For most marketers, black hat SEO is a dirty world, and understandably so. Shady, unethical SEOs are everywhere, trying to manipulate their search engine ranking by using underhanded practices. Some do black hat SEO purposely by implementing techniques such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, hiding keywords within pages, posting duplicate or scrapped content, and more. While these may temporarily give your site a boost in SERPs, Google will eventually penalise you at some point, potentially wiping you out of its search index.
If you are using any of these 7 black hat SEO practices, then it’s time to make a change before Google hits your site with a penalty.
1. Guest Blogging for Link Building Guest blogging should add value to a site, offering helpful insight, and giving a fresh twist to existing content. A high-quality guest post that’s totally unique and written by an industry expert or influencer can drive more traffic to a website, increase readership, and even skyrocket conversions. If you’re guest posting on other websites just to get a few backlinks, then it’s not okay. According to Matt Cuts, head of Google’s webspam team, “Stick a fork in it: blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. Alternatively, if you’re considering accepting guest posts on your website, be careful to avoid collaborations with sites that just want to pass PageRank from your site to theirs, and under no circumstances accept any form of compensation for that.
2. Keyword Stuffing A few years ago, writing short, keyword-stuffed content could get you at the top of SERPs. But we’re now in a post-Panda era, so thin content with high keyword densities will get you penalised quickly. Don’t stuff your articles and blog posts with keywords for the sole purpose of ranking higher in search results – it won’t be long before Google penalises you. Instead, focus on quality rather than keyword density, and you’ll naturally capture long-tail keywords that will drive more traffic to your website.
3. Link Schemes Buying or exchanging links may seem like a great way to pass PageRank and outrank competitors, right? Not so much. Google penalises any website that’s caught participating in link schemes. Even if your site appears to be ranking pretty high, the potential consequences overweigh the benefits. You may end up ranking very low, or not ranking at all – meaning your ranking could be erased, or your website wiped out of Google’s index. Earn links from reputable websites by consistently creating quality content and encouraging sharing via social media sites.
4. Irrelevant Keywords Many webmasters try to rank high for keywords that are completely irrelevant to their niche. How? By writing content that incorporates these keywords, even if they aren’t related to the actual topic. But this won’t work since Google is now using latent semantic indexing, which can easily identify the true topic of a page. Use irrelevant keywords and you’ll get penalised very quickly.
5. Duplicate Content Why spend time writing new, 100 percent original content when someone else has done that already? That’s the mentality of many shady webmasters trying to pass PageRank by plagiarising content from other sites. Guess what? You won’t get away with it. Once Google sees your content is plagiarised, you’ll get penalised. The worst part is if the original author of the content finds out you’ve plagiarised his/her work, he/she may choose to fill a DMCA notice, which will erase the infringing pages from Google’s site. Your ranking will obviously be affected, and you may even get sued for copyright infringement.
6. Hidden Keywords You’ve heard it before: keyword-rich content annoys users and makes them quickly press the Back button in their browser. But if they can’t see the keywords, they won’t leave your site, right? In theory, that’s correct – but if Google catches you using hidden keywords, your site will end up getting penalised. Whatever you do, just don’t hide any keywords within your site.
7. Article Spinning Article spinning has become increasingly popular, especially since it can take the challenge out of spending time writing. You simply copy and paste the content in an automated article spinner, and voila – you’ll get a new version that’s completely original. The take is, it will be unreadable and unusable. The quality of spun content is very poor, not to mention that you may still get penalised for duplicate content. Even if it’s not word-for-word, it will still be duplicate.
There are more black hat SEO practices out there but the ones listed above are the commonly used ones. You may not be aware that you are already using one or two of these techniques; if that is the case, take action immediately. By being aware of what these black hat strategies are, you’ll be able to modify your current online marketing strategies to a more ethical one that will help you gain organic traffic.
Joe Ryan is the Founder & CEO of UK online marketing agency, Digital Search Group, which specialises in smart internet marketing. He is a specialist in online marketing strategy and brand building. When he’s not considering the next best online marketing strategy with his team, he enjoys travel and spending time with his family.