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Black Hat SEO: Gaming the System

Last month, we examined how you can use White Hat SEO to optimize the content on your site to rank higher on the search engine results pages (SERP’s). Proper SEO is a long-term process and routinely takes months of good work before results start to be seen. For some, white hat SEO is too slow, so they turn to ways that are frowned upon but provide quicker results.

Black Hat SEO describes any technique or tactic that tricks a search engine into ranking it higher than it should and usually violates the terms of service policies of search engines. Black Hat SEO is a short-term fix to a long-term problem. When you engage in Black Hat SEO, you run the risk that your tactics will be discovered and punished by search engines. You may receive a temporary penalty in your page rank, or you could even get your site de-indexed, essentially banning it from showing up in search engine results.

Why Do Search Engines Oppose Black Hat SEO?

Search engines want to reward pages that deliver a quality experience for users by showing them at the top of results. In order to do this, search engine spiders crawl the internet and index pages noting the content including titles, headings, copy, images, meta descriptions, links, etc. Then, when someone enters a search query, the search engine pulls from its indices to present the pages it thinks will be most relevant to that user.

Most black hat techniques involve tricking search engine spiders at the expense of the end user experience, so search engines don’t want to reward that kind of behavior.

Examples of Black Hat SEO

Like all SEO, black hat SEO is constantly changing and evolving as is search engines’ ability to punish it. People are always looking for new ways to scam search engines (check out this article published on our sister site detailing a relatively new practice which might be considered Black Hat), but the following are some of the most common black hat tricks.

Keyword Stuffing

This tactic entails using a keyword phrase an exorbitant amount of times. This often seems spammy to those reading it. For example, let’s say that you are creating a page advertising your tutoring service. An example of keyword stuffing would be, “John’s best tutoring service is the best tutoring service in Eugene. If you need a great tutoring service in Eugene, Oregon, make sure to contact John for the best tutoring service in Eugene.” One might even go so far as to stuff image alt tags and meta descriptions in the same way.

Keywords are important, but they need to be used naturally. Keyword stuffing is often very obvious as it doesn’t come across as natural to readers. Search engines have adapted to do a much better job at determining what keywords are used naturally and which are being stuffed.

Hidden Text

This is one of the oldest trick in the books. Including text on a page that is white or matches the page’s background deceives search engine spiders into thinking that the content on a page is different than what users actually see. This tactic is often used in conjunction with keyword stuffing, so a search engine might think a page is dedicated to one subject while users see something completely different.

Bait and Switch

This tactic involves creating a page that ranks well and then completely changing the content on the page. For example, someone might write a fantastic blog post about ways to refurbish old furniture then completely change the page to advertise a completely different product once the page starts gaining good organic traffic.

For more examples of black hat techniques, check out this article.

Why It’s Important to Know about Black Hat SEO

It’s important to be aware what tactics are considered Black Hat SEO and which aren’t because you will still get penalized by search engines for using black hat techniques even if you aren’t aware they’re disapproved. This is especially important because some Black Hat SEO, such as keyword stuffing, isn’t immediately recognizable as a shady tactic to the untrained person.

If you have further questions about SEO, contact Ruby Porter Marketing and Design. Our digital marketing experts can help answer all of your questions and guide you in the right direction.

Ruby Porter is a full service digital marketing and advertising agency in Eugene, Oregon that works with clients all over the country. We're here to share our best tips and favorite trends for SEO, marketing, website and app user design. Contact us to see how we can help boost your brand!

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