What is Black Hat SEO?

29 Nov 2019 | Sukhesh Vadavil
Picture of a magnifying glass wearing a black hat.

Black hat SEO. Sounds kinda mysterious. What could it be?

A quick and easy way to rank your website higher on SERPs? Mysterious techniques that are known to only a few people?

SEO practices that go against search engine guidelines and violate their terms of service are commonly called black hat SEO.

Google has a Webmaster Guideline you should follow if you need to get your site indexed and ranked. Black hat SEO techniques go against these guidelines. These are techniques that are forbidden by all search engines. People trying to take advantage of search engine algorithms might try to use these techniques to gain a better rank over the other websites.

Some black hat SEO techniques include keyword stuffing, cloaking, using private link networks, and more.

These techniques affect the user experience of people browsing your website. Search engines consider user experience a huge deal when it comes to ranking websites on their search results pages. And since user experience is important, search engines discourage the use of black hat techniques. Yes, you may rank better on SERPs using black hat SEO techniques. But if you have long term plans for your business, you can kiss them goodbye. Your site will eventually get hit with a serious penalty, which will seriously affect your rankings. It has happened tons of times, and it will happen to you.

This article is a guide on some common black hat SEO techniques you should avoid.  We shall discuss some of the most common black hat SEO techniques down below.

Keyword Stuffing
This is the practice of filling your content with irrelevant keywords to get a better rank on search engine page results. Alternatively, this is also the stuffing of variations of keywords at places where they do not serve any real value or purpose. This obviously tarnishes user experience and hence is forbidden by search engines.

To understand what keyword stuffing really is, let us look at an example.

Consider a company that sells spare parts used in cars. The following content would be a perfect example of keyword stuffing:

“We have the best car spare parts. All kinds of car spare parts. Get in touch with us if you need quality car spare parts in Cochin. We are the number one dealers of car spare parts in Kochi.”

Even while proofreading that, it was annoying to read through. Now imagine a whole website like that. They may be trying to rank better and improve their sales, but there are other ways to do that. There’s an entire article on our website on technical SEO that focuses on white hat SEO techniques.

Cloaking
As the name suggests, there’s hiding involved in this particular technique. This technique involves showing a particular piece of content to users and an entirely different piece of content to search engines. Sites do this to rank for different terms that are not relevant to their content. Some websites do this to cloak the content that they are hosting, from search engine bots. Spam websites use this technique to hide their spam content from the search bots.

Unnecessary Redirects
Essentially this serves the same purpose as cloaking. Search engine bots are redirected to one page and users to another page. Similar to redirects, sometimes a high ranking page will have a lot of backlinks leading to another page, only to help that page boost its rankings in the search results. Using redirects like this can seriously harm your rankings.

Poor Content
Content is king. This seems kinda obvious by now. Content that serves no value to a user is also something seen regularly on sites using black hat SEO techniques (refer to the example I’ve used before). This also includes plagiarised content, blatantly copied from other websites. Ever since the Google Panda update way back in 2011, Google’s search bots have been able to find plagiarised content more effectively. Many websites taking advantage of plagiarised content, lose their rankings thanks to Google Panda. It is a search filter update that was designed to stop web pages with poor quality content from trying to rank better on Google’s SERPs.

Some websites hide text to rank for those keywords. These hidden texts may not be visible to users. Sometimes websites hide text by changing the colour of the text to the same colour as the background. Like we have done here!

This hides the text really well. In fact, drag the cursor and select the above paragraph to see how well this works.

Paid Links
Search engines like Google discourage the act of buying and selling links. Avoid paying other websites to link to your web pages. Once this is detected, both parties, the buyer and seller, will get penalised.

Misusing Structured Data
Structured data changes how your website is seen on search engine results pages. Having structured data helps your website to stand out, and it gives your website more space on the SERP.

People tend to use incorrect and fabricated information on their structured data. You could post fake reviews, give yourself 5-star ratings and a fake testimonial to make yourself look better in the search results page. Users can report websites that are misusing structured data, and this might land you in trouble.

There are many other black hat SEO techniques out there. Some of them are more complex and you might need a technical background to understand them.

Since these techniques aren’t “illegal”, there are websites out there who won’t shy away from using them. If you have come across sites that you think are using black hat SEO techniques, leave a comment below!

To conclude, most search engines consider user experience as one of the biggest criteria to rank a website on their search results page. Make good content, check out our blogs on SEO, and hire a good digital agency like ours to help your website reach the right people!

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