Black hat SEO may sound like a shortcut to improving your rankings and gaining more visibility in search. But think twice before engaging in these tactics. Black hat techniques can hurt your SEO more than they can help.
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is a set of practices that go against search engine guidelines and are used to boost a website’s search rankings. Black hat SEO techniques ignore searcher intent and attempt to bypass best practices by cheating the system and gaining search visibility through unscrupulous practices.
To compare black hat vs. white hat SEO:
- Black hat SEO exploits search engine guidelines to boost rankings.
- White hat SEO closely follows search engine guidelines to boost rankings.
Some marketers choose to use black hat SEO over white hat SEO techniques because they think they can improve their search visibility faster or cheaper by gaming search engine algorithms.
But black hat SEO can actually hurt your long-term SEO much more than it can help.
Why Black Hat SEO is Risky and Can Hurt Your Site
Black hat SEO can harm your website and brand in multiple ways.
- It can lead to lower search rankings or even cause a site to disappear from search results entirely. Because black hat SEO techniques go explicitly against search engine terms of service, search engines may penalize and even ban sites from appearing on their search results pages if they engage in these tactics.
- It only creates short-term results (if any). Because black hat strategies exploit loopholes in search guidelines, the results earned through the tactics will disappear once the loophole is fixed. This happens continuously, as search engines are always looking for and fixing loopholes that people use to game the system.
- It creates a poor, annoying, or misleading experience for audiences. Many black hat tactics create a poor user experience, which can cause users to leave a page. It can also make a brand look spammy and untrustworthy.
If you want to gain long-term search visibility and build trust with users, avoid black hat SEO. Stick with ethical and sustainable best practices for SEO.
9 Black Hat SEO Techniques
To avoid displeasing both search engines and users, focus on white hat SEO techniques and avoid the following black hat SEO tactics.
1. Publishing a Bunch of Low-Quality Content
Search engines prefer websites that have a lot of high-quality content. Because high-quality content isn’t easy or cheap to create, many black hat marketers try to beat the system by publishing a lot of low-quality, low-value, cheap content.
2. Keyword Stuffing and Duplicate Content
Keyword stuffing is the act of using a keyword excessively in your content to try and get search engines to rank the page for the target term. A page may be using keyword stuffing if its keyword density percentage is very high.
Duplicate content is publishing the same content on multiple pages of a website in an attempt to attract search engines. Both of these tactics generally go against search engine guidelines.
Cloaking is a black hat SEO technique used to trick search engines into ranking content for a specific search term that isn’t tied to the context of the webpage. Cloaking shows one piece of content to users while showing a different piece of content to search engines.
4. Using Misleading Redirects
False redirects are another black hat trick used to mislead audiences and search engines. A redirect link is set up that leads users and search engines to different pages. Alternatively, a high-quality page is redirected to a low-quality page in an attempt to boost the low-quality page’s search rankings.
5. Buying Backlinks
Getting a lot of high-quality sites to link to your site is an off-page SEO technique that can boost search rankings. Instead of organically earning high-quality backlinks, black hat marketers may pay websites to link to their site.
6. Using Link Farms and Private Blog Networks
Link farming and private blog networks are two other ways that black hats try to quickly and inorganically build links. In this situation, the marketer uses or pays to use a network of websites created solely to link to sites that want to improve their search rankings.
7. Spamming Blog Comments
In another attempt to gain links back to their website, a marketer using black hat SEO may comment on dozens and dozens of blog posts with a link back to their website.
8. Abusing Structured Data
Structured data or schema markup is code added to a webpage to tell search engines what rich information to display on search results pages. Black hat SEO manipulates structured data to get search engines to display false information in search results.
9. Negative SEO or Falsely Reporting Competitor Sites
Negative SEO is a tactic that is used to make it look like a competing site is engaging in black hat SEO. The goal of this tactic is to get competitors penalized by search engines. Making it appear as though another site is engaging in black hat SEO, or falsely claiming that they are and reporting it to the search engine are two unsavory black hat tactics.
When (and How) to Report Black Hat SEO
There are times when it may be appropriate to report a website that is going against search engine guidelines.
For example, you may wish to file a report if you see:
- Sites engaging in the black hat SEO tactics listed above
- A spammy top-ranking result for a keyword
- Another website engaging in negative SEO tactics against you
- Another website has falsely reported you
File a complaint through Google’s webspam report, or disavow backlinks with Google’s tool to tell the search engine that a low-quality site is maliciously linking to yours. You can also report black hat SEO tactics through Bing’s content removal feature.
Avoid Black Hat Tactics and Stick with White Hat SEO
Black hat SEO may look like a quick way to game the system and boost your search rankings. But it’s an unethical practice that can permanently hurt your search visibility and brand credibility.
Focus on developing a white hat SEO plan that will give your brand long-term SEO results and lasting brand credibility. Learn the top white hat practices by downloading our free White Hat SEO Techniques e–book, and get tools to help you set up your strategy by signing up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan.