Through the years, Google updates its algorithm and continues to deliver the most valuable results. That’s why it has remained the most iconic search engine.
Google made Webmaster Guidelines available for web owners, web developers, and SEO professionals. It is their responsibility to know the rules to strive through the tight competition in the digital marketing industry.
However, not all have the patience. Everyone wants to win without respecting and following the rules.
That’s when these people started using black hat SEO.
You might wonder, why black hat? Black hat SEO was termed after classic cowboy movies where the bad guys wear a black hat.
People who practice black hat SEO have extensive knowledge about search engine optimisation. But, unfortunately, they take advantage of their knowledge and create shortcuts that are not supported by Google’s best practices.
Black hat SEO is the complete opposite of white hat SEO. White hat SEO practitioners follow the Webmaster Guidelines and follow the best practices to win in the SERPs.
Google is good at identifying and penalising websites that use black hat techniques. Whether you consciously used one of the techniques or not, it’s best to do a website audit. You have to identify whether your website is at harm.
Some of these black hat techniques are commonly used without their intention of doing so. Thus, it is best to familiarise yourself.
Black Hat Techniques: Link Building
1. Link Buying
High-quality and relevant links drive traffic to your website. It persuades the search engine algorithm that you are a trustworthy website.
Working upon backlinks optimises your website. Buying a link may help increase your website rank and drive up more traffic to your website. However, it is against the webmaster guidelines of Google.
Google easily identifies unnatural patterns.
2. Free Products in Exchange for Links
Exchanging or receiving free products or discounts for links is malicious for Google. Although you can still use this technique, ensure that you are not making it look like a link scheme.
If you are exchanging links, make it a no-follow link. A no-follow link ensures that the search engine algorithm is not influenced.
3. Footer Links
Footers appear on every page of your website. That’s why it becomes a prime place for links. If you have been adding commercialised anchor text in footer links unnaturally to manipulate the results, Google will identify and penalise you.
4. Hidden Links
Some hide links and words by making the text the same colour as the background. Black hat practitioners do the following when hiding links:
- Hiding text behind images.
- Keeping text off-screen using CSS.
- Using font size 0 for texts.
Although web visitors cannot notice it, Google can and penalise your website for it. Moreover, adding irrelevant links makes Google not give you direct organic traffic as using this technique reduces website relevance.
5. Comment Spam
Some web owners share the links of their website in other website’s comment sections. It is a good SEO technique if you are doing it on websites relevant to your website. However, if you spam comments on other websites, it becomes a black hat technique.
Doing so will make your website penalised for spam.
6. Overused Anchor Text
Anchor texts match the title page of the link you want to share. It implies the relevancy and consistency of the anchor text and the page. However, if you overuse the anchor text, Google sees it as spam.
This rule is applicable for both external and internal links.
Thus, if you use anchor texts to optimise your website, make sure the anchor text is brief and relevant to the linked page and your page. Moreover, do not stuff keywords. Make it unique and sound natural in the content.
7. Malicious Backlinks
You have to be aware that some black hat SEO practitioners use Google’s penalty system to advance their agenda. If you are using this technique, it might be an advantage for a short while. You associate your links to different websites to increase your page rank.
However, if you are a victim of malicious backlinks, it might drag your page down. Go through your backlinks. Fortunately, Google made a form that helps victims of malicious backlinks disavow the links. Thus, you can unlink your website from malicious domains.
8. Private Blog Networks
A private blog network is a network of websites that are linked to each other. PBN technique was quite prevalent and thriving in the early 2000s. Most websites that use this technique are fan pages. The link scheme of webrings in PBN manipulates the algorithm. Google is not a fan of manipulating algorithms. Thus, if it catches your website involved in malicious activities, a penalty awaits.
Black Hat Techniques: Content
9. Keyword Stuffing
If search engine optimisation is all about keywords, using a block of keywords is all it takes to have a high search ranking. But, that would be no fun!
Google only fairs high-quality results. It looks for content that has semantically linked keywords. Use your primary keywords naturally throughout to provide high-quality content. Moreover, the search engine algorithm favours websites with high-quality and keyword-enriched content.
10. Keyword Stuffing in Alt Tags
Adding keywords in alt tags is helpful in search engine optimisation. But thinking of keyword stuffing in alt tags is not the best thing to do. Aside from that, misusing alt tags disfavors you and your web visitors.
Alt tags are supposed to:
- Help visually-impaired users. Screen readers will read aloud the alt-tags.
- Be displayed when the image file is not loaded.
- Help search engines understand images.
Thus, keyword stuffing in alt tags can hurt your website ranking.
11. Hidden Content
The same with hidden links, hidden content is possible. Hidden content is masked by using texts with the same colour as the background.
It is a technique that uses several keyword phrases, long-tail keywords, and semantically linked words on a page. Although you can trick the reader by hiding these keywords and phrases, the Google algorithm can tell the difference. It can determine the keywords within the paragraphs and those that are hidden in the background.
There are several methods of how hidden content ends up on your website. Some websites experience having hidden content without the web owner knowing.
Not all hidden content is forbidden. There’s an exception for this. For example, some content is visible to mobile visitors, but they are hidden to desktop visitors.
The rule of thumb is as long as the content is visible to both the user and search engine, it is okay.
12. Article Spinning
Article spinning has the same concept as plagiarised or duplicated content. Instead of web owners hiring content writers, they use article spinning. It uses a tool that rewrites the content by substituting synonyms, changing the sentence structure, but containing the same information as the source.
Even though readers can comprehend the article, plagiarised content degrades Internet quality. Thus, Google penalises spun articles.
13. Duplicating and Plagiarisng Content
This technique is also known as content scraping. Google aims to share high-quality domains, and duplicate content affects the quality. Moreover, plagiarised content violates copyright and trademark laws. Thus, plagiarism or content duplication is grounds for a penalty.
14. Rich Snippet Spam
Rich snippets contain the crucial information of your webpage that helps drive more traffic. However, the schema that is used to generate snippets can easily be manipulated. Even Google created a support page for it.
15. Cloaking and Doorway Pages
Although cloaking and doorway pages is an old black hat trick, some web owners still use this. Cloaking uses a flash or animated page to conceal information. Your web visitors will not notice it, but Google can see it in the HTML. If Google catches the cloaking technique, your website will receive a penalty.
Meanwhile, doorway pages are created for particular keywords. However, whenever users visit this page, they are redirected to other pages.
16. Hacked Website
Technically, an unsecured website can’t give you a Panda or Penguin penalty from Google. Some sites can get away with the penalties, but you might lose valuable rankings.
Once Google finds out about malicious code on your website, your website is blocked from their search engine. Still, the result is the same with having a Panda or Panda penalty. Your website rankings will drop because of the organic search.
You cannot lose your website, right? Use Google Analytics to determine whether your site is hacked.
Although black hat techniques greatly help in website optimisation, its rewards are short-lived. Moreover, these practices are unethical and have a negative impact on the Internet.
That’s why it’s best to avoid using these techniques and stick to the best SEO practices. But, you cannot do the right things without knowing the wrong ones. Thus, every white hat SEO practitioner knows about black SEO techniques.
If you know, you can steer away from the techniques that might harm your website. Nonetheless, you do not have to worry if Google penalises you. There are several ways to recover from Google penalties.