Black Hat SEO: Everything You Need To Know
In the early days, black hat SEO was once considered an effective strategy to quickly and surely rank a website highly on Google to capitalise on large amounts of exposure to any given market. Fast forward to the present date, and black hat practices are now commonly frowned upon.
Google’s web crawlers and algorithms have become smarter and more intuitive in flagging and punishing pages that practice black hat SEO. In fact, Google has become so accustomed to fighting spam that most dated black hat practices simply do not work in this day and age.
This post will take you through a deep dive into everything you need to know about black hat SEO and why white hat SEO is the more sustainable and rewarding method for growing your business.
What is Black Hat SEO?
By definition, black hat SEO consists of unethical practices, techniques, and exploits that attempt to boost a page’s search engine ranking. It does that at the cost of violating search engine guidelines and exposing the page to the risk of penalty.
Black hat SEO practices typically neglect user intent and content quality to cheat Google’s search algorithm and improve search visibility through sketchy and unethical means.
Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO
The easiest way to compare white hat to black hat SEO is that:
- White hat SEO abides by Google’s search engine guidelines in boosting rankings, including publishing high-quality content and organic links.
- Black hat SEO abuses Google algorithm weaknesses and exploits Google Webmaster Guidelines to boost rankings, such as keyword stuffing and or mass publishing of countless low-quality content pages (see why this is a bad idea with Google’s Helpful Content update).
Does Black Hat SEO Really Work?
Black hat SEO exists because people have seen it work wonders. If lucky, these practices create short-term results, particularly in artificially inflating search rankings.
Black hat SEO strategies exploit and abuse loopholes in Google’s algorithms and search guidelines. However, those exploits have become fewer and fewer as Google continues to release and update their core algorithm.
Typically, Google crawlers will scour the web after every update to look for new loopholes and fix them. This cycle repeated indefinitely as Google and other search engines is constantly scouring the web for loopholes to fix them and punish pages that are found to abuse them.
In short, black hat SEO does work to some extent. However, depending on short-term tactics to gain an advantage is extremely short-sighted and unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.
Is Black Hat SEO Good or Bad?
You may think black hat SEO is the cheapest and fastest way to rank on the first page. But before you sign up to a sketchy SEO service that promises you the world, think about your website’s long-term goal and your brand value if you were to get punished for using such methods.
Using black hat SEO to build authority on the web will most likely result in irreversible damage to your business, cost you thousands of dollars to repair the damages caused and simply waste your time when you could be out there serving your customers.
It’s not a practice we endorse, and typically, in most cases, we witness it end very badly for the businesses affected.
Examples & Types of Black Hat SEO
We advise familiarising yourself with the common types of black hat SEO so that you can void any service offering or sell as such practices.
1. Duplicate Content & Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is almost obsolete and abuses keyword placement on your web page. It aims to rank for a target term by putting that keyword in virtually every page sentence.
You’ll notice keyword stuffing if the keyword density is through the roof. On the other hand, Duplicate content stuffs the same exact content on multiple pages to try to exploit ranking factors.
These practices violate Google’s community guidelines and lead to reduced traffic and ranking.
Instead, we recommend focusing on keyword optimisation to place keywords naturally, ensuring you don’t have duplicate content on your site and sending positive feedback to Google.
2. Spamming Low-Quality Content Pages
Both users and search engines will prefer high-quality content that best answers a query. Because user-friendly and exciting content isn’t cheap nor easy to build, black hat marketers try to exploit search engines by posting tons of low-value content.
However, low-quality content often leads to a high bounce rate and low engagement, giving Google the signal to drag you down the ranks. We recommend curating valuable content that best answers a query or building relevant posts to engage with your readers and establish topical authority.
3. Content Cloaking
Cloaking a page shows specific content to users, typically a blog post or product page, while offering entirely different and non-contextual content to Google. This practice attempts to trick search engines into ranking your page into a query that isn’t relevant to its content.
4. Private Blog Networks and Link Farming
Black hats sometimes utilise link farms and private blog networks to build links to your site artificially. Here, the user pays for access to a link farm network where other black hats develop websites only to link to pages looking to rank in SERPs quickly.
5. Paid Links
Earning high-quality backlinks isn’t a walk in the park. Instead, some black hats will pay other websites to post low-quality content that links to your site.
Once Google finds your site linked to a red-flagged website that earns from paid links, you might immediately notice steep declines in traffic and engagement or lose your ranking altogether.
6. Negative SEO
If a black hat finds that you can’t easily beat the competitor, they might instead report the competition to try and harm their rankings. Falsely claiming that a competitor used black hat SEO when they weren’t is unethical and isn’t found in the book of any white hat SEO specialists.
7. Comment Spamming
User-generated spam is an awful black hat tactic, whether on your blog, another site, or any social media channel. Google and several social media sites will block accounts that spam external or internal links on comments and even punish the page linked in the comment and the account used.
8. Exploiting Schema Markups
Schema markup is a string of code written on a webpage that search engines use to determine what information they should display on SERPs.
Someone who practices black hat SEO might manipulate structured data from schema markups to post inaccurate information in the search results. Abusing structured data may end in a higher bounce rate, fewer engagements, and getting indexed for low-quality and spammy content.
9. Sneaky Redirects
For white hat SEOs, there are many great reasons to redirect a URL to another within your site. Redirects are useful for migrating from one address to another or consolidating product or content pages.
However, black hats use sneaky redirects to display different content to users and crawlers. Sneaky redirects violate Google Webmaster Guidelines as it intends to post other content than what was given to web crawlers.
Why You Should Avoid Black Hat SEO
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines highlight that violations will outright remove the site from Google’s search index by algorithmic or manual action. If your site is found to practice black hat techniques, it may stop showing up on the search results page.
We’ll break down the idea of avoiding black hat SEO into three critical points.
1. Black Hat SEO Ruins User Experience and Engagement
Content marketing and SEO capitalise on building an engaging and convenient user experience to encourage users to purchase or sign up for your products and service. However, black hat techniques ruin UX and lead to high bounce rates, affecting trust value in the long run.
2. It Affects Your Search Rankings and Visibility
While black hat SEO promises better ranking in the shortest period possible, using it eventually results in almost irreversible losses to search rankings and traffic. That translates to lost conversions and revenue for your brand.
Moreover, the cost of recovering from penalties due to black hat practices can be more expensive than paying for white hat SEO services in the first place.
3. Black Hat SEO isn’t Sustainable for Long-Term Results
A black hat marketer can promise and even deliver a boost in results due to manipulative exploits. But remember that these will be reversed when all loopholes are fixed and are rarely sustainable in the long run.
You might enjoy a boost in traffic or ranking, but once Google’s crawlers or reviewers find out about your unethical practice, your organic traffic will inevitably vanish.
In short, black hat SEO will ultimately harm your search ranking, organic traffics, brand value, and revenue altogether.
What is Grey Hat SEO?
If you’re struggling to categorise a practice as black hat or white hat SEO, it should fall under grey hat SEO.
In a nutshell, grey hat SEO is somewhat shady and sketchy SEO tactics that aren’t violating any guidelines but could be banned on future updates.
Grey hat SEO nearly crosses the line of black hat SEO since these practices aren’t listed as unethical on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. However, these dubious methods eventually become black hat techniques once Google looks into them.
Do SEO Agencies in Sydney Practice Black Hat SEO?
Some SEO agencies opt for black hat SEO tactics to generate results quickly. This is commonly the case because sales staff overpromise to get the deal signed.
We recommend working with a trusted and reputable SEO agency in Sydney. Agencies who practice white hat SEO will typically report on all work completed and transparently showcase their process. For agencies that don’t, you should stay away from them.
Time To Work With A Reputable White Hat SEO Agency
Investing in white hat SEO will pay dividends, as its benefits far outweigh the risks. In time, you can rest assured that your site will grow organically and sustainably.
If you need help getting your site to the top of Google SERPs, feel free to speak with us, and we’ll take you through innovative SEO strategies that abide by Google’s Best Search Guidelines.