Black Hat SEO: What It Is And Techniques To Avoid

Brandon LazovicMarch 30, 2021

As you become more familiar with search engine optimization, you may have come across techniques that are known or labeled as black hat. 

While blackhat SEO can help improve keyword rankings in the short term, it can have long lasting effects that can negatively harm the organic presence of your website. 

Read our latest article to learn about blackhat SEO, what is it, and common techniques that you should stay away from. 

What Is Blackhat SEO? 

Black Hat SEO is most widely described as an unethical practice that, despite being unethical, can help a page rank higher in a search engine result page (SERP). These activities are beyond the terms of operation of search engines, and they may lead to the site's removal from the search engine and partner pages. On Google's Webmaster Guidelines and Bing's Webmaster Guidelines, a compilation of techniques and methods used by black hat SEO practitioners has been publicly denounced.

"Is the work I'm doing bringing benefit to the customer or am I really doing something for search engines to see?" is a determining factor that should be considered for whether or not an SEO tactic is in violation of a search engine's webmaster guidelines. Your choices are extremely probable to be black hat if no benefit is applied to the consumer but keyword rankings are likely to climb. 

Common Black Hat SEO Techniques

Below we’ll walk through the most common blackhat SEO techniques that are used to manipulate search engine rankings. 

Cloaking

Cloaking means giving consumers one piece of information when search engines see a totally different web page. Websites that use black hat SEO can do this to get their content to rank on a number of terms that has nothing to do with the content that’s presented to users. This is often achieved by spam websites to stop a search engine bot detecting the spam material they serve to customers.

It's appropriate to tailor the content to various consumer groups. When anyone views your website from a mobile device, for example, you could reduce the size of your website. You may even modify a page's language depending on the nation from which everyone is traveling. In order to finance their material, a publisher like Forbes or Inc could adjust the advertisements that appear on a website. These are entirely appropriate examples. As long as you aren't just modifying the information that is visible to search engine crawlers.

Although there is no clear and quick guideline for determining what is and is not suitable, my strongest suggestion is to ask yourself whether what you want to do can fix a problem for the customer. If this is the case, it is acceptable. Search engines should be treated the same as every human person.

Influencer Social Engineering

Influencer Social Engineering (ISE) is an approach to search engine optimization (SEO) whereby the SEO company convinces a customer to put their company's name on a social media account in the name of the company and, in the process, it allows the company to gain direct access to that social media account and gain information which may be used to improve company performance. The problem with ISE is that the customer is never told that their social media account has been compromised and they only find out when their account is suspended or deleted. ISE is frequently cited in Google's link spamming section as one of the reasons why the site is suspended, or removed from the search engine's index.

The ISE approach could be considered problematic for several reasons. First of all, the customer may not really be aware that their social media account has been hijacked. They may believe that someone is impersonating them on a social media account, or that they are themselves impersonating someone else. In this case, the customer may suffer severe humiliation and distress. The customer is also unlikely to find out that it was the SEO company that hijacked their account. They may also be upset that they paid for links to their social media account but those links no longer show up on the social media.

Second, Google is increasingly choosing to target bad actors with automated actions such as penalization. Often, all it takes is one account with fraudulent links and Google will take steps to destroy the account and the links it created.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the process of stuffing meaningless keywords into your web page in order to control where the website ranks in the search results pages. Users would have a negative experience if you use several combinations of keywords that add little meaning. It can even lead the website to appear in search results for unrelated terms.

Examples of keyword stuffing include adding large blocks of content listing cities and states the page is trying to rank for that isn’t additive to a user; or repeating the same words several times in a spammy or unnatural way.

301 Redirect Rank Sculpting

A 301 redirect is when you point and drive users from one URL to a different URL. 

Black hat SEO involves using 301 redirects in a way that isn’t intended. One example involves pointing a highly authoritative URL to a different, irrelevant page, in order to pass SEO authority and improve the irrelevant page’s keyword rankings, with no beneficial purpose for the user. 

Trying to rank sculpt URLs through 301 redirects is against Google’s guidelines and will get you penalized. 

Bot-Generated Content

In black hat SEO, poor quality content that is of little use to the searcher is often a standard practice. This involves material scraped by a bot or a human from another page. Search engines like Google used to have trouble detecting material that was plagiarized by other websites. This dilemma was overcome with the Google Panda update in 2011. Many pages with duplicate material saw a decline in search results almost instantly. Since then, Google has improved its ability to detect duplicate and low-quality information.

It's also against the rules to use invisible keywords in your content. Any black-hat SEO websites achieve this by rendering the text the same color as the page setting. This ensures that the website will show up in search results for some hidden keywords, even though there's no visible information on the page regarding them. When a user clicks on a result, expecting it to be about the subject they looked for, they aren't able to locate all of the content they are searching for since the keywords are hidden. There should be no reason to cover content on the website if you're solving for the customer.

Another black hat technique for deceiving search engines entails making content related to a keyword you want to rank for. The content is swapped out for something else until the page ranks in search results for this subject. This gives searchers a disappointing experience since the material they clicked through to see is no longer accessible. These tactics deceive consumers and search engines, and they are not an effective SEO strategy.

White hat SEO focuses heavily on the production of exclusive, high-quality material. It is not only required to prevent a penalty from search engines, but it can also distinguish the website. Creating high-quality content builds trust with your target audience and turns visitors into customers.

Buying Backlinks

Buying backlinks is one of the quickest ways to get your website penalized. Google is strict in telling webmasters that they should never pay or sell backlinks. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines, because you’re trying to manipulate page rank through driving backlinks to your website. 

You should never purchase backlinks, especially in large quantities. When a webmaster purchases large amounts of backlinks, it’s an immediate red flag to Google that they’re engaging in black hat SEO, and will get their website penalized for unnatural link building. 

Learn more about link building best practices in 2021. 

Abusing Schema Markup

Schema markup is considered a minor ranking factor in the eyes of Google. It can also generate what are known as rich results, which can help your website drive incremental organic traffic through influencing clickthrough rates for visitors searching for your target phrases in the SERPs. 

Blackhat SEO practices for abusing schema markup may involve using false information or including improper structured data to trick users and Google. A common example includes creating a fake review website and implementing review schema.

Tricking users by using fake information is a quick way to get penalized and flagged by search engines. 

Comment Spam

This black hat tactic entails adding a link to your website within an external site’s comment section. Since search engines like Google changed their algorithm to discount all links in blog comments, this activity is becoming less common. By default, most authoritative blogs designate links in blog comments with the nofollow attribute. This ensures that search engines such as Google don't follow or pass authority to the link.

If you have a publication, website, or group that allows comments, you must take precautions to prevent bots or people from spamming your comments section. Pages featuring malware can be demoted or deleted altogether from search results by search engines like Google. One way to reduce the chance of spam user created content is to utilize anti-spam software including Google's free reCAPTCHA app.

Link Farming / Private Blog Networks

A link farm, or private blog network,  is a website or a group of websites that have been created specifically for the purpose of creating links. Each website includes a link to the site or pages that they want to place higher in search results. Search engines rate websites based on a variety of criteria, including the amount of links pointing to them. Blackhat SEO’s take advantage of this by utilizing link farms to artificially inflate the amount of backlinks a site has.

Link farms are notorious for providing low-quality material and a wide number of links. In certain instances, the anchor text of the links contains the keyword they want the platform to rank with. Link farms are quickly detectable by search engines like Google, so they should be prevented. Instead, employ white hat SEO strategies such as making awesome information, graphs, results, interviews, or some other type of content that helps you to automatically accumulate backlinks over time.

Negative SEO

Negative SEO is often used to demote or reduce a competitor’s keyword rankings, which is a direct violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines. 

Common negative SEO tactics include buying and pointing a large number of spammy backlinks to a competitor’s domain, or sending bot traffic to a website in the hopes that they’re penalized and their keyword rankings plummet. There are also instances of websites being hacked and injected with malware. 

Why Should I Avoid Using Blackhat SEO Techniques? 

Simply put, you should always avoid using blackhat SEO techniques. 

It’s a surefire way to negatively impact your website’s keyword rankings and visibility in the SERPs. 

Blackhat SEO may work in the short term, but Google’s algorithm has become more advanced over the years. It can easily tell when a website is trying to manipulate rankings, and will demote that website from appearing prominently in the search results. 

It won’t drive long term results, and typically creates a poor user experience, so even if you’re able to generate traffic to your website, most users will bounce away / not convert, making that traffic useless because your site isn’t matching their intent. 

If you’re looking to learn more about search engine optimization, make sure to read our beginner’s guide to SEO to learn about all the tactics you should be employing in 2021. 

Is Blackhat SEO Legal? 

Blackhat SEO is technically legal. Having said that, it’s a direct violation of Google’s guidelines and will get your website penalized, so you shouldn’t do it. 

Reporting Black Hat SEO

You can report black hat SEO in two different ways. Either your website has been hacked, infected with a worm, or has been subjected to a spammy link-building campaign, or you are seeing spammy search results for a competitive keyword that your website is ranking for. 

You can submit a webspam complaint using Google Webmaster Tools for the above. Please exercise caution when using this method. SPAM should not refer to search results that are higher than mine! Falsely reporting spam on the internet is a type of black hat SEO.

If your website has been hacked, virused, or infected with malware, you can order a malware check once you've deleted the malicious code.

If your website is the subject of a spammy link-based derogatory SEO campaign, use Google’s disavow tool after contacting the webmasters who are pointing these links to your site to get them deleted.

Abiding By Google’s Guidelines For Whitehat SEO

The biggest step to abiding by Google’s guidelines is to actually read them and find out what Google considers to be white hat vs. black hat. 

You want to ensure that you’re creating web pages and content with the user experience in mind, and treating search crawlers as if you would a user visiting your site. 

Don’t try to manipulate rankings through 301 redirects, purchase backlinks, or set up link farms / PBNs. 

You also want to write high-quality, unique content, that isn’t duplicated or scraped from other web pages.

Summary
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Title
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Description

The most popular concept of blackhat SEO is an immoral practice that makes a website rank higher on a search engine result page. These practices are against search engine terms of use, and they can result in the site being removed from search engine and affiliate sites. When search engines see a slightly different web page, cloaking means offering customers one piece of information. When anyone uses the website on a mobile device, for example, it might be necessary to adapt the content to different user segments.

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