Black Hat SEO is an unethical practice solely focusing on increasing your Google Index Ranking without having any regard for User Experience.
Advertising and SEO are the two major factors in improving your website traffic. When we talk about SEO for various search engines, we are actually talking about Google SEO. These practices are about following various methods to improve the index ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) (Source: Wordstream). It is important as you do not have to pay a single dime to improve traffic through SEO on your website. Such traffic is called organic traffic. There are many SEO methods you can follow for your website to improve your ranking and visibility. These methods can be classified into White Hat SEO practices and Black Hat SEO practices.
Black Hat practices focus only on improving your index ranking and web traffic. It includes abusing keywords, spamming other websites unethically, creating deceiving information, and much more. Such methods are designed to take advantage of the crawlers‘ algorithm. This algorithm is designed to identify and index websites on the Google search engine. But, you are likely to get banned in no time as Black Hat SEO practices go against the Webmaster’s Guidelines. (Source(s): Google)
To understand whether an SEO practice is a White Hat or Black Hat, you simply need to ask yourself one question. Are you doing it to gain attention from the crawlers or are you actually adding value to your website? If you are doing certain actions just to increase your visibility, it is most likely a Black Hat SEO practice.
Let’s take a look inside the most well-known Black Hat SEO practices you must avoid. Remember: Black hat practices indeed help in generating traffic but once you’re caught, your reputation will suffer severe consequences.
Need to know more about SEO? Check out this article for a detailed take on SEO as well as Google Ads.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO refers to using unethical methods to increase your index ranking and visibility across SERP through any means necessary. These practices have no regard for providing quality content or user experience; it is only done in order to gain visibility. Hackers and/or scammers are likely to follow these practices. As they do not abide by the regulations of a search engine’s terms of service, Google Webmaster has discouraged and banned such methods. Google Webmaster’s Guidelines has explained the SEO malpractices on their website. Make sure you check them out!
Simply put, black hat SEO is deceptive malpractice that focuses on deceiving the search engine algorithm to race ahead in the game. Know the difference!
Major Black Hat SEO practices to familiarise and avoid.
Article Spinning and Duplicate Content
Article spinning or content spinning is the method of copying content from another website, scrambling it using a computer program, and rewriting it using synonyms and/or grammatical tricks. The spinner takes an article and rewrites it using different words or sentence structures, sometimes manually. This is considered bad practice as it adds no real value to the content. Basically, you are saying the same thing in a different way without providing your own stand or views.
Article spinning was a leading (black hat) SEO practice back in the 2010s until Google released their Penguin Update on April 24, 2012 (Source: Wikipedia). Know more about the Penguin update with this Search Engine Journal article.
There is no way one can write 100% original content based on well-known topics. If one must follow the sources to write some new content for their own blog, make sure to be ‘manually’ creative and add your own value to that. Lastly, never forget to mention the sources. That’s just good manners!
According to this Google definition, Cloaking refers to the practice of presenting content or URLs to human users differently than to search engines. When a crawler visits a cloaked website, it sees a completely different set of data that helps in increasing your index ranking (unethically). But when a user visits, they see completely different content, which may be misleading, a scam, or even a phishing page that is designed to steal your sensitive data. As the practice provides misleading results and is harmful to the user experience, it is a violation of Google Webmaster’s Guidelines.
Furthermore, hackers who attack your website may use the cloaking method to make hack detection harder for you. As a site owner, you also should consider checking and maintaining your sites for possible malware and hack attempts.
Using paid links to manipulate your site’s ranking on search engines is deemed unethical by high-quality SEO practices. Google’s Webmaster also takes these malpractices seriously and they will take severe actions against you if found guilty. These links are usually bought from websites having high PageRank scores, which supports improving your own website’s PageRank overall. PageRank (PR) is a Google algorithm that evaluates the number and quality of inbound links on a page to determine the importance of the website.
The reason why this practice is banned is that it has been abused to artificially boost your SERP ranking, which goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The backlinks generated through this method are usually low-quality links that are only created with the purpose of increasing your PageRank. This promotes low-quality content on the search engine that overall decreases the quality of search engine results.
Find more about Paid Links on this Google Webmaster Guideline article.
Doorway pages are designed with the intention of manipulating search engine rankings. They carry no regard to providing quality user experience or content. These pages are loaded with tons of keywords and they are designed to appear frequently with a certain set of keywords. BMW is a famous example of making a doorway page for their website to attract attention and the consequences they faced. (Source: Blogoscoped, 2006).
Users may or may not experience these pages as they will be immediately redirected to other content when clicked on the link. Doorway pages use some form of cloaking mechanism to hide their keywords away from the users. But when a google crawler visits your website, it will record all the keywords for indexing purposes. According to this Google article, it is bad for users as it can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, which ends up taking the user to the same destination. This impacts the user search experience and is hence considered a black hat practice.
Invisible Text refers to the text hidden within various elements of the website that are not visible to the users. But when a google crawler visits your website, it can still read the invisible text and index your website accordingly. This is considered black hat SEO practice as the hidden keywords are redundant and often misleading, showing no relevance to the actual content.
For example, the given example about the BMW above was a cocktail of doorway pages and invisible text, hidden in their plain HTML code. Google does not necessarily classify invisible text overall as a black hat SEO practice. For example, you can add hidden texts for images on your website that a crawler may have difficulty accessing. This way, you can improve accessibility on your website and it actually helps in improving your traffic. Know more about it on Google’s official website.
Spamming comments is still a relevant practice in 2021, though it is an utter waste of time. The goal of spamming comments with the links is to create backlinks for your website (also known as ‘inbound links’). Nowadays, links in the comments are automatically marked as ‘nofollow‘. A nofollow link transfers no SEO value to your website (Source: ContentKingApp). Below is an example of backlink spam malpractice.
As a website owner, you should consider removing spammy comments like the one above immediately. You can also incorporate various plugins to block them as well. Having spam on your website can provide a harmful user experience, and it may also affect your index ranking.
All of us are familiar with those pesky clickbait headlines. Clickbait is a misleading title that attracts and redirects users to content that is often misleading or irrelevant. This malpractice can increase the traffic for a short amount of time. However, in the long run, it is going to diminish your trust and reputation.
Although it would increase the traffic on your website, it also means that the average pages viewed in a session will be on the shorter side. Users never want to see misleading content, especially if it is some spam, explicit, or irrelevant data. In such cases, there is a good chance your website will be flagged by users.
Neil Patel’s blog has a good insight into clickbait.
Redirecting users to a different URL than they initially requested is a practice of redirecting. Redirection is not always harmful as it can serve different purposes such as redirecting your visitors to a new URL of your website. But when a website redirects you to harmful content such as explicit content or phishing pages, then it is a shady redirect.
Crawlers may be unable to identify such websites as they use some form of cloaking to mask the redirection. This is a violation of Google Webmaster’s Guidelines as it completely ruins the user experience. What’s more? It also attempts to deceive crawlers to increase the website visibility across search engines. This may result in the complete removal of your website from Google indexing.
Know more about shady redirects with this Google article.
Not exactly directly related to SEO practices but one should be aware of astroturfing as well. Astroturfing involves mass-promoting a brand positively to mislead and deceive customers into buying services and products. Generally, it includes a group of people creating a massive number of accounts, promoting the brand by posting positive reviews and creating a false environment.
According to this definition by The Guardian, “Astroturfing is the attempt to create an impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where little such support exists. Multiple online identities and fake pressure groups are used to mislead the public into believing that the position of the astroturfer is the commonly held view.” In simple words, astroturfing is fake propaganda based on the philosophy: “repeat a lie multiple times until it becomes the truth.” It is called the illusory truth effect.
Astroturfing can be hard to catch on but once caught, it can embarrass your online business and reputation publicly. This Quora answer explains astroturfing in a really easy way.
Be one of the good guys and always follow the white hat SEO practices that adhere to the Google Webmaster’s Guidelines to maintain your credibility, reputation, and trust factor. At Digital Lime Green, we understand the importance of correct and ethical SEO practices. If you want to grow your reputation and revenue on your website, you must stay away from these blackhat practices. Connect with us to know more about White Hat SEO practices today! Furthermore, we also provide SEO services. Check out our SEO Package for more information.
Google allows reporting Black Hat SEO practices through their portal as well. Familiarise yourself well with these practices and make sure to be a responsible netizen whenever you come across such shady websites. Always remember not to fall for misleading content, such as you have won a million Rand, or someone beautiful wants to talk to you. Stay away from all the websites you find suspicious and always report them.
Stay safe out there!