Black Hat SEO is a marketing technique that we can qualify as “cheating” and, therefore, a negative SEO. A few years ago, it was one of the most used tactics by marketers to get a better web positioning. Nowadays, however, these techniques are being intensely searched and strongly penalized by the leading search engines. For this reason, from Nementio, we present the 10 most common Black Hat SEO techniques your company should avoid.
- What is Black Hat SEO?
- How can Google penalize you for using Black Hat SEO techniques?
- 10 Black Hat SEO techniques to avoid
What is Black Hat SEO?
The main objective of search engines is for the user to find quality information that provides value when resolving their doubts. Getting a good positioning on the Internet is a long process that requires companies to write appropriate content to respond precisely to what users are looking for, attract them and convert them into leads.
Black Hat SEO involves applying positioning techniques that violate search engine quality guidelines and disrespect the user. Such as positioning a website or blog post with keywords that do not correspond to the specific site’s content.
This practice aims to improve the positioning of a website in the short term, which implies a deception to the user by offering inferior quality content, and a possible penalty by search engines. For this reason, the best option for your company in the short and long term is to avoid this type of practice at all costs and use legal tools to improve your SEO.
How can Google penalize you for using Black Hat SEO techniques?
A penalty is a measure taken by Google to sanction malpractice carried out by a website that violates the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
There are different degrees of penalties currently. The following are differentiated:
- Sanction at keyword level: one or more keywords of a website affected by penalties lose their position in Google’s ranking.
- Sanction at URL/directory level: the positioning of almost all URL ranking positions is affected by this penalty.
- Sanction at domain level: this is a one-page penalty, whereby many of the keywords of the entire domain are lowered in the ranking.
- Index exclusion level penalty, also known as delisting: is Google’s maximum penalty, and the search engine’s index will exclude the affected domain from the search engine’s index. It will not allow the user to find any content on the website through Google.
In addition to the degree or level of penalty that Google can impose on a website for using Black Hat SEO, fines can also be of two types: manual and algorithmic.
Manual penalties are imposed directly by a Google employee. Suppose there are suspicions that a website violates the search engine’s rules. A Search Quality or Webspam worker will do a manual analysis to look for violations. There can be many cases in which a Google worker may do manual research, such as spam complaints from users containing unnatural backlinks, hidden text, or keyword spam.
Manual sanctions are reported to the main administrator of the sanctioned website. Via Google Search Console, the administrator will receive a notification explaining the reason for the boycott and how to proceed further. This tool is crucial for your business. If you don’t have it, we recommend you start using it.
Contrary to the previous case, a Google algorithm assigns the penalty automatically. These penalties are often applied by Google Hummingbird, which contains an algorithm that acts as filters to detect and penalize websites that violate the search engine’s rules.
A website affected by such penalties causes its visibility and accessibility to deteriorate significantly in a short time, almost suddenly.
Algorithmic penalties have meant that Black Hat SEO is no longer a good strategy for better web positioning. Years ago, when fines were imposed manually, it was much more difficult for a website to be penalized. This is because it takes humans more time to recognize and search for malpractice among millions of websites.
Today, however, even if there are Black Hat SEO experts who can benefit financially and avoid the search engines’ defense mechanisms, the algorithm will eventually detect them. A company’s investment in Black Hat SEO is not profitable, it may work in the short term, but over time it will be an investment of money and time lost thanks to penalties.
10 Black Hat SEO techniques to avoid
As we have seen, using Black Hat SEO techniques can sink the positioning of your website on the Internet. To avoid this situation, we present the seven most common black hat techniques you should know how to identify and avoid in your company’s digital marketing.
Cloaking is essentially based on showing the user one web format and the Google bot a different one. Let’s take an example: a user performs a Google search on types of batteries for mobile phones, and when he clicks on the option that catches his attention, he realizes that the website’s content talks about florists.
It is favorable to adapt the content of a website to different users. Making changes such as including other languages or reducing the size of a website when visited from a mobile device are practical and risk-free adjustments, as long as search engines are treated like any other user and show the same content.
To learn more about cloaking, here is an explanatory video by Matt Cutts, ex-director of Google’s SPAM department.
This Black Hat SEO technique is almost obsolete, as it is a user deception and seriously violates Google’s rules, for which very restrictive manual penalties are imposed.
Keyword stuffing is an excess of keywords within a website to achieve the right amount of keywords to improve the ranking. This technique generates content of little value, such as blocks of text with unnecessary listings or the writing of texts with continuous repetition of keywords that saturate it, as in the following example:
“At Business SL, we are providers of dental clinic management software. Our dental clinic management software is the best option for any company in the sector. If you are interested in dental clinic management software, contact our specialists in dental clinic management software”.
This is one of the ten most used Black Hat SEO techniques nowadays because it is simple but effective. However, you must be careful with the wording of your website because Google can impose algorithmic penalties on the keyword level and lose the positioning gained with this Black Hat SEO technique.
Instead of using this practice, you should make a previous study and know how to choose the best keywords to position your company in search engines.
One of Google’s main criteria when calculating rankings is checking the quantity and quality of links the page receives. In other words, the number of websites that link to your page’s content.
The link farm technique seeks to take advantage of this metric by creating a collection of websites that reference each other to build links and illegally increase a website’s authority.
Websites that use the link farm strategy also have low-quality content. This content is focused on using the desired keywords to increase their positioning and does not provide any value or produce interest in the user.
As in the previous section, this practice is easily detectable by search engine algorithms, so it is advisable to avoid this practice to avoid a short-term penalty.
Private Blog Networks
As in the previous section, this Black Hat SEO technique is based on generating illicit links. Private Blog Networks (PBN), as their name suggests, are private blog networks with the sole purpose of developing and increasing connections to a website. Their content of value is null.
This practice is severely penalized by Google, and since 2017 Google Penguin continues to be updated to be faster and more effective in detecting PBNs.
The practice of sneaky redirects, also known as deceptive redirects, consists of sending the user a different URL from the one they have requested. When such a redirect is made, the search engine does not follow the redirect but only indexes the original page, and users will follow the redirect and arrive at a different landing page.
This type of misleading redirect can also occur where the destination URLs of the same website are different depending on whether they are accessed via mobile devices or desktop computers.
Redirects must be used for a lawful purpose, such as changing a web domain or consolidating several pages into one. In the case of this Black Hat SEO practice, Google detects a violation in the webmaster code as cloaking and may carry the same penalties as cloaking.
Abuse of structured data
Also known as rich snippets, structured data is data on a web page organized into code that provides search engines with more information about the website. If Google detects that your website contains structured content, it will create more attractive and valuable results for the user based on this information. This is a very beneficial SEO technique for online positioning and can considerably increase your web traffic.
Structured data abuse is a practice that provides false information in structured data, misleading both search engines and users. An example would be a website owner leaving a business review on a fake review page and then adding that structured data to his website. This way, they can unfairly stand out from the competition and improve their ranking.
This practice of Black Hat SEO has been widely used, and Google and other search engines have taken strong measures to combat it. Today, we strongly recommend that you avoid this practice. Google gives users the tool to report this case, which could lead to a manual penalty.
SPAM in comments
This is one of the most common and straightforward practices of Black Hat SEO. SPAMming a blog consists of copying and pasting the link to your website in the blog’s comments. You’ve probably seen this practice more than once, especially on platforms like YouTube.
Fortunately, Google has almost entirely put an end to this problem. The creation of the no-follow tag tells search engines that these kinds of links in blog comments should not be given any authority. This is a practice that is very easy to detect and very punishable by Google. If the search engine sees a website using this SPAM tactic, it will thoroughly remove the page from the search results.
Spinning and duplicating content
The most valuable content for Google is 100% original; therefore, websites that comply with this guideline will rank higher on Google.
Spinning is a Black Hat SEO practice that consists of creating content from existing content, generally using a web tool that rewrites the texts. This type of tool allows you to create a large amount of content in a short time. However, they are usually ineffective in avoiding content plagiarism, as they are not smart enough to adapt the original texts.
Duplicate content is identical to an original and previous one, the famous “copy and paste.” In the face of these practices, Google detects the same content or spinning and hides the plagiarised content, prioritizing the original. These two practices are dangerous for your business, not only because of the possible penalties but also because you can run into problems related to copyrighting the original content.
If you want to go deeper into this section, here is an explanatory video from Google Search Central.
A block of text is easily hidden on a web page. We can put the text of the same color as the background or reduce its size to zero so that the user cannot identify it. Such practices are known as hidden content. They aim to include as many keywords and authority links as possible to achieve better positioning.
These practices are easily detectable by search engines, so penalization is assured. This has meant that hidden content is no longer a common practice for those doing Black Hat SEO.
A website includes a link to another website, not for the valuable content it contains, but in exchange for a financial reward. This action is against Google’s webmaster guidelines. The guidelines clearly state that the search engine prohibits buying and selling links.
This Black Hat SEO technique is currently widely used and is being pursued by Google to prevent the loss of content quality due to a financial exchange.
If you have any other questions about the evil practices of Black Hat SEO that can lead to your company’s website being penalized, you can consult the Webmaster help forum.
Good digital marketing practices for your business is vital to your company’s online health. Always rely on specialized local SEO companies that avoid at all costs these 10 Black Hat SEO techniques and grow your SEO in a lawful way.