Black hat SEO is an “illegal” search engine optimisation (SEO) tactic that can have a severe negative impact on your business.
SEO is about optimising a website so that it ranks well in search engines like Google. The right way of doing SEO, also known as “white hat SEO”, is to ensure a website is designed to provide the best user experience possible and to provide high-quality original content that is of value to the target audience.
Google will always reward websites that practice “white hat SEO” and comply with their Webmaster Guidelines by ranking them higher on their search engine results pages (SERPs).
On the other hand, “black hat SEO” is about gaming the system and finding loopholes in Google’s algorithm to exploit, in the hope that Google will be “tricked” into ranking a website higher than it deserves.
In this post, we will explore all the aspects of black hat SEO and what you should avoid.
Black Hat SEO
In essence, black hat SEO techniques are techniques that do not comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
As mentioned earlier, black hat SEO uses sneaky tricks and often violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. White hat SEO, on the other hand, follows the guidelines published by Google.
White hat SEO requires time and dedication for your website to be ranking at the top of the SERPs. Black hat SEO may help your website rank fast on Google, but the results do not last, and typically has dire consequences for your site when Google catches on.
If you want to build your business through organic ranking in Google, adhering to the webmaster guidelines will ensure your business can reap the long-term results of SEO.
Unfortunately, some SEO agencies still employ black hat SEO techniques as it is seen as an “easy way out”. As website owners, we need to be equipped with the knowledge to avoid black hat SEO agencies and black hat SEO practices.
Examples Of Black Hat SEO Techniques
The SEO optimization process is usually divided into two main areas: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.
On-page SEO is about optimizing your website so that Google will see the quality and structured content.
Off-page SEO is about getting quality backlinks from other websites to build a strong profile of links.
We’ll be looking at some of the common on-page and off-page SEO techniques that are black hat techniques.
On-page Black Hat SEO
Here are two common black hat techniques that are used to manipulate content on the website.
This black hat SEO technique focuses on stuffing as many keywords as you can on your content.
Welcome to John’s Pet Store. We provide quality pet food for all pet owners. Our quality pet food are source from factory that produces quality pet food. If you are interested in quality pet food, our quality pet food will be perfect for your pet! Get your quality pet food from John’s Pet Store today!
From the above example, this involves repeating keywords on the headings, titles, and content. The purpose is to trick Google into thinking that the page is related to the keywords they are looking for.
While this black hat SEO can get you ranked fast, Google will penalize your site for keyword stuffing.
Content automation is a commonly used black hat SEO to trick Google into thinking that the website has a lot of unique content.
This technique is achieved by:
- Using software to generate bot-written content. Some software can even rewrite or blatantly copy content from other sites.
- Hiring cheap labour from developing countries to create enough content for the website.
Content automation often produces poor quality content and Google has developed an advanced tool where it can detect such content.
Such a technique cannot fool Google for a long time. They will penalize you fast if they catch you using black hat techniques for your website.
Off-page Black Hat SEO
Here are two common black hat SEO techniques that are used to obtain backlinks to rank higher.
This technique involves buying backlinks rather than earning them. This technique could be achieved by buying links from directory link farms and article directories in the past.
Today, it involves buying the backlinks from the underground online market and even offline discussions with different website owners.
This technique attempts to trick Google into thinking that your website is a high authority site. It is hard to detect the technique of buying backlinks but Google has developed algorithms to detect paid links so this technique is not going to get good results.
Comment spam involves using automated scripts to create accounts and post links in the comment section of many websites.
The purpose is to create as many backlinks as possible from different websites, inflating the number of backlinks quickly.
This technique is still used today, and black hat SEO agencies can be hired to spam your links.
As website owners, we should not use these black hat SEO techniques because Google can not only detect them easily, but your website can also get penalized.
Consequences Of a Site Being Penalized By Google
We know that Google has advanced technology to identify websites that employ such black hat techniques, and they penalized websites as a result.
Google generally deals with two main penalties:
Demotion In Ranking
If you find your website dropping from the first page to, say, the 9th or 10th page in Google’s SERP, there is a chance that Google has penalized you by demotion.
This type of penalty can result from black hat SEO techniques, or it can be a Google update that affects the ranking.
This means that if your website experienced a drop in ranking, it might not be due to the black hat SEO you have avoided. Another possible reason is that Google has decided that your website is not relevant enough to be ranked higher.
De-index of the website is a serious penalty. This means Google has decided to remove your website entirely from the indexes of search engine results.
In other words, the website has been banned or blacklisted by Google.
If you type “site:yourdomain.com” in the Google search bar and you see zero results, this means your website has received a de-index penalty.
Whichever penalty that you have received, it is possible to recover from penalties by appealing to Google.
Google Appeal To Reverse Their Decision
Appealing to Google to reverse black hat SEO penalties is a hard task, and it is very time-consuming.
Recovering From a Demotion Penalty
First, if your website experiences a demotion in ranking, you can possibly reverse this penalty by using Google Search Console.
When you add your website to Google Search Console, look for a menu item called “Manual Actions.” Click on this link, and Google will show you issues that Google detects with your website.
Follow the given instructions to remove the issues and click on the “Request Review” button. The review team will check on your request, and you can possibly recover from this penalty. You may wait for up to one month for the review team to reply.
Recovering From a De-indexed Penalty
If you find your website de-indexed or blacklisted, it can be very difficult to get Google to reverse its decision. This is because blacklisted websites do not exist in the eyes of Google’s web crawlers.
Similarly, you can also use Google Search Console to remove your website from blacklists via the “Manual Action” menu. If it is successful, the de-indexed websites can be restored to the search engine. Still, recovery of page ranking is very challenging and time-consuming.
If your business website is blacklisted in Google, the best course is to get a new domain name and rebuild a new website because it will be faster to rank again.
In the end, it is obvious to see that it’s not worth getting penalized by Google if you use black hat techniques.
Case Studies of Sites Using Black Hat SEO
Here are two famous cases of a website being penalized by Google because they used black hat SEO techniques.
JC Penney’s website used to be listed in the top 5 Google search results for some of their target keywords like “clothes.” However, since February 2011, they started dropping dramatically, showing up only on page 10 (and lower) for their target keywords.
It was revealed that JC Penney’s outsource SEO company has been buying backlinks to rank their client’s website. The penalty lasted for more than two months, and till today the website hasn’t recovered from the penalty.
The Home Depot
The Home Depot’s website was penalized because Google found them participating in a link scheme to manipulate search engine rankings.
They joined forces with other websites, asking them to place links on their site linking back to The Home Depot.
In early 2012, this black hat technique was easily picked by Google. Their website was penalized by Google with a demotion in the rankings of their pages. This penalty lasted for two months, with a drop for many of their pages.
In these two case studies, it is clear that Google doesn’t take black hat SEO lightly, and even big corporate websites can fall under the penalty and the recovery process can be difficult.
Avoid Black Hat SEO At All Costs
As you can see, black hat SEO techniques will harm your rankings and conversions. To avoid getting penalized by Google for black hat SEO practices, always strive to practice these recommended white hat SEO techniques.
If you are looking to hire an SEO agency, you must hire an experienced SEO agency with expertise in white hat SEO strategies.
However, good SEO agencies do not come cheap, but if these agencies practice white hat SEO techniques, you are assured that your website will be in the good books of Google. Your website will rank for a long time.