It is hard to know which search engine optimization (SEO) techniques you want to deploy and which to avoid when optimizing your website. The suitable methods are represented by the term “white hat,” and these are tactics in line with the terms and conditions provided by Google.
The more your webpage matches the user’s search terms, the higher you rank on the search results. The goal is to get your website to the front page or the #1 spot. White hat is overwhelmingly the recommended solution in building your site authority with long-term, sustainable strategies.
On the other hand, “black hat” represents the dark side of producing SEO strategies. These tactics violate search engine guidelines and are geared to boost the search engine results page (SERP) instead of the user experience.
Even though it is advisable to steer clear of black hat strategies, it is crucial to recognize if your website is using these techniques, perhaps by short-term optimization professionals. These tactics become obsolete with new technology and updated algorithms. Since these strategies are strictly against Google’s best practices, you could be penalized and banned from Google search results.
1. Keyword Stuffing
Circa 2008, websites that ranked high were filled with keywords that did or didn’t match the searcher’s intent. It quickly became a big business to stuff all web pages with as many words as possible that users were entering. Some would even use “invisible keywords,” which hid these keywords using the same text color as the background to make them indistinguishable from the reader.
This attempt to manipulate SERP was short-lived. Eventually, Google improved its algorithms and “crawlers.” Web crawlers, sometimes called spiders or bots, are the programs Google implements that automatically scan sites, identifying words that don’t belong while tracking all links on each page. If links go to unrelated pages, this will penalize the ranking score.
A great way to avoid keyword stuffing is to create quality content related to the topic discussed. Quality content will naturally prevent keyword stuffing and remove the ability to use black hat SEO tactics.
2. Content Cloaking
Cloaking is an optimization technique where the information presented to the user is different from that supplied to crawlers. The goal of the tactic is to boost higher on the search engine results page (SERP). A page using this approach will provide lines of HTML text to search engines but show images or Flash videos to the user.
The most common reference to cloaking is clicking on a site that looks like a funny cartoon image from the search results, but when clicked on, the site produces adult content or a paysite.
Regardless of what code is present, if it is radically different from what the user experiences, Google will flag and remove it entirely from search results.
3. URL Redirects
Not all redirects are bad. There are several reasons a site may want to redirect, especially if the URL changed or the page was updated. The black hat approach is when the new link reveals content unrelated to the original website. Redirecting a user to a page with different content than what was made available to the search engine crawler penalizes the website.
4. Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is a black hat SEO technique where someone scrapes or steals large blocks of text across either the same website or various domains. When this happens across domains, someone is likely attempting to steal blog posts to outrank the original source.
Another purpose for duplicate content is to create the same article with multiple location pages. This tactic is a way to gain website traffic on local searches, which is typically easier than nationwide or global searches. This approach is essentially the same content used, except for the city or other locational metrics.
Search engines prefer unique content, so pages purposely duplicated across different domains are considered one of the worst black hat techniques.
5. Poor Content
Similar to duplicate contact, posting poor content can be a mark against your overall search ranking. When a website provides incorrect information or delivers little to no value to the reader, this is a problem for Google.
Article spinning is a black hat phrase that occurs when hackers use plagiarism software to copy and paste multiple posts, resulting in “unique” content. However, the flow of the article is often very choppy and rarely makes sense.
When you create content for your website, make sure it is your own and make sure it is good while supplying value to the searcher.
6. Paid Links
A backlink originates when one website links to another. You can think of it as a referral process where websites certify each other. By linking to another website, one site owner vouches for the content of another to be worth reviewing.
Backlinks are an excellent way for Google to ensure your site is trustworthy and can be considered the backbone of their search engine ranking system. Unfortunately, these links take years to accumulate, and many SEO strategists devise a way to pay for links to speed up their results.
These paid links, not seen by the users, are often from categories and industries unrelated to the site. This is why paying for links is against Google guidelines, and they have repeatedly stated they will penalize both the buyer and seller for such links.
7. Spam Comments
Our final black hat tactic is spam comments or user-generated spam. You have probably come across these when looking at social media comments and someone randomly posts: “Check out our free weight loss tool here.”
These comments are created either by users or bots to create free backlinks. Usually, they provide little value for overall SEO results, which deems them almost entirely ineffective. However, there is a more ethical way to sell your site.
After researching your market, you can locate the pages that your potential customers frequent. But instead of pasting a random link, provide thoughtful information that answers people’s questions or how the site benefited you personally. There is a chance this technique could still hurt your domain authority; however, the more original and unsolicited, the more likely you are to increase traffic and backlink potential.
The black hat tactics listed are just some of the prevalent strategies developers and hackers have implemented over the years. Regrettably, this dark art is constantly evolving, with more designs and techniques surfacing every year.
Thankfully, Google also identifies and disallows these unethical shortcuts to manipulate their engines. Producing high-quality searches for the users is their primary objective.
Most SEO strategists understand that toying with black hat tactics is always a risk. For many, any success they find is fleeting because, sooner or later, the algorithm catches up and actually penalizes the site.
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