As we near the end of SEO Week, it’s imperative that we take the time to talk about strategies that should be avoided in an SEO campaign. These strategies, called Black Hat SEO, are basically used to cut corners and trick search engines into giving a website a higher ranking than it deserves. Those who use these techniques only see a temporary gain, as search engines are constantly updating software to catch Black Hat techniques, and usually appoint people to manually check to see if websites are using these underhanded tactics. Consequently, if search engines find that you are using these techniques, they will most likely ban you from their search engine results altogether.
The terms Black Hat and White Hat comes from old Wild West movies, in which the heroes would wear white hats and the villains would wear black hats. Marketers and SEO experts, in turn, use these terms to describe tactics that naturally help search engines recognize quality websites vs. tactics that attempt to manipulate and exploit software limitations by search engines to get a ranking that it wouldn’t normally have ranked. The general rule is to avoid, above all, any practice that relies on tricking search engines and distorting search results. You do not want to risk the potential banning and loss of prospective customers for a temporary gain in search results ranking.
As discussed in our earlier blog on link building, a common black hat practice is the use of link farms, which are websites created for the sole purpose of providing links to other sites. Using these sites for SEO purposes are ultimately a waste of time. Due to the low quality and the fact that they are typically computer generated sites, search engines automatically give them a low authority rating, so links from them to your site wouldn’t give you a high ranking based on them. Another technique to avoid is duplicating content. This is similar to link farms and also involves a type of plagiarism. Users employ this technique because original content requires a large amount of time and effort, so they duplicate content they’ve already written or use content from other websites and republish it. Search engines have gotten pretty good at sniffing out duplicated content and will hand out stiff penalties to sites that utilize it. Something else to avoid is a tactic referred to as cloaking. This involves sending different content to search engines that what is provided to visitors on your site. People typically do this because they want search engines to rank them for a certain keyword, but that keyword has little to nothing to do with their business or website. Search engines usually detect this by having users manually go to a website to check the content, and this is one of the main ways to get your site banned from search engine results.
Search engines typically use computer software to analyze content, so a black hat technique that is often used is having hidden text on a web page. This is text that has the same color as the background on a page, so that site visitors can’t see it, but search engine software can. Another black hat SEO technique to avoid is gateway pages. This is when a site has a page that ranks well with search engines, but will reroute a user to another page. This not only is frowned upon by search engines, but will also hinder your credibility with prospective customers, who most likely will not enjoy being redirected to a page that doesn’t have the information they were searching for.
All in all, a great SEO campaign, and a great way to avoid all of these tactics, is creating a site with content that leaves people wanting more from you and your business. If your goal is to rank high in search engine results, then the key is using honest methods to get there. A great rule of thumb is to ask yourself “Is anything I’m doing an attempt to trick search engines or my customers?” If the answer is yes, then immediately stop, and reevaluate your approach.