There's no doubt about it; black hat SEO tactics can be tempting. After all, who doesn't want their website to rank higher in Google in no time and with the least effort?
But the truth is, these shortcuts do more harm than good in the long run. Not only will you risk getting penalized or even banned from the search results, but you could also damage your website's reputation.
Here are nine of the most common black hat SEO tactics you should steer clear of:
We will now take a closer look at each in our guide. Let’s dive straight in!
Keyword stuffing, also known as keyword density abuse, refers to the practice of overusing keywords in the content or metadata of a website in an attempt to manipulate the website's ranking in search results. This technique involves cramming as many keywords as possible into the website's content, often at the expense of readability and user experience.
Keyword stuffing is considered one of the black hat SEO techniques because it violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines (now referred to as Search Essentials), which state that “keywords should be used to help users find your site, not manipulate Search Engine Rankings.”
In addition, it makes for a terrible user experience. Imagine if you went to a website and all you saw was a jumble of keywords instead of actual information. It would be hard to read and understand, and you would likely leave the site pretty quickly, right?
Keyword stuffing can take many forms, such as repeating the same keyword multiple times on a web page, using a list of keywords with no context or overusing the same keyword in the page's title tag and meta description.
While it may have been effective in the past, today's search engine algorithms are sophisticated enough to detect and penalize keyword stuffing. Doing so can hurt a website's ranking, as it signals to search engines that the website is low quality and not valuable to users.
You can do a few things to avoid black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing while still optimizing your website for search engines.
First, try to use variations of your target keywords throughout your site. This will help you avoid using the same keyword too many times and getting penalized.
Second, use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords. These related words help search engines better understand your content's context.
Finally, write naturally informative and interesting content that includes relevant keywords at a density that sounds natural to the reader. In other words, don't sacrifice the quality of your content for the sake of cramming in more keywords.
Cloaking is a black hat SEO tactic employed to trick search engines into thinking that a certain piece of content is different from what it is. This is done by showing one version of the content to search engine bots and another to human users.
A common example of cloaking is when a website serves different content to users from different locations. This can be done by checking the user's IP address or browser characteristics and then serving up different content based on that information.
Another example is when a website uses redirects in an attempt to show one piece of content to search engine bots while showing another piece of content to human users. These redirects are often used to send users to a page with more advertising or other monetization forms rather than the website's main content.
Cloaking can be difficult for search engines to detect, but if they do, it can result in severe penalties for the offending website, including being banned from the search engine's index entirely.
Remember, search engines aim to provide the best possible results to users, and cloaking goes against this goal by showing different content to users and search engines.
Doorway pages, also known as bridge pages, gateway pages, or entry pages, are pages created solely to rank in search results and are not useful to users. They often contain little or no content and are designed to funnel traffic from search engines to a specific landing page.
From an SEO perspective, doorway pages can be risky for several reasons. First, they’re often difficult for users to navigate, leading to a high bounce rate. Second, if not done correctly, search engines can flag these pages as spam, which can hurt your website's ranking.
If you're using doorway pages on your site, we recommend discontinuing this practice immediately. There are better, more effective ways to improve your website's search engine ranking. For example, you can focus on creating great content that people will want to read and share.
Link schemes are another common black hat SEO tactic you should avoid if you’re serious about achieving high rankings in SERPs. Essentially, it is an attempt to artificially boost a website's ranking by inflating the number of links pointing to the site.
There are many different "link schemes" that black hat SEO practitioners may use to try and game the system, but the following three are among the most common and risky:
Just like it sounds, this is when someone pays for a link on another website. Google views paid links as unnatural and can penalize the sites involved.
These are websites that exist solely to sell links. The links are often low-quality and irrelevant to the site they're linking to. Avoid them.
This is similar to reciprocal linking but on a larger scale. It's when two website owners agree to exchange a large number of unnatural links with each other. Again, Google sees this as artificial, which can result in a penalty for both sites.
Participating in link building schemes is considered a black hat tactic because it goes against search engine guidelines, which state that “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in SERP are considered unnatural and should be discounted by the algorithm.”
Link schemes may seem like an easy way to boost your rankings but they're not worth the risk. We can’t overstate the importance of sticking to white hat SEO tactics; you'll be much better off in the long run.
This is one of the oldest and most common black hat techniques that entails making the text or links the same color as the background. The idea is to hide the content from users but make it visible to search engines, for example, by using white text on a white background.
Other ways to do it include using CSS to position the text off-screen or setting the font size to 0px. These techniques are meant to fool search engine crawlers into thinking that certain content is not there when in reality, it is.
In most cases, SEOs use hidden content to stuff keywords to improve a page's ranking for those keywords.
Not only is this type of SEO tactic blatantly misleading, but it can also get your site penalized by Google and other major search engines.
Again to be safe, stick to white hat SEO methods that promote healthy and sustainable long-term growth without resorting to deception.
There's a fine line between aggressive marketing and spamming. Unfortunately, some black hat SEOs cross that line, bombarding potential customers with unwanted emails, comments and other forms of communication.
Put simply, spamming is the indiscriminate posting of irrelevant or unwanted content to online platforms to promote a product or service or boost rankings on search engine results pages. This black hat SEO tactic is considered risky because it can result in recipients being bombarded with unwanted advertising and may even be considered illegal in some jurisdictions.
In some quarters, the practice entails posting low-quality, irrelevant content on a website or blog to manipulate search rankings.
Spamming can also take other forms, such as blog comment spam or creating low-quality content with the sole purpose of including keywords.
If you're using any form of spamming to promote your website, we’d advise you to stop it immediately. Not only will it hurt your reputation online, but it could also lead to serious legal consequences for your business.
When users click on a search result, they expect to be taken to the page promised in the search results. However, some unscrupulous webmasters engage in a practice known as sneaky redirects.
Sneaky redirects occur when a website uses a 302 redirect to send users to a different URL than the one they originally requested. Black hats SEOs use them for various reasons, including attempting to artificially inflate click-through rates or collect affiliate marketing revenue.
Sneaky redirects are against the rules of most search engines and can result in a penalty. It’s important to be transparent with users and to provide them with the content they expect rather than trying to redirect them to a different page without their knowledge.
This refers to copying content from other websites and using it on your site without permission. It can be done manually or with the use of automated scripts and is a violation of copyright laws.
Scraping content is an extremely bad idea for several reasons. First, it can result in duplicate content. This is when two or more pieces of content across the web have identical or very similar wording. When Google sees duplicate content, it can penalize the site that published it.
Another reason scraping is looked down upon by search engines is that it can be seen as plagiarism. Plagiarism is when someone steals someone else’s work and passes it off as their own. This goes against Google’s policies and can lead to legal penalties for the offender.
Word of advice: If you must scrape data, ensure you have permission from the source site first. What’s more, refrain from doing anything illegal with the data you collect and properly attribute the source where needed.
Alternatively, just create original content and save yourself the legal and ethical troubles associated with scraped content.
Lastly, let’s take a look at negative SEO, a not-so-common black hat tactic that involves deliberately trying to sabotage a competitor's website ranking in search engines.
This can be done by adding spammy or low-quality links to their website, creating fake social media accounts to post negative comments about them or even hacking their website and adding malicious code.
For starters, the practice is not only morally questionable, but it can also backfire. If you are caught doing negative SEO, you could be blacklisted by Google and other search engines, severely hurting your website’s ranking.
Additionally, even if you successfully harm another website’s ranking, there’s no guarantee that your own site will automatically take its place – competition is stiff and other websites may quickly overtake yours in the rankings.
If you think someone is engaging in negative SEO against your website, the best thing to do is report it to the search engine (like Google), so they can take action. Never retaliate with negative SEO of your own because, as we just said, it’s plain unethical and takes quite an effort; not to forget that it's also likely to backfire and damage your site’s rankings.
You can avoid being a victim of negative SEO by taking some useful measures as follows:
If you see any suspicious or spammy-looking links pointing to your site, disavow them immediately. Here’s a quick guide on how to do it.
If you see any fake reviews or negative commentary about your business, address it quickly and professionally.
This will help prevent hackers from being able to take advantage of any vulnerabilities on your site.
In the complex world of search engine optimization, taking shortcuts and engaging in black hat tactics that promise quick results can be tempting. However, these practices violate Google's guidelines and can have serious consequences such as penalties, blacklisting, and damage to your brand's credibility.
On the other hand, investing in legitimate, white-hat SEO processes demonstrates a commitment to best practices and lays the foundation for sustainable growth in organic traffic and establishes your website as a trustworthy and reliable source.
At Profit Engine, we appreciate the value of ethical SEO strategies and are here to help you navigate the constantly evolving landscape of SEO.
Get in touch with us now to learn more about how we can support you in achieving your online growth goals through honest and legitimate methods.