What is Black hat SEO?

Black hat SEO is simply bad techniques designed to cheat Google’s extensive algorithms, that specifically break their terms of service. Black hat SEO is bad, for a number of reasons – generally, it aims to increase search engine rankings based on how robots perceive a site, rather than the human experience. It aims to deliver quick results with little work but can create much larger problems for your blog in the long run.

These techniques exist because back in the day, a VERY long time ago, they did work. For example, take backlinks – what was once a ‘recommendation’ for another site soon turned into a widely misused way to boost rankings. Google quickly saw this misuse and quickly devalued backlinks as a ranking factor. Now? They’re barely considered in the ranking algorithms at all.

White hat SEO is the opposite of these bad techniques – and the best (see: only) way to see a positive impact on your blog. Both black hat and white hat SEO aim to increase a site’s visibility in search engines, however, their approach is vastly different.

So why do people bother promoting and teaching these outdated techniques? Frankly, we don’t know – there are bigger profits and impacts to be made with white hat SEO. We’re here to stamp out bad advice and help all bloggers and site owners get relevant and practical advice to grow their blogs long term, with sustainable traffic and rankings.

Why black hat SEO doesn’t work.

Black hat SEO aims get around Google’s quality checks and achieve rankings you don’t really deserve – and that’s exactly why it doesn’t work! Google updates their algorithm HUNDREDS of times a year and are usually pretty good at catching you out straight away – and punishing you.

While that sounds harsh, if you’re going out of your way to pursue tactics that are purely focused on improving rankings and not the user experience, your blog is going to be poor quality. Users aren’t going to find useful content, and they certainly won’t be coming back to your site.

This is what Google is built to avoid – they don’t want those kinds of sites appearing in front of users, and it’s exactly why they created the algorithms that test, measure & compare the quality and relevance of your site to THOUSANDS of others from all across the web.

Even if a black hat technique works today, tomorrow, or next week, it doesn’t mean you’re safe – along with smaller constant updates, Google releases larger algorithm updates that combat particularly poor techniques. Take the Penguin or Fred updates, that combat spammy/bought links and site quality respectively.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Well, if you’re looking to double your traffic with search engines, being banned from them altogether isn’t exactly the best strategy. If you stick to ‘white hat’ techniques (the good cousin of black hat SEO), you’re not going to get banned – Google strictly follows their own terms of service and ethically remove sites based on black hat offences, not on a whim.

Rather than building a sustainable, long-term business (that’s your blog!), you’ll instead be rewarded with a short-lived cash grab that soon disappears, taking the time and effort used to create it with it. Why not work with White Hat SEO techniques from the start, and be rewarded with high rankings and increasing traffic that aren’t at threat of disappearing altogether, at any given time?

Worse yet, any White Hat SEO you do could be negated or made irrelevant – so it’s a double loss!

How can I avoid black hat SEO?

Google is very clear on what techniques they do and don’t approve of, and clearly outline them for all users. And it’s not just Google – all search engines operate in a similar way and have a similar set of standards. If Google isn’t allowing it, chances are Bing or the hundreds of other engines won’t either.

Whether you’re implementing yourself, or an agency is recommending a change, always ask yourself “Am I doing this to improve my readers’ experience, or to please Google?”. If it’s the second, stop. Walk away. Focus on something that improves how humans navigate your site and add value to their experience, rather than purely trying to increase rankings. Google loves what people love, and hate what we hate – black hat techniques fall into the ‘terrible human experience’ category, and Google will penalise you for it.

Ask yourself, does it:
Go against search engine guidelines
Deliver a bad user experience to your readers
Misrepresent your content and mislead both search engines and readers

If the answer is yes to any or all of those points, it’s black hat SEO – and you should run for the hills!

Common black hat SEO techniques

On top of learning good SEO practices (whether it’s to implement yourself, or monitor an agency’s work), here are some techniques to avoid:

Keyword stuffing – overusing keywords in an attempt to rank – “The best SEO agency in Melbourne, doing SEO for Melbourne companies”. Hot tip: this also MAJORLY bores your readers.

Clickbait titles – misnaming articles or pages in an attempt to improve the clickthrough rate from search engines. We all HATE this on social media, so don’t do it to people who are specifically looking for your content. “The REAL damage black hat SEO is doing to your blog” might get us a few more clicks on this post, but it’s not really what we’re discussing – again, annoying and poor user experience.

Comment spamming – Ever seen a comments section littered with ‘Great post, you might like mine on the same/totally unrelated topic [insert link here]”. If you’re not adding value to the discussion, its spam. If you don’t want it on your blog, don’t do it to others!

Link farms/PBNs – these aim to build backlinks – and we HATE BACKLINKS! If you’re approached to join a link farm (generally promoted as the fancy Private Blog Network), a link to your blog will be placed in an article that’s basically Lorem Ipsum, potentially alongside your competitors’ links. There’s no value to the reader because there ARE no readers – these sites exist to get “backlink juice” (which is fake, FYI) and are a mess of unrelated, poorly written content.

Invisible/hidden text – Ever been recommended to add keywords directly related to a job opening, in white font to your resume? It’s a sneaky way to get through the online filtering process, but as soon as your resume is seen by a human (and the skills you apparently mentioned aren’t visible), the jig is up. The same thing goes for adding keywords and phrases in teenie tiny text or colouring text the same as the background in your post in an attempt to get your keywords mentioned a few extra times. Google doesn’t want to play your games.

Some other phrases you may see suggested (or have services propositioned to you!) include stolen/scraped content, mirror sites, typo/domain/cybersquatting, negative SEO, paid links, duplicate (or ‘republished’)content and doorway/gateway pages.

What can I do about black hat SEO?

If you’ve previously engaged a company that’s implemented black hat SEO (or learnt some poor techniques yourself), it’s time you get rid of them ASAP. Not only will it prevent future penalties and ranking drops, as Google sees the quality of your site increase your rankings will too! We all make mistakes, and the most important thing you can do now is learn from them. Start removing any and all black hat techniques from your blog where possible, and take the necessary actions to mitigate ones that aren’t on your blog.

If you’re under attack from a negative SEO campaign, or your competitor is using black hat techniques to rank for your keywords, you can file a webspam report in Google Search Console. (If you need to create a GSC account, we can help!)

Using disavows allows you to negate any effects of both negative SEO campaigns and previous implementation, and it’s better to get started sooner rather than later!

The best thing you can do about black hat SEO is AVOID IT! We exclusively teach white hat SEO techniques and pride ourselves on staying ahead of the game – if there’s a change to the algorithms you need to know about, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

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