Most of SEOs that are worth their salt are well aware of how negatively black hat SEO tactics can reflect on the work they are doing. Those tactics might have worked well in the past but if you’re using them today then you’re risking quite a lot.
That said, I feel it’s only fair to mention that, while we all know that black hat SEO is a big no no, only a few of us can honestly say we’ve never dabbled in it. It’s human nature to search for shortcuts. White hat SEO might be the way to go but it takes time and expertise. Most of us were pretty strapped for one of those things at one point or another. So we took a chance. Most of the time it didn’t work – fooling Google is a major task in and of itself. However, sometimes it did work – we would see results faster than usual with only minimum effort put in.
And then it would happen.
We would get slapped by a Google penalty and all our hard (or not-so-hard) work would go down the drain. You see, Google doesn’t like to get duped and the company has developed tools that they use to crack down on SEOs who avoid doing things the right way.
These are Google penalties and you’ve probably heard of them. They are called Penguin and Panda.
- Penguin – Penguin penalty has been with us since 2012 and it deals primarily with links. Although decreasing, the relevancy of links on search ranking is still pretty strong. SEOs used to game the system by getting links from all over the place to boost the authority of their sites. In 2012, this changed and Penguin penalized thousands of sites using this questionable technique and even dropped some of them from the search results entirely.
- Panda – Panda focuses more on content by preventing poor content from ranking very high. Low-quality content was able to rank on page 1 previously thanks to various linking schemes but since Panda came around that is no longer the case.
Getting hit by either of these penalties will result in a major dip in ranking. It used to be that Penguin would only run sporadically every few months – this meant that SEOs could use black hat linking schemes for a short period of time and benefit from them. However, since September 2016 Penguin is running in the background constantly and the penalty will hit you almost instantaneously!
What Black Hat Strategies to Avoid
Basically, there are two major black hat strategies that newbies are tempted to use and they have to do with links and content. Either one of them will trigger Google algorithm and probably get you penalized.
Black Hat SEO Link Schemes
The most obvious way to scam on links is to buy them. Paying for high quality links might seem like a good way to get authority sites to point to you but Google will catch on pretty soon. They have a way of distinguishing between natural and bought links and it’s simply not worth the risk. Do your homework – write relevant content and make sure to promote it. Links will come naturally.
Tit for tat links are also an easy way to get some link juice your way. Basically, it means that you’re swapping links with other sites in the hopes that both of you will see some benefits from it. If you’re cooperating with the said site then this might make sense. However, if you’re swapping links just for the sake of it and your sites have nothing in common rest assured that Google will catch you with your pants down sooner rather than later!
Hidden links were also quite popular back in the day. They didn’t disrupt user experience but you would still benefit from them. However, Google bot is not your average user and can see all the links on your page, regardless of how well you camouflage them.
All these linking tactics are considered black hat. There are others of course – including your link in the footer of another website so it replicates itself over multiple pages; abusing anchor text to rank for specific keywords; spamming comments with your links… Any of these will get you penalized by Penguin faster than you can say ‘Black Hat SEO’!
Black Hat SEO Content Schemes
Creating good, quality content takes a lot of time and effort – and sometimes not even that will be enough for you to rank high! So, some SEOs thought that since nothing is guaranteed anyway, why not simply lift content from other sites and republish it on their own? Beats having to spend hours working on original stuff, right? Wrong! Google is extremely touchy about duplicate content and they consider it to be content theft. If something is already indexed on Google, copy-pasting it to a different site is the best way to ensure that that site gets slapped with a penalty.
In the good ol’ days all you need to do in order for your page to rank was to include the keyword you were targeting as many times as possible. Forget about user experience, content flow, and all those other things – the main thing was to stuff ‘make money online and fast’ dozens of times into your content and bam! – it would rank! Seriously, this worked. Sadly for all of you SEO newbies here, it doesn’t anymore. Keyword stuffing and over-optimizing will not get you the results you want because keywords by themselves are no longer a relevant ranking signal. If anything, over-optimization will seriously hurt your ranking efforts.
An advanced spin on the previous technique included stuffing keywords but making sure that blocks of text were the same color as the background. This meant that readers couldn’t see it and it wouldn’t hurt the user experience but you would still get keyword juice working for you. Hidden content, however, doesn’t sit well with the Google bot. He can see it but your visitors can’t which is a very bad signal and the surest way for you to see a big dip in your rankings.
Dabbling in these dubious content techniques will draw the attention of a big, cuddly Panda – and when Panda sits on you all your search positions will feel the full weight of it and plummet. Trust me, it’s not something you want to risk at all.
If you had any dilemma between white hat and black hat SEO, I hope this article straightens it out for you. Black hat techniques are not worth your time because they the results are short-lived and not very good at all! Google algorithm is evolving day-in-day-out and its only purpose is to provide users with the best possible experience. If you have to use black hat tricks to do that rest assured that Google will sniff you out and squash you.