Hey mister SEO, what’s up with the black hat?

Black hat

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 all of us have played MMORPG 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 (compared 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. It all used to be legit but then some people started abusing these practices – and now it is 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 probably 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. Reputation is vital in 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. Hehe.)

Some of the Black hat practices:

Keyword Stuffing

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 temporary increase in rankings. But I think Google now detects this one in a matter of days.

Invisible Texts

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.

Doorway Pages

Doorway pages are webpages or a collection of webpages 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.

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. Black hat is not the way to go.

Watch out for my next article about white hat SEO.

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  • Hey Sean! I just started following you on Twitter. I am an SEO that sometimes tests out blackhat methods (not on my client's sites) to see what sorts of traction they gain.

    When it comes to the "Doorway" method as you call it, how can a site with a link from the doorway page (the site you want to rank well) be penalized? I don't follow the mindset that I can be penalized for external linking strategies. (If this was possible, then I could do the same thing to my competitors). What say you?

    Oh, and by the way, tumira ako sa Pilipinas ng dalawang taon noong 2004. Mayroon akong asawa na Pinay at may bago kaming anak na FilAm. Miss na miss ko ang pinas at nagplaplano kami uuwi diyan sa May siguro.

    • Hey Jeff!

      Thanks! Yeah we tweeted on twitter a bit. You can be penalized if your sites are hosted on the same webhost. Google will detect it and will be skeptical on linking websites that are hosted on the same platform.

      As for putting a competitor down, you can do that if you spam his site with links on a short timespan. But it's a big hassle to you to do that (and if you don't meet the excessive links quota, you'll be just building his links) so it's a dangerous game. :)

      Oh hey, give me a holler when you get back here! Would love to meet you and your family :)

  • Great : Its lot of useful to me.

  • John G

    You fail to mention gray hat and you completely over simplify the definitions of both white hat and black hat. You also completely missed why it’s called “black hat” seo. It isn’t “Because the black hat method is used to hurt some websites…” nor is it frowned upon by search engines (since the very nature of black hat-ness is to be transparent to search engines). You also fail to separate black hat techniques into their two distinct categories: off-site and on-site.

    Lastly, there is no such thing as getting banned from search engines, like Google. You simply get de-indexed, which is quite straight-forward and often easy to remedy with the correct actions and cunning.

    You fail all around and should probably just stick to something else. people like you give SEO a bad name.

    • Hey John

      I’m sorry if my writing does not live up to your standards. I do believe that my readers appreciate my simplification though and that’s what matters to me. If you do not wish to read my stuff, I respect your decision.
      And thanks for pointing those out. I know my SEO. I would advise that likewise, you try to know your manners.

      • Stephen James Hall

        Agreed. One could make points without such an aggressive approach.

        There are as many ways to SEO as there are SEO’ers. When I first placed invisible text behind images in 02 there was no such thing as the term ‘black hat’, actually, I don’t think the term ‘SEO’ as it relates to this discussion existed either. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEO_(disambiguation)

        It, along with other ‘schemes’ got my sites to #1 ahead of some very popular sites. I just thought I was smart. What it boils down to is whatever everyone is doing… try something different. Lately, there seems to be not much need for incoming links at all. Facebook, Twitter, and + are usually the only inbound links I create for clients and everyone is on page 1 so… that proves to me that back-linking is completely unnecessary in local, regional and national campaigns.

        I think any un-necessary back-linking should be black hat because it is dishonest. Posting in a blog that you would never post in, just to put a link back to you, is dis-honest.

        • jamie

          must not be very competitive niches your in – or some mighty fine domains you are working with… for the rest of us bluehats, yellowhats and the like – building massive annonymous 100% private networks of decent real sites is about the best method to rank anything – trust me, links still work… you bet they are needed in many niches…. 3 month old domains ranking for comp. 70+ terms #1 off entirely russian link spam proves this – but those who understand every shade has its role, if you peel things back on major brand sites its there usually just 3-5 tiers removed …. and frankly this stuff takes more skills and creativity than socalled white hat (which of course a good blue hat > maybe eli is before your time but read up bluehatseo.com and learn from a jedi master how it was done and with the right mind how it can still be (obviously not the same but adapted and expanded for today’s environment – which is more work but also smarter work)….

          ok said my bit

          no its not my right email etc but not gonna leave too many tracks if thats ok…

  • Joshua K

    Black Hat SEO is not what your article provides, There is more to underground operation than just what you have mentioned.

    A more definitive example of how black hats operate would be:

    1. deploy a bot network.
    2. use the botnetwork to make global requests to the client website.
    3. use the botnet to deploy temporary webpages (read: after getting indexed, delete page, take webserver offline)

    while I do understand that your readers are mostly SEO people, most would have a basic understanding of the internet and its underlying principles. By oversimplifying the working of a black hat, you are giving them credit.

    • Hey Joshua,
      Thanks for your additional insight to this topic. I’m really not all well-versed with black hat methods and techniques. My knowledge of it is limited. If you could contribute an article or two regarding the topic, I would really appreciate your added knowledge – and I’m sure so would all our readers.

    • jamie

      now thats what i consider morally crossed the line stuff – i break google TOS and am proud to (yeah im a touch bitter, you should be too, but its a bigger topic than what ill suggest)….

      that said i personally will do plenty of stuff that (isnt for clients anyway, im a lone gunman marketer with plenty of disposable quality domains in my holster and thousand plus IPs to stick em – well many always are)… its the only way to compete. but its the only fun way too admittedly, as a marketer with specialty in seo tricks – i have skills that take considerable imagination and testing and the understanding you need to hedge yourself with google as it is these days especially – man i would hate to have just one or five sites! plus i can get massively bigger keyword coverage with 100 domains than one or ten…. just makes a whole lot of sense… i am not ideological about it, i do whats fun and what works and what isnt overtly harming others – though yes in a spirit of hardcore competition with my rivals…. but no hacked invisible link blackhat, negative seo tactics etc. for me, i do go by my own morals… i think its healthy to question that, not what is arbitrarily laid out for you by a company that violates their own terms left right and center.

  • Sean – the BH methods you listed are for beginners! Real BH is either invisible and very cutting edge, or just generating so much page volume that even if it goes quickly (and it does) it’s replaced by thousands and even hundreds of thousands of new pages.

    BH is a very unique niche. What most people think of as BH techniques are about 5 years old.

    I have seen everyone of those techniques done with impunity many, many times.

    I wouldn’t do them for a client, however, because there is the possibility of losing all your pages in Google’s index.

    Great topic though – good link bait too – good job!!

    • Hi John,
      I’ll be honest with you, one reason why I didn’t put more advanced BH methods here in this post is because I know them too shalowly and I don’t know much BH methods and techniques too coz I don’t practice ’em. Well, I did try some out for test domains but it just doesn’t pay off for me. Guess I’m not for the BH way. Thanks for dropping by John.

  • All i can say guys and gals is keep it clean, If you do use black hat then it will only be a matter of time before you are caught and trust me its not a matter of if you get caught more of when!

    Build good quality links
    Have good informative content

  • Hi Sean, the way I see it BH is not SEO because in my opinion it does not optimize your site for good purposes instead of helping it destroys your reputation. I am just wondering why there are still a lot of people doing this kind of method. There is no substitute for quality content because it generates natural backlinks because readers find it useful. Thanks.

  • Really Mind Blowing Article About Black Hot Information.)

  • Thank you the info. I love how simply you have provided us the overview. Appreciate it.

  • malbin

    Good points, I would say that for the most part none of these techniques work anymore. Search engines are getting smarter.

    • Ditto that. There are new black hat tricks now. I don’t think that black hat will disappear anytime soon. People really still find a way to exploit some loopholes.

  • Stephen James Hall

    Black hat isn’t even necessary unless you’re going after a monster.

  • Hey Sean, I actually liked the way you simplified it, thanks for sharing!

    • h3sean

      Awesome :) thanks for dropping by!

  • Really an awesome article. Completely informative post.