Have you ever visited a website that felt slightly “off?”Has any particular site made your overall browsing experience extremely frustrating? Perhaps you couldn’t put your finger on why or what but knew something wasn’t right. It’s possible that the website you’re browsing is using black hat SEO tactics. But if these websites are so frustrating for users to browse, what is the intent of black hat SEO tactics?
Well, businesses sometimes use black hat SEO because they can help improve SEO results. (More on that later!)
If you have a website of your own, you need to know what black hat SEO tactics are to avoid them effectively. After all, It’s entirely possible you don’t even know you are partaking in some of these generally frowned-upon practices. And while some tactics may seem innocent, black hat SEO has consequences–whether you mean to use it or not.
So, what consequences can you face?
If caught using black hat SEO techniques, your website can be penalized or banned altogether. Essentially, Google and other search engines work hard to abolish deceitful websites seeking only profit for themselves.
If used correctly, most SEO tactics are encouraged. Website owners who work hard to ensure their SEO tactics improve user experience use “white hat” SEO practices. But how will you know if you are in the black or white hat SEO category?
Fear not, my friend! We’ll get to the bottom of it. But first, let’s get back to the main question.
What is the intent of black hat SEO tactics?
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is the Intent of Black Hat SEO Tactics?
Black hat SEO is a dishonest and deceitful technique implemented by website owners to improve SEO results. These self-serving tactics don’t aim to provide a positive user experience or satisfy the user’s search query.
If you find yourself using techniques solely to improve SEO without considering the user’s best interest, you are probably employing a black hat tactic. There are tons of black hat SEO techniques; unfortunately, many more will likely be born as time passes.
Let’s look at seven of the most common black hat SEO tactics and how to avoid them.
Fend Off These 7 Black Hat SEO Techniques
To avoid using black hat SEO, you’ll need to educate yourself on the topic. Here are the seven most common black hat SEO techniques that deceptive website owners use.
1. Keyword Stuffing
“Are you looking for advice for business owners? Luckily for you, advice for business owners can be found on my blogs. You don’t need to look further for good advice for business owners…”
You get the point.
This is called keyword stuffing. As you can see, it’s rather cumbersome to read. It doesn’t build trust or make people want to continue reading.
Some of the most overused keywords are the names of states or cities where a business operates. While this is important to include on your website, writing it repeatedly is not a good practice.
When Google first hit the scene, people boosted SEO by using keywords as often as possible. But, as things have progressed, Google can penalize you for keyword stuffing by lowering your site rankings or removing it altogether. So, add relevant keywords carefully. Make sure you do so in a natural way that flows and makes sense to readers.
2. Hidden Text
Hidden text simply refers to keywords that are hidden from website viewers. There are many ways to do this. A few of the most common ways to hide keywords include:
- Setting the font to size zero
- Putting words behind pictures
- Writing words in the same color as the background
- Hiding links (often, one letter or symbol is linked in a paragraph).
Hiding text in these ways does not have the user’s best interest at heart. These methods are used only to increase rankings and are deceptive.
Keep in mind that there are times when it’s OK to hide text. If you hide text in a way that makes your site more user-friendly (for example, a dropdown menu).
3. Doorway Pages
Doorway pages were created for one purpose: to rank well for specific keyword results in SERPs. Keeping the reason these web pages exist in mind, it’s no surprise that they offer little to no value for readers.
Doorway pages often result in a user ending up on the same or similar page over and over, even if they are not interested. This is a recipe for frustration on the searcher’s part.
To avoid this practice, ask yourself a few questions:
- What is the purpose of this web page?
- What questions do I want to be answered on this page?
- Does this page add value to the user?
If you find that the purpose of one of your web pages is similar to another page on the same site, you are better off doing away with that page.
4. Paid Backlinks
Simply put, anytime an external website links back to a page on your website, it’s called a backlink. Backlinks are extremely important to SEO because they show that others find a website’s content valuable enough to recommend on their own site. Backlinks function as a sort of “word of mouth” online.
They are perfectly acceptable unless they’re paid backlinks. It is considered a paid backlink if you accept money in exchange for placing someone else’s link on your site (or vice versa). If caught using paid backlinks, both parties will be penalized.
Google states that offering money may motivate people to place backlinks on their websites that they don’t truly endorse.
In an eye-opening video from Google, the head of search spam, Matt Cutts, breaks down what constitutes a paid backlink.
While it is against Google’s rules to have paid backlinks, you can make trades. For example, a food blogger might offer to make someone a delicious lunch in exchange for putting a backlink on their site.
Cloaking is when different content is reported to the search engines than what the user will see.
Let’s look at Star Wars for reference. When you first traveled back a long time ago to a galaxy far, far away, you were likely unaware that Darth Vader is actually Anakin Skywalker. The infamous Sith Lord is cloaked behind a black wardrobe and his signature mask. But as the saga unfolds, you ultimately learn the truth.
The concept is the same regarding cloaking content online. The user thinks they are getting one thing and end up with something entirely different or unexpected.
When this tactic is used, the search engines and users are tricked about what the content of a page will be. It isn’t hard to understand why this is a practice to steer clear of.
Let’s look at a real-life example. If a parent finds a page for their child about learning songs and activities and clicks the link only to find porn, this obviously creates problems for the user.
There is no such thing as white hat cloaking. Cloaking is NEVER OK, and there will be penalties if caught. So don’t do it. Ever.
And may the (White Hat SEO) Force be with you.
6. Sneaky Redirects
Like cloaking, sneaky redirects take internet users from the intended website to a scam website. This can be done by purchasing domain names that are just popular websites misspelled.
For example, someone could purchase the domain name Washingtontims.com. Rather than reaching the destination of Washingtontimes.com, anyone who typed Washingtontimes.com incorrectly would be redirected to an unwanted website.
While this may get people onto sites they wouldn’t have otherwise visited, it is deceitful and creates a negative experience for searchers.
Of course, it isn’t always bad to redirect users to another website than what they typed in. For example, it helps a user out if they are to type in an old website domain and are then redirected to the updated site. If you find the need to redirect users, ask yourself why. If it is solely to boost SEO, then it is best to avoid this black hat SEO technique.
7. Cultivating Disingenuous Structured Data
Structured data is a way to set your content apart from similar websites. It can be added to almost any web page. One of the most popular ways to add structured data is through reviews. This is an encouraging practice if done in truth. It becomes a black hat SEO tactic when it becomes disingenuous.
For example, posting five-star reviews from a fake review website to come out on top on SERPs is crossing the line between a white hat and a black hat SEO tactic. It’s good to make your business stand out using structured data, but only if everything you write remains factual and truthful.
3 Reasons To Deter From Using Black Hat SEO Tactics
Still not convinced that black hat SEO is bad? Here are three critical reasons you should avoid implementing black hat techniques in your SEO strategy.
- Black Hat SEO Creates a Poor User Experience: Black hat SEO tactics don’t foster a positive experience or build trust and lasting relationships with readers. Like in any relationship, once users notice the use of black hat techniques, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to rebuild trust.
- Black Hat SEO Doesn’t Foster Long-Term Results: Even if users don’t know what black hat SEO tactics are, they often feel shady. Some users may distrust sites that use these practices (even subconsciously) and avoid visiting them ever again. This will, in turn, negatively affect SEO.
- Black Hat SEO Negatively Impacts Your SERPs Ranking: Anyone who uses black hat SEO tactics will almost definitely get caught in the act. Google is constantly on the watch for black hat SEO tactics, and users are told to report any they encounter. When Google does catch these tactics being used, those pages are moved closer to the bottom of SERPs (or removed altogether).
Final Judgment? Black Hat SEO Tactics Are Bad
So, back to that same question. What is the intent of black hat SEO tactics? Well, these practices can boost SEO. After all, that is why people are sometimes motivated to use them.
But while they can improve SEO rankings temporarily, there are many more reasons to avoid black hat SEO. Ultimately, black hat SEO techniques are deceitful and create a poor user experience.
Of course, you should keep SEO in mind when creating content. If you develop your content in a way that fosters a positive user experience, your SEO aspirations and business goals will likely take care of itself. And just like that, everyone is happy!
Did you find this article helpful? What other black hat SEO tactics have you encountered? Drop a comment below and tell us about your challenges and successes in steering clear of black hat SEO tactics.
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