When it comes to SEO, there is a right and wrong way to drive attention to your site. There’s black hat SEO, there’s white hat SEO, and there’s SEO in between. Read on to know more about these SEO techniques and what implications using any of them produces for your site and online reputation.
Visibility in search engine results is vital to any business that wants to succeed in both the real and digital world. With the real and digital world now so tightly wound together, business owners want to be visible to potential clients and customers online, and to do so they have to use the right marketing and SEO techniques to reach their intended audience.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Search engine optimization is composed of a wide variety of methods and techniques designed to get eyes on a website, product, or brand. Whether you are operating a website to promote your own brand or to promote a business, you need to use techniques that put you in visible search engine rankings.
Black hat SEO refers to a set of practices used to raise search engine rankings using techniques that go against the search engine’s terms of service.
Black hat techniques can effectively raise a site’s search engine rankings, whether for the short term or long term. However, since they are considered prohibited methods or techniques for raising a page’s rankings, the use of these techniques opens the user up for liability and penalties, such as a takedown of the site or temporary suspension.
White Hat vs Black Hat
White hat is basically the opposite of black hat SEO in that these are SEO techniques that are ethical and allowed by search engines. White hat SEO uses a more natural, organic, and truthful approach to getting more eyes to look at a site or page.
White hat SEO follows search engine guidelines, is designed to appeal to your audience, and often produces long-term, more sustainable results compared to black hat SEO. High-quality, interactive content, better browsing experiences through more ergonomic web layout and fasting page loading times are a few examples of white hat SEO techniques.
Conversely, black hat SEO techniques don’t follow search engine rules, are often designed to manipulate search engines into thinking that the site provides useful content when it doesn’t, and is more focused on short-term results.
Black hat techniques take advantage of loopholes in search engine algorithms that allow pages to rank high even if they don’t provide a genuine advantage to users. The results of black hat SEO methods are often short-lived since search engines are constantly improving algorithms to remove websites that do not provide safe, secure, or useful information.
Gray Hat SEO
Gray hat SEO is the kind of SEO that straddles the line between what’s legal and what’s not. These are technically legal methods to raise site rankings but they’re not exactly widely accepted methods to do so. Most gray hat SEO tactics are frowned upon, but using them won’t land you in hot water with search engines, not right away at least.
Due to their nature, gray hat SEO techniques could easily cross the line to black hat SEO. They could be legal one day, then be included in the search engine list of black hat SEO techniques the next. It is always important to treat gray hat SEO techniques with care since they could easily be deemed illegal.
Keyword stuffing is the process of using the same keywords over and over throughout a page, whether or not it relates to the content. Keyword stuffing makes the content look and feels unnatural. Keyword-stuffed blog posts don’t read naturally and are often difficult to read. Content that is stuffed full of keywords is not user-friendly and contributes to lowering the quality of content that a website or page has.
One of the oldest ways to trick search engines, keyword stuffing is now less utilized because search engines have become more adept at spotting pages that use this technique.
Experts recommend avoiding keyword stuffing at all costs.
After all, the alternative, which is to create original, organic content that is not that hard to do, does not pose a liability to your website or brand and is rewarded with favorable rankings by search engines.
Cloaking is a process where two sets of information are delivered, one to gunman users and the other to spiders for indexing. In cases like these, users may be looking at an image and at the same time, the search engine spiders are reading a totally different set of information and using that to index the page.
Cloaking is a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines because the process can deliver information to search engine spiders that users are unaware of because the users are looking at a different image and cannot see hidden links and texts that are visible to search engine bots. Sites that use cloaking are often penalized by removal from searches or a reduction in rankings.
Redirects are legitimate processes that are useful for leading users to the right site after a change in website domain or when two pieces of content are consolidated in one address. Sneaky redirects, however, send users to a URL different from what they clicked.
Users think they’re clicking a link to a popular site but instead they are taken to another site, boosting traffic and rankings of that second site. Redirects, when done this way, violate search engine guidelines because they are a way of manipulating search results. They’re a waste of time, and can often lead users to dangerous and unsafe sites.
Poor quality content is any type of content that does not provide any kind of useful information to users, in that it could be stuffed with irrelevant keywords or put together in a way that makes it difficult to understand. Spun content, scraped content, or content that has been cobbled together from various sites using automated software do not offer anything of value for users, so they tend to be ranked poorly by search engines.
Google easily spots these types of content through Latent Semantic Indexing which means that this strategy rarely works. Search engines reward high-quality content, since this kind of content serves a purpose, builds trust with an audience, and offers valuable information that can help turn first-time visitors into loyal followers and customers.
Purchasing backlinks is a violation of search engine standards because it leads search engines to rank a website higher than it deserves to. A backlink is a link from one website to your website. Linking the natural way is a good way to generate traffic to a site, especially if the linking site is a high-quality website that Google trusts. A backlink purchased from a link farm will automatically set off Google’s alarms and will likely lead to a decrease in rankings.
Spam comments are often posted by bots and are intended to generate free backlinks. Black hat SEOs buy comment packages from content farms and these spam comments are sprinkled all over various posts to give an impression of engagement. Spammy comments deliver no real value to users because they are often cookie-cutter, non-emotional and fake comments that often do not relate to the post being commented on.
They also do not generate genuine engagement.
Aside from delivering useless information, spam comments also make blogs look bad by making them look neglected and unprofessional, especially if spam comments are sprinkled over multiple posts in a blog or page. The better alternative would be to create posts that invite organic engagement by asking questions, using effective calls to action, and offering incentives for genuine engagement.
Private blog networks are a group of websites used to point to a single site that they want to boost. Backlogs in the network are often not linked to each other. Their only purpose is to point to that main site, boosting the number of links pointing to that site and giving a false impression of higher search engine rankings.
PBNs are created when a webmaster buys expired domains that have built up a certain level of authority.
They infuse these sites with legitimate-looking content and add links to the main site, driving traffic to that site. This technique is a violation of search engine standards because it creates a false volume of traffic that can drive a site’s search engine rankings.
Over Optimizing Metadata
Metadata, or a meta description, is a short paragraph summarizing the data found on a website or page. Search engines use metadata to rank sites and pages and therefore look at the quality of the metadata. Metadata that is stuffed with keywords or over-optimized mislead search engines into indexing a site that doesn’t contain the right information, just because the keywords are in the metadata. Sites that use this tend to get a lower search engine ranking.
How to Report Black Hat SEO
Google allows users to report black hat SEO techniques by filing a complaint through their webspam report. Google also offers tools to disavow backlinks from low-quality sites. Bing users can report black hat tactics using their content removal feature.
If you are worried about unknowingly using black hat SEO techniques on your site, you can use Alexa’s Site Audit features as well as the On-Page SEO Checker to look for black hat SEO problems and solve them before launching your site or publishing that page.
Should I avoid Black Hat SEO?
Absolutely! Black hat SEO may give you quick results, but these results are often short-lived and come with penalties and downgrades in rankings that could hurt your website in the long term. Worse, if you are found to have used really shady and underhanded black hat SEO tactics, your site could end up de-indexed and you have to start over from scratch.
Black hat SEO is never worth it, especially if you are looking to build a credible, trustworthy online presence. It is easier to concentrate on creating a user-friendly website and natural, organic content that is safer and produces sustainable, longer-lasting results.
Search engine optimization is a crucial element in online marketing and in making sure that your engine gets the ranking it deserves. Black hat techniques can give you the rankings you want, but these results are often short-lived and often come at the expense of credibility and sustainability that could permanently hurt your brand.
Don’t let black hat SEO techniques kill the chances of your blog ranking naturally.
Opt for quality content, organic, genuine engagement, and a streamlined, user-friendly website to climb search engines the right way. All these white hat tactics will pay off in the long run and your online presence will be better off for it.