Some unscrupulous people in the SEO industry would still consider black hat techniques as viable for business but much has been written as to why they’re not. Black hat SEO can feel like a tempting idea, ramming your website with content that you know will trick Google into pushing you up the rankings further and possibly putting you on the first page but this is a bad idea. I’ll explain what Black Hat SEO is, and why you should run for the hills if an SEO company mentions any of these things.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is the process of using techniques that fool the Google Search Bot into thinking that your website should be ranked higher than your competitors through artificial means. For example your website appears to have lots of links all over the Internet that point back to your own, possibly in different blogs and forums. Perhaps it’s through on-site means such as keyword stuffing, or maybe spinning, but each of these techniques has short term gain for long term pain. Let’s go through each of the techniques and explain what each one is and why it’s a bad idea.
Before the days of Google Penguin and Panda, the algorithms designed to spot techniques like this, web owners would often stuff their content with keywords. When someone would read a website they would see the content that they went there to read, likely finding that page from a Google Search however not all was kosher. If they highlighted the page by dragging their mouse they would find text that they didn’t realise was there. To the eye it was invisible but to the Google Search Bot it read as normal text and was indexed, counting those keywords and giving an unfair advantage. Imagine how SEO used to be. It was a game of who could stuff the most keywords into the least space, with a few frills on the side.
No wonder SEO was booming industry, attracting all manner of cowboys who wanted to make money fast. Although this worked in the past it doesn’t work with the Penguin and Panda updates. SEO companies that had been maintaining ranks for clients and didn’t rush to update pages for clients, or had already ditched them knowing what was coming, saw clients blacklisted by Google or suffer severe penalties that took months if not years to work back from. Keyword stuffing now will get you caught by Penguin who will slap you with a penalty. This is why Yoast starts to get upset if your keyword amount on a page creeps over 2%. The process of hiding these keywords is known as ‘cloaking’ and carries its own penalty so don’t do it.
Some marketers may have seen or received adverts for link farms. These are schemes that swap links between sites, producing a spider’s web of links that don’t really serve any purpose except propelling pages up the Google rankings. The Panda and Penguin updates are able to sniff out schemes like this which will raise a flag on your website and an automatic penalty. It is highly likely that a Google Search employee will personally check these links and see that it’s entirely artificial. The likely course of action is that your index will be de-listed and you won’t appear anywhere on Google. Nowhere. This tactic has been thoroughly outlawed and for good reason. It harms the rankings for all of the sites that are actually doing hard work to be found.
Content spinning is the process of skimming other websites, picking up their content, and rewording it to reuse it on your website. Many websites fell foul of this when they’d been using cheap content creators to provide blog posts for their site. It can be tempting to do this so that you can fill up a blog with content and boost your ranking but it won’t last. Google Panda picks up on this and is clever at doing so. You must be very careful when you buy content. Check it thoroughly to ensure that it’s original and also check to see if it’s been spun.
It’s normally an easy thing to do if you pay attention to the syntax. Look for awkward sentences. Things that don’t really make sense or wouldn’t be written that way. Sometimes the spun content is good enough to not be discovered by the purchaser but there are services that are adept at searching for spun content by matching synonyms and sentence length or structure. If you’re considering using spun content in your website don’t, it’s simply not worth it. If you’re a webmaster and you’re using this technique then your website will eventually be discovered and end up shot in a rocket to the sun by Google. It would kill an online business to no longer be listed on Google so consider if this is worth it. Add to the Internet rather than copy it and you’ll be fine.
A nefarious tactic is the use of a doorway page. These pages aren’t created to be seen by a visitor, they’re made to specifically take advantage of search engine spiders. These pages are created to boost the page ranking, fooling the spider into giving the site a higher score than it should have. If a visitor ends up on the page they are instantly redirected to another site but spiders get stuck there thinking there’s loads of content when there isn’t. This type of black hat SEO is brash and as a website owner you can’t plead ignorance or pretend that you didn’t know. Employing this tactic will definitely lead to a severe penalty and quite possibly having your index permanently de-listed.
How can I avoid Black Hat SEO?
If you are in the market for an SEO company then make sure that you do your research. This is a lot of trust to put in a company and it can spell death for your website if you choose unwisely. If their rates are low, then always ask yourself how and why. Perhaps the content is poor, or maybe it’s being written by people in another country who make lots of mistakes that you will need to correct wasting the time you were trying to save. Is the content plagiarised? Always put the content into specialised tools to find out if it’s copied or spun. Google looks very dimly on websites that don’t have original content so always take a little time to validate the content you’re being provided.
An SEO company should be happy to forward you to other clients of theirs and show you their work. Ask for content examples, and also ask how they have achieved these results. If an SEO company is unwilling to talk candidly about how they can achieve this then walk away. It is better to be safer than sorry. Black hat SEO companies still exist and they will churn and burn your website. You may think that they’re magicians providing you with fantastic SEO benefits until Google discovers that it’s all artificial and your website traffic is permanently destroyed. What is a few thousand pounds to them is an irretrievable mess for you.