Any business owner or content provider will be well aware of the importance of SEO when it comes to online visibility. The better the SEO, the stronger your page will be in terms of SERP rankings.
However, like any arduous process, there are always going to be those who seek out shortcuts in the hopes of getting from A to B quicker and with as little effort as possible.
Welcome to the world of “Black Hat SEO” – the black market of page ranking; the seedy underbelly of content manipulation; where businesses go to achieve digital dominance by any means necessary.
If you’re thinking of going rogue and donning a black hat in your quest for SEO supremacy, you may want to think again. It isn’t without its risks and short-term gain could very easily result in long-term heartache.
What is Black Hat SEO?
In the halcyon days of the western cowboy movies, the heroes and the villains were commonly distinguishable by their choice of headwear. For the purpose of black and white cinematography, the colours of choice were logically monochrome: the good guys wore white, while the bad guys wore black.
So, perennial silver screen hero, John Wayne, would typically be found sporting a milky Stetson, while someone like Lee Marvin would don an inky, villainous crown. For a more recent example, see Christian Bale and Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma (FYI: top film!).
From an SEO standpoint, the same rules apply: “white hat SEO” ethically relies on human audience behaviour as opposed to the search engine’s, while “black hat SEO” focuses on manipulating the search engine and breaking the rules, all while showing two fingers to search engine guidelines.
Examples of Black Hat SEO
The dark arts of Black Hat SEO come in many forms, from the glaringly obvious to downright devious. Here are a few examples of the most common offences and how to spot them.
If you’ve ever read a blog or online article with a comments section at the base, chances are that you’ve come across comments comprising of nonsensical fluff that’s completely irrelevant to the preceding post.
The comments section is a veritable playground for Black Hat SEO tacticians and typically filled with more spam than a war-time lunchbox.
While this was somewhat effective in the mid-2000s – resulting in follow links and flowing pagerank to your site for the priestly sum of zero – this process has since been found out, making the minimal benefits hardly worth the bother.
The net is now largely wise to these tactics and spam comments now offer no follow links, while many websites have removed the ability to embed comment content altogether.
Nevertheless, playing the law of averages, the more spam comments of this nature, the more referral traffic you can expect to receive, albeit of a questionable nature of varying quality.
Content created in a copy/paste manner can be used to deliberately manipulate search engine rankings in order to generate more traffic to a chosen site. While this can not only negatively impact the user experience, it can also detrimentally affect the original site.
Search engines universally prefer unique content to duplicated text and typically won’t show multiple forms of the same content in the SERP. As such, twin copy replicated elsewhere can become problematic and leave certain pages omitted from the results page.
Duplicated content can confuse the search engine, making it difficult for it to know which result is more relevant to a given search. In turn, this can have an adverse effect on ranking and a knock-on effect on traffic as a result, while it can also dilute link equity as well.
As the name suggests, keyword stuffing is the process of overcramming certain buzzwords and phrases into your page in order to maximise its visibility for those particular terms.
While, on the surface, this may seem logical, it can quickly degenerate into a smorgasbord of spam that not only seems unnatural but, at times, can become almost unreadable.
Spamtastic copy often makes little sense and, needless to say, is not user-friendly, negatively affecting your user experience, tarnishing your credibility and ruining the professional presentation of your site.
Perhaps the sneakiest of all the examples on this page, invisible text takes keyword stuffing to another level.
This method uses coloured text on an identically coloured background, camouflaging it from visible view.
As a result, the site still ranks for the chosen keywords present in the hidden copy, yet the text remains unseen to the site visitor.
Black Hat SEO Tactics to Avoid
Naturally, Black Hat SEO tactics aren’t without their risks. Playing against the rules is essentially playing with fire when it comes to your website ranking. While you may get away with for a while, it’s only a matter of time before you face a serious burn.
Black Hat tactics can result in notable damage to your page’s long-term performance, while repeated offences can see your site banned from certain search engines entirely (although this punishment is admittedly quite rare).
More typical ramifications commonly result in a site receiving a serious demotion in the search rankings, nullifying the Black Hat tactics in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, the risk of digital banishment is an ever-present danger if you repeatedly stray to the dark side.
To avoid your Black Hat strategy turning into Black List misery, we recommend steering clear of these short-term fixes and instead focusing your time and efforts on conventional White Hat methods that don’t draw the ire of the SERP police.
For more information on Black Hat SEO tactics and the effects of unethical SEO, drop us a line today on 01446 339050. Alternatively, get in touch using the button below and find out more about how we can help you achieve SEO results the right way.
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