques to publish content that has no value but are still full of keywords
Participating in link schemes
The very first algorithm that Google used to rank websites in the search results pages is PageRank and link schemes are strategies that specifically tries to manipulate PageRank. Some examples of link schemes are:
- The buying and selling of links. From the exchange of money to the offering of goods and services for links, these are all violations of The Google Webmaster Guidelines
- Excessive Link Exchange from the same website
- Excessive guest posting using anchor texts that are filled with keywords used by your website
- Automated link creation
There are other examples of link schemes but these are the most common ones that are done by most black hat practitioners
Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
Google has always strongly recommended that webmasters should publish original, fresh, and informative content. They give extra importance regarding this recommendation for websites that actively participate in affiliate programs. This is all because most websites that are participating affiliate programs use the product’s description used by other websites involved with the same affiliate program. This piece of content that is visible in different websites across the internet makes Google deem them as using copied content – unoriginal, used, and possesses lesser value than using an original and fresh content that the webmaster thought of through their experience of using the product.
Creating pages with malicious behavior
In relation to shady and sneaky links, the pages in which they are present mostly contain malicious behavior. Other than illegal download sites, there’s a host of other harmful content, including phishing, which attempts to get important and private information to you, Trojan software that tries to get into your computer, and even more damaging computer viruses that would surely damage your experience.
Some of these pages are disguised as blog posts that try to promote or sell something, but would only have links in within it that would just link to low-quality websites. The only way to manage all of this is to observe proper content management and create quality content that would not lead to any harmful software that might affect your users, or illegally distribute anything that can cause any legal implications.
Tip for keeps:
Take it from me, if you’re building a brand or a reputation that you want to keep, don’t focus on your page rank or your keywords. Focus on the content and quality of the information that you are giving your users and the internet will start recognizing you. Stop trying to play Google. That’s why they have certain quality guidelines to help SEOs know what’s right and what’s wrong in the SEO industry.
Certain black hat strategies may work now, but the consequences will definitely catch up to you in the near future. White-hat SEO works better in the long-term and will not bring about a penalty that can remove your site’s visibility in the search engines. Always remember that black hat is not the way to go. Check out my article on white hat SEO – to know why it’s better for you and all webmasters.