What is black hat SEO? Put simply, these are methods used to increase a website’s page rank in a search engine, which violate the search engine’s rules.
Read on and we’ll explain more.
The term “black hat” originated from western movies, where the good guys and the bad guys were distinguished based on the colour of hat they were wearing.
Defining what black hat SEO tactics are can be a bit tricky. It’s important to remember that SEO is constantly changing. This means black hat SEO tactics are always changing as well.
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Black Hat SEO: Why You Should Care
So what is black hat SEO actually used for?
In truth, there are a number of consequences to employing black hat SEO. While black hat SEO techniques can seem like a quick way to get your website to show up in the search engines, the penalties from Google and other search engines can be devastating.
You could be de-indexed completely from a search engine. With so many people turning to Google, your business likely won’t survive without a strong web presence.
If you’re building a long-term business, you should not do any black hat SEO.
What is Grey Hat SEO?
While black hat SEO is easy to pin down, grey hat SEO is a little trickier. This is somewhere between black and white hat SEO. It’s made up from methods that haven’t quite been defined by material from Google.
Since there is a grey area, reasonable people can disagree on if these tactics and methods support or contrast with Google’s published guidelines.
Grey hat SEO changes quite a bit. One year a certain technique could be considered grey hat, but then the next it could move into black hat territory or even white hat territory.
Search Engine Terms
Understanding the search engine’s terms is the best way to avoid grey hat SEO techniques.
Sometimes it feels like Google’s best practises and the conditions that are set aren’t in the best interest of search marketers, or even those who search on the engine.
However, it’s important to stay on top of everything in order to avoid anything that could be grey hat SEO.
Since grey hat SEO can be so confusing, it’s hard to know what the best solution is. It can either help your website, or it could lead to disastrous results, just like black hat SEO would.
If you aren’t sure if a certain tactic is going to violate Google’s guidelines, it’s probably best to avoid it. You won’t gain anything from getting on the search engine’s bad side, and even grey hat SEO can hurt you in the long run.
A search marketer will have to weigh the risk and reward for what makes sense for the business.
With algorithms getting stricter all the time, it’s a good idea to avoid any black or grey hat technique and stay strictly white hat.
Black Hat SEO Techniques to Avoid
Black Hat SEO techniques usually revolve around taking the easy way out of SEO efforts.
Things that can be considered black hat include:
- Content automation,
- Keyword stuffing,
- Sneaky redirects,
- Article spinning,
- Link farms,
Negative SEO, also known as reporting a competitor, can be considered black hat SEO techniques too. Keywords are a huge part of SEO, but they can also be part of a black hat strategy if not used correctly.
Unrelated keywords should not be added. The content on the page should only be focused on a specific topic, so users find what they want on the page.
In addition to not adding irrelevant keywords, adding too many keywords can indicate a black hat strategy. Sentences should make sense and keywords should not just be put on the page for no reason.
Spam is related to a lot of other bad SEO practises. Using software that generates keyword phrases and text will not be good for your site.
Spend time on blog posts so that they sound real and aren’t stuffed with keywords. The same spam goes for auto-generated comments on blogs, or other forums that help increase the number of inbound links.
These spam practises definitely qualify as black hat. Using software to ping servers of new content, to give the illusion that content is new, is not good. You should instead set up blogging software to ping centralised servers once a new blog post is actually published.
Link generation is an important part of SEO, but it needs to be organic and you need to be careful doing it.
Using link farms became an easy way to get a high number of backlinks for websites and worked for quite some time, but it has since become a black hat practise.
Doorway pages refer to when there are fake pages that are overloaded with keywords that are easier to find with search engines.
However, when a user clicks on the page, it automatically will redirect them to a separate page. Some marketers think they can get away with these black hat techniques by hiding them.
For example, they will hide keywords in white text on a white page or set the font size to zero so the user can’t easily see them. However, this text is still visible to the search engine in the source code and search engines have caught on to this type of behaviour.
Black vs White Hat SEO
When you think about the different tactics used, it’s sometimes very easy to compare black vs white hat SEO. The times when it’s not easy to compare the two is when it’s referred to as grey hat SEO.
Black hat SEO tactics are more related to the search engine and doing whatever it takes to get higher rankings in the search results, even if that means breaking the rules set out by the engine itself.
White hat SEO is SEO designed for the human audience.
It’s about putting out content that is relevant to the website user in order to gain the trust of the user and help build a following that is rewarded by search engines.
White hat SEO is about creating quality content that includes keywords naturally and is valuable to the user. White hat SEO tactics take a lot more time that black hat techniques, but are worth it in the long run.
It may seem that keywords are less important with white hat SEO techniques, but that’s not true.
Keywords have evolved over time to be less about a single word and more about a phrase, or what is known as a long tail keyword. A long tail keyword gives more specifics to your product or service, and is therefore more effective.
This makes keyword research even more important so you find the right specific keywords that will drive traffic to your website. In addition to paying attention to the content on your website, the meta descriptions are an important white hat SEO technique.
These are the first couple of sentences that appear in the search engine and should be written for the people, not the search engine. If they include keywords, they should only include relevant keywords and only describe the content that can be found on that page.
Backlinking is still relevant, even though link-farming practises have been banned.
It’s not so much about the quantity of links, as it is about the quality of links. Google sees links as a vote of confidence for your website. If other sites are linking to your website, that must mean you have good content that people find relevant and the reward is a higher ranking.
There can still be bad links, so if there are sites linking to you, make sure they are relevant sites and do backlink audits to find any links that may have to be removed.
Your website should have internal links, as long as they aren’t overused. Too many overused internal links can go into the black hat territory, but a good number is two to three links to deep seeded pages on your website.
When thinking about white hat vs black hat SEO, have the website user in mind, instead of the search engine.
The user experience on your website is an important aspect of SEO and, if you are paying attention to the user, you will be focusing more on white hat techniques instead of black hat techniques.
Is Black Hat SEO Illegal?
Black hat SEO won’t cause you to go to jail and is not considered a crime, but by participating in black hat SEO techniques your online business can suffer some serious consequences.
One of the severe consequences of black hat SEO is getting your website banned from the search engine. If your website is banned by Google, you will likely not be able to use that domain again and instead have to switch to a new domain.
Many business names are tied with the domain name, so you will likely have to change your brand name as well.
If you have to change your brand name, then you will lose all your marketing efforts that you have done in order to help increase brand awareness. You will likely have wasted a lot of time and money in the process that could have been avoided with the right SEO techniques in the beginning.
Reporting Black Hat SEO
It’s possible to report SEO that is black hat, but you must be careful doing so.
If your website has been compromised with a malicious hack or with negative SEO, you can file a WebSpam report in Google Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools).
However, this tool is not just to be used to help your position. Doing this in order to help your SEO position would actually be considered black hat. However, you can use this tool to report real black hat SEO or if your website is targeted.
If your website has been targeted through malware, you can request a malware review after you remove all the malicious code.
If your website has been the target of negative SEO and part of someone else’s bad hat techniques, you can use the disavow links tool in Google Search Console and try to remove the spammy links.