SEO | January 30, 2015
The Implications of Black Hat SEO on Your Online Presence
If you have your very own online business then you will be familiar with the comments and emails from companies promising that they can get your site enormous amounts of traffic and to the top of Google in only a few weeks. These companies are probably practicing black hat SEO techniques.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Think back to old Western movies, and you may remember that the good guys wore white Stetsons whereas the baddies wore black ones. This is a simple way of differentiating good from bad, and has been adopted in the world of SEO – white hat = ethical SEO and black hat = unethical SEO.
Black Hat SEO is a set of unethical or manipulative practices used to improve a website’s ranking on search engines like Google. These techniques are in violation of search engine guidelines and can result in penalties or even the complete removal of a website from search engine indexes.
In contrast, White Hat SEO refers to ethical and sustainable techniques for optimising a website’s ranking, such as creating high-quality content, building relevant and natural links, and using relevant keywords in a way that adds value to users. The goal of White Hat SEO is to provide a positive user experience and earn long-term ranking benefits through sustainable and ethical practices. Black hat SEO is more concerned with the short term.
Typical Black Hat SEO Techniques
Keyword Stuffing – Keyword stuffing is a black hat SEO technique that involves the excessive and repetitive use of keywords on a web page, with the intention of manipulating search engine rankings. This was a common practice in the early days of search engine optimisation, when search algorithms were less sophisticated and could be easily fooled by an abundance of keywords.
In keyword stuffing, the same keyword or phrase is repeated multiple times on a page, regardless of the relevance or context of the content. This creates a poor user experience, as the content becomes difficult to read and provides little value to the reader. Additionally, search engines have become much better at detecting keyword stuffing and penalising websites that use this technique.
Search engines like Google now prioritise high-quality, relevant, and user-friendly content, and keyword stuffing is considered a violation of their guidelines. Websites that engage in keyword stuffing can expect to be penalised, which can result in a significant decrease in search engine visibility and traffic.
White Hat SEO, on the other hand, focuses on using keywords in a natural and relevant manner, with the goal of providing value to users and earning high-quality backlinks. This approach leads to long-term success in search engine rankings and a positive user experience.
Hidden or Invisible Content – Hidden content refers to any text, links, or images that are invisible to users but can still be seen and indexed by search engines. This is a form of black hat SEO, as it aims to manipulate search engine rankings by including content that is not meant to be seen by users.
Hidden content can take various forms, such as invisible text or links that are the same color as the background, small text that is difficult for users to read, or content placed off-screen using CSS. Some websites may also use meta tags to hide content from users but still allow it to be indexed by search engines.
The use of hidden content is a violation of search engine guidelines, and search engines like Google have algorithms in place to detect and penalise such practices. Websites that engage in hidden content can expect to receive a significant decrease in search engine visibility and traffic.
Link Farming – Link farming is a black hat SEO technique that involves creating a large number of low-quality, irrelevant, or spammy links in order to manipulate search engine rankings. This can be done through automated link building tools or by creating artificial link networks, where multiple websites link to each other in an attempt to boost their rankings. Link farming is based on the idea of exchanging links with other sites in order to boost the number of inbounding links and improve your SERP.
These are usually forums or directories, with this aim as the sole purpose. As a result search engines think your site is more popular than it actually is.
Doorway Pages – Doorway pages are a type of black hat SEO technique in which multiple pages are created for the sole purpose of manipulating search engine rankings. Also known as ‘bridge’, ‘entry’, ‘gateway’, ‘jump’ and ‘portal’ pages, are spammed with certain words or phrases in order to rank with search engines These pages are typically low-quality, thinly-veiled attempts to rank for specific keywords, and they are often created to redirect users to another page, or to capture search traffic and then redirect it to another website.
Why Should Black Hat Techniques be Avoided?
Black hat SEO isn’t a scam, it is however unethical, and in some instances illegal. As a result, if Google detects such techniques have been used on your site there can be some serious repercussions.
Once upon a time the more backlinks you had the better, but as more and more quickly figured out how to abuse the algorithm, Google altered the way they qualified pages to rank and many sites were punished. Sites that use black hat techniques continue to be smacked by Google.
Firstly, a site will lose its top spot and get moved to the bottom of the last results page. There is then a penalty of a fine, and then the website may be suspended or even permanently banned. And once a site is banned it can never be brought back to life.
So the risks are high. Not only will a site using these techniques look suspicious and drive away customers, but it can effectively shut down your business. Would you take the risk?
So Why do People Use Them?
A lot of small business owners fall for the trap of a black hat agency as it is usually cheaper than white hat. White hat techniques focus on analytics, data and website content, it therefore takes more time and more money.
The decision of whether it is worth the risk comes down to you. Black hat techniques can bring you some short term success, but this increase in traffic is short-lived. Google is constantly developing ways to tackle these black hat techniques so if you are looking to have longevity in your online business, black hat may not be the tactic for you.
Although black hat SEO is effectively seen as the bad guy in the world of digital marketing, some good does come of its actions. It keeps the search engines on their toes, requiring them to constantly develop and adapt their technology to improve their service. And with these changes, the good guys (white hat SEOs), reap the benefits.
Wondering if your agency is using black hat SEO techniques? Checkout our blog on the subject, 5 ways to tell if your agency is using black hat SEO methods.