You’ve likely heard of black hat SEO if you’re a business owner. But what exactly is it?
In short, black hat SEO is a series of shady and often illegal practices designed to inflate a website’s search engine rankings artificially. These practices include keyword stuffing, link buying, and hidden text or links.
While it’s true that black hat SEO can sometimes lead to short-term gains in terms of rankings, the long-term consequences can be disastrous. Not only will your website be penalised by Google and other search engines, but you could also be banned from their listings altogether. And trust us, being banned from Google is no picnic. We spend more time than you’d think repairing previous black hat SEO with new clients. Often they never knew that their digital marketing providers have been using these techniques to boost their results artificially and are shocked at the damage it can cause.
The Consequences of Black Hat SEO
So what exactly are the consequences of engaging in black hat SEO? Well, as we mentioned before, the most immediate impact is that your website will be penalised by Google and other search engines. Your website will lose its current ranking and could even be removed entirely from the search engine listings. In addition, future attempts to rank your site will be much more difficult.
But it’s not just your website’s ranking that will suffer; your business as a whole will also take a hit. Once word gets out that you’ve been using black hat SEO tactics, you’re likely to see a drop in web traffic and an increase in customer complaints. Your reputation will also take a hit, which could lead to even more lost business down the road. In short, black hat SEO is not worth the risk. (You can find out more about why it’s a terrible idea here (link))
So what kinds of things count as Black Hat SEO?
- Keyword stuffing – keyword stuffing is pretty much what it sounds like, putting together a jumble of relevant keywords in content that’s more or less unreadable to make a keyword-dense piece. It’s something you would have seen a lot in the early 2000s when it was considered a legitimate SEO tool. Since then, Google has got smarter and devalued keyword stuffing, prioritising readable content of a certain length that is valuable to customers. (If you’ve ever wondered why food bloggers insist on telling you their life story before giving you the recipe, it’s because longer content ranks higher, and by putting the info you want last, you have to scan through the whole thing. Not black hat, just annoying.)
- Link buying or misdirected links – Another is buying links on other websites to their content to boost the appearance of interconnectivity or, conversely, labelling links as one thing. Private blog networks, or link farms, exist solely for link building, but it doesn’t take long for the platforms to catch up with what’s happening. At the same time, they redirect back to your website. It’s like being rickrolled, but possibly more irritating.
- Negative and aggressive SEO – many websites aren’t just SEO’d for the business they’re supposed to serve but also for competitors. Getting your own SEO right is challenging if your biggest rival is also SEO’d for your name and services. They might point to a bunch of misdirecting links to your website, duplicate content from your page or comment spam in the hope that Google will downgrade you for the violation. This one is tough to troubleshoot, although the platforms are better at differentiating these attacks.
- Hidden text – Using invisible text (same colour as the background or sized at 0) to insert keyword-rich text. The intention is to make Google think that the page is more relevant than it is. This one doesn’t take the algorithm long to weed out, but you’d be surprised how common it is.
- Blog comment spamming – You know the ones I mean. People who comment with business info, web links, and offers utterly unsolicited on social or blogs. It isn’t charming, and nobody likes it. It’s not hoping it will inspire someone to click on their incredibly suspect link; it’s so the Google machine sees their info attached to a credible site and ups the SEO accordingly. Have you ever wondered why people waste their time doing it?
- Duplicate content – Content is king in the current iteration of SEO, and why build lots of good, valuable pieces of content when you can create one and republish it a bunch of times? You can publish one piece of content many times, and for a short time, it looks like you’re churning out many valuable things, and your rankings go up until Google catches up and shunts you back to the end of the line. That’s the theory with this one.
This list is not exhaustive. It’s only a handful of the ways people do shady stuff to boost their SEO. The best way to avoid these practices is to ask yourself, does this seem shady? Is it adding actual value to my website? If not, it’s likely not worth it in the long term.
Black hat SEO is a risky proposition with minimal upside and many downsides. We urge you to think twice about the temptation to engage in these shady practices; the consequences aren’t worth it. So what should you do instead? Focus on creating high-quality content that provides value to your readers. That’s the best way to build long-term success for your business—and it’s 100% white hat!
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