When researching SEO, you’ll undoubtedly find lots of confusing and contradictory advice. Some tips you’ll receive will be legitimate, and implementing them will positively affect your search engine ranking.
However, some of them will not be so useful. Just make sure you don’t use black hat tactics accidentally, or you could face penalties from Google.
Read on to learn more about what black hat tactics are, why they are to be avoided, and how white hat tactics can improve your SEO.
Why is SEO Important?
Semrush research found that 67% of digital marketers cited SEO as the most efficient content marketing tactic they implemented in 2019. Indeed, this number will only have increased throughout the eCommerce boom of pandemic times.
But what is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the name given to a collection of techniques used to increase a website’s visibility on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Search engines use algorithms to determine which websites are shown in SERPs when someone performs a keyword search. These algorithms are designed to detect the most authoritative, informative, relevant, and navigable websites and push them to the top of the page.
They do this by using a program (often referred to as a ‘spider’) to ‘crawl’ web pages and add them to their ‘index’, which is basically a massive database of all the crawled web pages.
Search engines use this method because they also have to retain their users. Google’s position appears safe, but so was Alta Vista’s! Algorithms are constantly being updated with this objective: how do we show the best search results for any given query?
Since around 93% of online experiences start with a search, SEO is incredibly effective for generating organic traffic to a website. Most people who use search engines find their answer on the first page of results, meaning websites which rank lower are missing out on potential clicks—and, ultimately, conversions.
Why Do Search Engines Have Guidelines?
Search Engines like Google have guidelines to show the best search results that align with the needs of their users. At Papaya Search, we warn website owners about the risks of attempting SEO tactics that contravene these rules because whether it is accidental or on purpose, your website could face penalties.
Search engines carefully manage how results are shown. Their ultimate goal is to provide the best results that genuinely answer their users’ search queries, not just a list of websites that have successfully managed to rig the system in their favor.
Every search engine algorithm undergoes constant updates to identify the websites that offer the most relevant, accurate, and credible information versus those that incorporate the right keywords.
It’s all about authority and relevance.
White hat SEO aims to make your website the most comprehensive and convincing option on SERPs to elevate its position. Black hat SEO seeks to trick search engine crawlers into believing your site is the best, despite its lack of authority and relevance.
Be very careful about who you trust to strategize and execute your SEO! If it’s done unethically or breaches search engine guidelines, there’s a high chance you’ll face a penalty like a manual action. It isn’t always easy to recover from this penalty.
What are Black Hat SEO Techniques?
Black hat SEO techniques try to trick the algorithm into giving a website an undeservedly high position on the search engine results page.
Some legitimate SEO strategies, such as keyword insertion, become black hat when used in excess or unnatural ways (otherwise known as keyword stuffing).
SEO specialists know how to avoid these tactics and can still achieve great results. Suppose you try to execute your own SEO or choose an inexperienced or unprofessional person to perform it for you. There’s a risk that you will use black hat tactics, intentionally or accidentally.
People resort to black hat tactics because they’re impatient: they don’t want to invest in SEO as a long-term marketing strategy, and instead, they want to see immediate results.
Examples of Black Hat Tactics
Here are some of the black hat SEO tactics that you risk being penalized for if you (or your SEO service) use them.
Duplicate content doesn’t rank, so some websites found sneaky ways around this through automation. Using online tools, they adapt content into a “new” form using synonyms. However, this remains an SEO no-go as it’s not bringing any fresh information or additional value.
Hidden Text or Links
You might think it’s simply strategic to hide irrelevant keywords within a piece of content to boost its SEO. That way, your website visitors won’t be bothered by unnatural keyword density, but the algorithm will still pick them up.
Keyword stuffing is an example of when a legitimate SEO strategy goes wrong. While including relevant keyword phrases so that the algorithm understands the topic of your website is absolutely fine, cramming your content with loads of keywords that it stops providing any value, is not.
Reporting a Competitor (or Negative SEO)
If you file a false report against a competitor, you are the one who could end up facing the consequences.
Even if you are struggling to topple another website from the top spot on the search engine results page, don’t consider indulging in sabotage.
One of the trickiest SEO strategies to implement is link building. After all, why would someone else agree to endorse your website?
No wonder many people decide it’s a good idea to buy inbound links by participating in spammy link schemes. Unfortunately for them, search engines have ways to detect unnatural links generated by a link farm.
Types of Link Schemes
- Buying Inbound Links.
- Link Farming / Link Networks.
- Redirect Shenanigans.
- Highly optimized link comments on forums & blog posts.
Common Cloaking Tactics:
- Serving images to users while showing text to search engines.
- Inserting text to a page only when a search engine is visiting.
Consequences for Black Hat Tactics
If you’re found to have broken the SEO guidelines and engaged in unethical tactics to improve your ranking, search engines can reprimand you by demoting your website in the rankings; the exact opposite effect that your SEO strategy is trying to achieve!
In extreme circumstances, your website can be entirely removed from the search engine index. Given how crucial search engine visibility is to generate organic traffic, this can be disastrous for your business’ growth.
How to Report Black Hat SEO Techniques to Google
If you’re going to follow the rules, everyone else should, too. Google has provided some resources for people to use to help them combat black hat SEO tactics and other violations of Google’s or Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Spammy content like hidden text, sneaky redirects, & cloaking can be reported to Google. Notifying Google of Low-Quality Content can help improve the SERPs for everyone.
If you are confident that a website owner has engaged in paying for links you can report this too.
Can I report these spammy sites to Bing?
Yes you can report spam sites to Bing through their website.
What are White Hat SEO Techniques?
White hat tactics are ethical, approved strategies that you can use to boost your domain authority and improve your SEO.
Now you have a comprehensive understanding of what black hat tactics entail, you also know precisely why you should avoid them! Instead, it would be best to use white hat tactics to improve your ranking on the search engine results page.
Creating Original and Relevant Content
Search engine algorithms are programmed to detect the most useful, authoritative, high-quality content for every search query. If you want to rank highly for particular terms, ensure that your content meets these criteria! Write for human users, not search algorithms.
You’re also more likely to generate authentic backlinks if you create quality content worth sharing, and you may even be invited to contribute guest posts. It is the future of link building.
Optimizing Your Site for Fast Loading and Mobile Devices
No search engine wants to send users to a buggy, slow-to-load website or a cybersecurity risk. By improving your site’s functionality and load times, you can simultaneously improve its SEO. Making it mobile-friendly is also necessary since Google is moving to a mobile-first indexing model.
Making Your Site User-Friendly and Navigable
Does your website feature clear signposts allowing users to click through to find the information they need quickly? Is it accessible and easy to understand? Awesome. Employing these white hat tactics will help improve your search ranking. Search engines now rank based on user experience as well as website content.
When other website owners mention your company, it pays to ask them for a direct link to the respective page. An example of this could be a business partnership or an unpaid podcast interview that mentions your company. These approaches are legitimate networking techniques and fall within Google and Bing guidelines.
What about Gray Hat SEO?
Gray Hat SEO tactics are a combination of black hat and white hat techniques, or a method which is neither but could fall under white hat or black hat as search engine algorithms change.
Gray Hat SEO is a blurred line where it is not a technique that you would inform a search engine you were doing, but not necessarily an automatic penalty if you are caught, either.
Gray Hat SEO can involve:
- Paying for reviews.
- Content spinning.
- Using clickbait.
- Prolific link exchanges.
- Participating in a Private Blog Network (PBN)
Is Gray Hat SEO worth it?
In our opinion, gray hat SEO is not an advisable technique. Although gray hat SEO might improve your SERP ranking without negative consequences, it could also cost you thousands in lost traffic and, ultimately, money once the technique is no longer valid.
If you are unsure whether your tactic is within your search engine’s guidelines, it is best to consider it a black hat tactic and move on. Short-term gains for long-term businesses aren’t worth effort, so why risk it?
Ensuring SEO Good Practice
As you can see, knowing the good SEO techniques and avoiding the negative ones is beneficial for your website AND the people who use it. Businesses and organizations that are serious about scaling SERPs hire SEO specialists to handle it for them.
Finding the right SEO service can also be a challenge. If an SEO service sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t be dazzled by shockingly low prices and unrealistic promises. Chances are that these services will use black hat or gray hat SEO practices so that they won’t serve your needs in the long term. As mentioned earlier, you could face a penalty from search engines. Recovering from this can take a long time and effort, so it’s better to find more holistic ways of growing your organic search traffic.
The best way to ensure that good practices are always used on your website is to hire reputable SEO specialists like the team at Papaya Search.
Because we’ve made studying search engine guidelines and applying practical, holistic, and effective SEO strategies our full-time focus, we can be counted on to perform the steady work required to increase a website’s position in the rankings.
To arrange your free consultation with Papaya Search’s SEO Specialists, click here.