5 Black Hat SEO Techniques You Should Avoid!

March 15, 2021

SEO is becoming a popular topic of conversation in the digital world. But did you know there is a wrong way of doing it?  Did you know that it can have a detremental effect to your website & online presence? It is known as Black Hat SEO. Let’s get into it and how you can avoid this at all costs!

What is Black
Hat seo?

You may have recently seen our TikTok that briefly mentioned Black Hat SEO techniques you should avoid. But what exactly is Black Hat SEO? And what are the consequences of using these methods?

Black Hat SEO is a series of unethical activities to achieve better ranking results online. These methods go against search engine guidelines, and can often lead to a penalty from search engines like Google.

Search engines don’t like to be made to look silly or be embarrassed by showing wrong or irrelevant results, which is why these techniques can get you negatively tagged or even blacklisted from the search rankings.

The opposite end of the spectrum is White Hat SEO – the ethical and “proper” way of getting your website ranked higher on Google. You will find that most legitimate agencies practice White Hat SEO techniques, always make sure you ask to be on the safe side! We will discuss good SEO practices at a later date.

Okay, so you know what Black Hat SEO is now, but what are some of the techniques that you should stay away from?

#1 Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is when lots of the same word or phrase is added to your content which adds no value and dilutes the quality of what you have produced. The reason for this is that it creates a bad & frustrating experience for the end user, something that is becoming a critical part of Search Engine ranking algorithms.

Keyword stuffing can fall under multiple brackets & as detailed by Google, here are the main ones to look out for:

  •  Repeating the same words or phrases over and over again so it sounds unnatural. For example “We produce yellow mugs. Yellow mugs are what we sell. If you want to buy yellow mugs, contact our yellow mugs team and we will make you some yellow mugs.”
  • Huge blocks of text that list a specific location that business is trying to rank for.
  • Lists of phone numbers that don’t give any value or explain what they are for.

You may have seen these in action before and found them irritating to read. The content is very repetitive for no reason, and can feel a bit ‘Groundhog day’ if a whole website is written that way. It’s easy for Google to spot this happening when they crawl your website so steer clear!

This is also applicable to stuffing words into paragraphs that all sound very similar. The words are different, but not different enough to make sense in a sentence, thus deeming the content not valuable.

The key to avoiding this is to write good quality content that focuses on a specific topic rather than a word. You can still utilise keyword research to tailor your content to what people are searching for, but don’t overuse them.

#2 Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is pretty much what is says on the tin. It is where blocks of content used on your website has been copy & pasted from other websites, and are exactly matched or very similar to read.

By writing unique content for your website, you can avoid the search engines thinking that you are trying to manipulate rankings by taking credit for someone elses work. The only case that copied content is remotely acceptable is if you are quoting an article or source, in which case you should always make sure you link back to it so Google knows that you are giving credit.

Unique content is also much better for the end user. We often visit several websites and read their content before making a decision, so with that in mind, imagine browsing the web and all websites said the same exact thing! It would be frustrating and you wouldn’t have a diverse range of content to choose from.

The key to avoiding this technique is to make sure your content is unique, well written & thought about with the end user in mind. You should also ensure you use links in your text when referencing another site.

#3 Backlink farming

First of all, what are backlinks? A backlink is a link from one page on one website, to another page on another website. For example, if you put a link on your website that goes to a completely different website, they now have a back link from your website. Search engines love backlinks as it can help show your website as a reliable source if lots of people are referring back to you as their source, and it is something that if done well & properly can be an asset to your online presence. But of course there is still a wrong way to do it…

SEO companies that are trying to make quick £££ may make use of something called a link farm; a website or collection of websites whose sole purpose is to build links. Link farms have become popular in the black hat SEO world because search engines use the number of links that are pointing towards a website as a contributing factor to determine where it will rank.

Now on the surface that may not sound that bad, however consider the fact that the main purpose of farms list 1000’s of links to websites that they want to rank higher. This leads to unfairness and untrustworthy backlinks and that in turn can lead to search engines returning wrong results. As mentioned further above in this article, search engines don’t like to be made to look like they aren’t doing a good job, and they can easily identify when your website is makign use of backlink farms & will heavily penalise you as a result. As well as this, if they are added too quickly, search engines will know that these are not naturally earned links and gives them even more ammo to blacklist your website.

To avoid this, you should make sure your SEO company isn’t using a link farm, and is instead using a structured managed backlink plan which involves activities like blog writing and other content generation to help you generate natural backlinks over time.

#4 Cloaking

Google says that cloaking is where a website shows one thing to a real life user, and another to search engines.

Why would someone do this on their website? Mainly because those practicing this technique want to rank for different terms, whether it’s relevant to the website content or not. For example, a website with spam content will use this technique to avoid search engine bots finding out the actual content they show to their end user. This may mean that the website that ranks higher has completely irrelevant content to the end user, but search engines don’t realise because their bots see something completely different.

There are some instances where altering what the end user sees is acceptable. For example, if you want to make your mobile user experience easier, you may choose to hide some of your content that looks too much on a mobile device. The important thing to remember is to not be deceptive, and ensure that you are not completely altering the content that your end user sees compared to search engines.

How will you know what’s right? There isn’t a handbook that says the correct way of doing this, but you should always keep your end user in mind, and consider that the search engines should always see the same thing that they do.

#5 Hidden text

Hidden text is content that is hidden from the end user, but the search engines can see. This method is often used to hide lots of extra keywords to boost a website or pages ranking across a broader range of search terms.

There are several ways that Black Hat SEO uses hidden text, whether it’s changing text to size 0 or changing the colour to match the background of the website for example, all of which are bad practice.

Whilst most of the time hidden text is frowned upon, there are exceptions for end user accessibility. A good example is adding an alt tag to an image as this can be crawled by search engine bots, as well as end users who use screen readers or have their images turned off on particular devices.

Long story short, don’t hide your text on purpose.

#TLDR

Too long didn’t read? Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Check that your SEO agency isn’t using any black hat techniques!
  2. Write good quality content that is designed for the end user, not search engines.
  3. Generate your backlinks naturally, and not through a farm.
  4. Be honest and make sure what your end usre sees is what search engines see too.
  5. Basically, don’t make search engines look like they haven’t done their job properly!

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