How Can I Avoid Black Hat SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to improve its ranking on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. At its core, SEO can be broken down into five steps: keyword research, content creation, on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. The purpose of employing these tactics is to drive traffic to your website — not many people are going to find your site if it’s on page 36 of Google.
There’s a code of ethics that is widely agreed upon in the world of SEO. The “do’s” are referred to as White Hat SEO or tactics that are in line with Google’s terms and conditions. These techniques improve your rankings without compromising the integrity of your site.
In contrast to White Hat practices, the “don’ts” are commonly known as Black Hat SEO or tactics that are often seen as unethical and will result in penalties from search engines. We highly recommend that you avoid using any and all methods that could be considered Black Hat. The reason being, while they may give you a temporary boost in rankings, they’ll end up hurting your site in the long run.
Though technically a robot, Google has become very good at detecting these Black Hat approaches. Because their goal as a search engine is to give the user the most relevant information possible relating to their search query, they want to weed out any sites they deem to be dubious. If Google thinks you’re trying to trick people, you will be deemed suspicious and it will hurt both your ranking and your credibility, so it’s best to stick with White Hat techniques. Better safe than sorry!
Common Black Hat SEO Strategies and How to Avoid Them
Unfortunately, distinguishing Black Hat and White Hat SEO practices aren’t as black and white as the names suggest, so it’s important to really trust your gut. If something feels sketchy, it probably is. Take a look at these common Black Hat SEO practices that you should avoid at all costs:
1. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing is adding keywords so many times throughout your content that it begins to feel unnatural. For example, if you own a nail salon in Charlotte, writing “Charlotte Nail Salon” all over your website in places it doesn’t necessarily belong would be considered keyword stuffing. This is a bad practice because it tricks search engines into thinking your content is extremely relevant, but users are let down when they get to your site and their questions haven’t been answered.
To refrain from doing this, we recommend reading your posts aloud before you publish them — if you find yourself saying a certain word so many times that it feels forced, go back through and change it.
For tips on how to properly utilize keywords, check out our blog “Keyword Research: Back to Basics”
2. Invisible keywords
Some sites will use invisible keywords to trick Google into thinking their content is relevant. This practice involves making your text color the same as the background color so that you’re able to write without the words actually being seen. This is similar to keyword stuffing in the sense that you’re adding words to the page that don’t naturally belong there. Even though you can’t see it, it’s definitely not a good look, and Google will detect this black hat technique! If your site actually has answers related to the user’s search query, there’s no need to hide any of it.
Spam websites often utilize cloaking to draw users to their site. This involves disguising content by showing the search engines something different than what they’re showing the searchers. People cloak their sites in order to rank for popular keywords that aren’t relevant to their content but still draw lots of traffic because of their high search volumes. Because a search engine’s main goal is to provide users with the most relevant content based on their search queries, they frown upon cloaking. If you feel like you have to hide something, don’t post it at all to avoid black hat SEO.
4. Low-quality content
If you’re going to add anything to your website, make sure it’s yours and it’s good! Google recognizes when you’ve added duplicate content, or content that’s posted elsewhere on the internet, to your site. Not only is this often considered to be plagiarism, but it harms your rankings because search engines give more credit to the original post than to your copied one.
High-quality content is what draws people to your site, and it will make a difference in the end. If you’re posting relevant, informative, or entertaining content regularly, people will want to go to your site for answers to their searches, so make sure you’re providing it.
5. Paying for links
To have other sites link your website increases your own traffic and credibility, so some people pay other sites to do this (paid link building). Others linking to your site should happen naturally — taking a shortcut and paying someone may hurt you in the end. This black hat SEO practice is strictly against Google’s rules as it manipulates the page’s rank and tries to fool the search engine, and they will punish both the buyer and seller if you’re caught.
Our suggestion? The best way to get others to link to your site is to simply produce amazing content that makes people want to reference your work. Don’t cheat your way through!
Having Trouble Driving Traffic to Your Site?
We understand the importance of search engine optimization, which is why we know that people will do whatever they can to rank high on Google. If you’re having difficulty being seen, don’t refer to Black Hat SEO — contact us for help! At Pinckney Marketing, our team of passionate, talented marketers are more than happy to help you achieve SEO success. And, we’ll do it the right way!
For more information on search engine optimization, check out our free, downloadable SEO Guidebook where we teach you how to drive quality traffic to your site and outrank your competitors.