When it comes to practicing SEO, to boost your website traffic, it can be tempting to implement any and every tactic you find. This is even more true for the tactics that are especially easy to do. However, with so many SEO “quick fixes” it can be easy to use a tactic that is outdated and even harmful to your SEO success. In reality, there are many valid reasons not to engage in poor, or “black hat” SEO tactics. If something appears too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is. For this reason, we have put together this compilation of popular SEO practices you should avoid using.
What are Black Hat SEO Tactics?
Before we dive into the specific practices to avoid, it’s important to understand the difference between white hat and black hat SEO. White hat practices, sometimes referred to as ethical SEO, refer to optimization strategies that focus on attracting audiences organically. They also prioritize following the rules and regulations set forth by search engines. Black hat practices, on the other hand, are the opposite. They refer to strategies that unethically manipulate the search engine algorithms and violate search engine policies. This type of practice is often done to quickly generate a greater amount of traffic to a site. So, why is black hat SEO bad? There are multiple answers to that question, depending on how deep you’d like to go into moral obligation. For our purposes, let’s focus on the detrimental effects these practices can have on your business.
Black Hat SEO Tactics to Avoid
Search engines are constantly monitoring content to detect the use of black hat SEO practices. If you’re caught engaging in them, there is a strong possibility your site will see a drastic drop in rankings or will be completely blacklisted from the search engines. It is very difficult to get back on search engines once you have been blacklisted. Improving your rankings can also be very difficult to bounce back from. In other words, the short term gain is definitely not worth the long term effects. So, what practices do you need to avoid?
The use of keywords is an important component in creating an effective SEO strategy. When done well, it will help your business expand its reach. In fact, using keywords in a natural and strategic way throughout your copy is one of the top pointers any SEO expert will give you. That being said, saturating your content needlessly with the same keywords over and over again does not work well. This was a practice that worked wonders before the algorithm update called Google Panda, in 2011. Since that time, keyword stuffing has simply become a great way of letting search engines know that you may be using black hat SEO tactics.
Another questionable SEO tactic involves incorporating hidden text in your website pages and blog posts. The tactic will make certain keywords and irrelevant content appear to search engines, but cannot be seen by the website’s visitors. This is done in multiple ways. A site developer may, for example, type in words and then change the font size to zero, or they could make the text and background appear in the same color, so the words are invisible to the viewer. This can also be done by putting hyperlinks in individual characters, such as hyperlinking periods or commas. Using hidden text can be seen by search engines, and is seen as a negative tactic. So, if a search engine such as Google or Bing sees hidden text on your website, the site will likely decrease in ranking.
Similar to hidden text, cloaking happens when a website or page has multiple two different versions. One version is designed to rank very well in Google. However, what humans see is an alternate versions, different from what Google is seeing. The method is meant to deceive the search engine into believing a site holds relevant content that it does not actually contain. As you can guess, this is seen as negative if a search engine catches you practicing cloaking. With that being said, it should never be done.
Using Unrelated Keywords
It’s easy these days to discover the top trending keywords by simply posting the question into any search engine. As an example, we want to rank well in Google searches being done in Pensacola, Florida. Now, Pensacola has absolutely nothing to do with this topic. The main keyword we’re targeting in this blog post is “SEO tactics.” But, we could add “Pensacola” at the beginning of the keywords, even on this blog post. Just imagine if you saw “Pensacola SEO Tactics” in the title, headers, and copy. You would probably think it’s a bit odd, and you would be right.
If we wanted to rank well for SEO in Pensacola, we would not stuff “Pensacola” into a random blog post. Rather, we would publish a page specifically dedicated to those keywords. And that’s exactly what we did. If you’re curious, you can check our SEO Company in Pensacola, Florida page here: https://jjlyonsmarketing.com/seo-company-in-pensacola-florida/
Using unrelated keywords on your site is certainly a common black hat SEO practice that might appear to fool the algorithms, if only for a short while. But this is not a good tactic to include in your overall SEO strategy.
Getting other websites to link to your website is a great way to boost your exposure. However, there’s a right way to do this and a wrong way to do it. When another site links to you, they are essentially giving you an endorsement. This is very helpful when that website is a powerful and reputable website. Then again, if you have a host of websites linking to you, and they all have a bad reputation with Google, this can hurt your own reputation. In doing such, your own rankings can suffer. This idea is very similar to when people give their recommendations. You would likely invest in something you heard is high-quality if someone you trust recommended it. However, if someone you don’t trust recommends something, you will likely steer clear of it. The same idea goes for backlinks.
“Purchasing” backlinks is a shortcut to getting them, but they are often low quality and not beneficial. Getting quality backlinks isn’t nearly as easy as purchasing backlinks, but the best option isn’t always easy. If you want to learn how to get good backlinks, check out our blog post titled Everything You Should Know About Backlinks.
Similar to backlinks, including links to content that is completely unrelated to your site topic can get you in trouble with the search engines. The links you use on your website should make sense to the human eye. Search engine algorithms have gotten so advanced that they act almost exactly like humans. With that being said, if a link doesn’t make sense to a human, it likely won’t make sense to a search engine.
Article spinning is basically glorified plagiarism. The act involves copying content from somebody else’s high-ranking page, making a few edits, and passing it off as your own. Many people add further insult here by deferring this task to a bot, which typically results in content that makes very little sense.
Spamming on Social Media
The practice of mass-posting links on social media is another common black hat SEO tactic. Spamming can also show up by way of adding unrelated comments to other people’s social media or blog posts that contain links back to their content. If you own a blog, you may have seen countless comments on your posts that don’t make any sense. This is an example of spamming, in an attempt to boost SEO for another website.
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Designed to trick search engines into sending traffic to your site, a gateway page is filled with keywords but offers very little actual usable and relative information to the reader. Just like with other black hat SEO tactics, if a search engine catches you with a gateway page, you will be penalized.
Redundancy Throughout Your Site
Creating the same keyword focus for each page on your site is another practice that is relatively misleading. While there is some benefit to consistency, redundancy can ultimately have the opposite effect and cause search engines to lose sight of your intended message. Similarly, using the same text on multiple pages can lower your Google rankings.
Bad Content to Link Ratio
Although not necessarily a black hat SEO practice, paying attention to your content to link ratio is also important if you want to rank. If the pages on your site are chalk-filled with content but offer no internal and/or external links, your Google ranking can suffer. If you have a ton of links and little to no content, your Google ranking will also suffer. The key to getting a great ranking is to find the perfect balance! This is sometimes seen when a company has a “Partners” page, or something of that nature. They will list a lot of other companies and hyperlink each company name to the company website. This can look suspicious to search engines. Adding a bio, or paragraph of some type to go with each company, will make this page far less questionable to search engines.
Ensure You Only Practice White Hat Tactics
The only way to ensure you are solely practicing white hat tactics is to be diligent. Beware of companies who seem to advocate for these practices or who try to convince you that there’s nothing wrong with them or that “everybody else” is using them, too. Ask a ton of questions to make sure you really know who you’re working with. Lastly, trust your gut. If something feels off or seems outside of your moral compass, know that it probably is! Gaining traction and attracting traffic organically will always pay off in the end.
If you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact our team. We keep up-to-date as much as possible with search engine tactics, and can help you with your SEO practices. You can connect with us via the contact form below.